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January 31, 2014
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine

Therapeutic recreation majors aid seniors

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University therapeutic recreation students are applying what they learn in the classroom and helping local senior citizens in the process through an SRU partnership with the Slippery Rock Senior Center.

Students meet with client's ages 60 and older weekly to help them restore and improve motor, sensory, social and cognitive functioning. Interventions include movement exercises, creative arts, leisure education and computer work.

Beth Campbell, a 1983 SRU recreation graduate, directs the senior center operation that is located in the Slippery Rock Township Building. She supervises students on site.

SRU's practicum partnership launched last fall. It is continuing this semester after SRU students raised $1,075 to support the program.

"When students come in and work with our participants, they enrich lives," Campbell said. "Every Friday, a group of students helps residents explore their senses, including smell, touch and hearing. Their help is priceless."

The program is a requirement for the "Therapeutic Recreation for Elders" class, taught by Colleen Cooke, associate professor of parks and recreation.

Because the center is required to raise 25 percent of its operating budget, students in "Organization and Management in Therapeutic Recreation," taught by Betsy Kemeny, instructor of parks and recreation, organized a "Taco Rama" fundraiser and then donated their earnings to support the program.

Campbell said students help seniors with gross motor skills through leg and other exercises and work to improve cognition and memory through computer programs, art projects and life-size Scrabble, which requires participants to move as they spell words, similar to the exertion required for Twister.

Campbell said students organize icebreakers, rotating center participants in and out of five circles to promote social interaction.

"Therapeutic recreation students benefit greatly by being able to actually implement what they are learning in class," Cooke said. "They are able to apply classroom learning in a real life situation.

Each student demonstrates their intervention in class the week before they go to the center in order to practice and receive feedback before the "real deal," Cooke said.

"They use the feedback they receive to improve their instruction, therapeutic use of self and facilitation of the intervention and a follow-up discussion," Cooke said.

Following the practicum at the center, therapeutic recreation majors must complete a 480-hour internship under the supervision of a therapeutic recreation specialist, Cooke said.

The Slippery Rock Senior Center, which offers a daily, federally funded lunch, operates Monday-Friday. Classroom activities include arts and crafts, sign language, yoga and other group exercises.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.