By Dr. Ruth Ramsey, Dean, School of Health and Natural Sciences, Dominican University of California
With a rich history of offering educational programs and developing community partnerships focused on the evolving needs of older adults, Dominican University of California has been named an Age-Friendly University (AFU) by Dublin City University, the AFU convener and global organizer.
The AFU network consists of more than 70 institutions of higher education around the globe that have committed themselves to becoming more age-friendly in their programs and policies. Belonging to the AFU Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) network gives Dominican the opportunity to contribute to an educational movement of social, personal, and economic benefit to students of all ages. AGHE is an organization of the Gerontological Society of America.
Dominican endorses the 10 AFU principles, which include encouraging the participation of older adults in all core activities of the University, recognizing the range of educational needs of older adults, promoting intergenerational learning, and widening access to online educational opportunities for older adults. Dominican is strongly committed to the well-being and educational needs of older adults, and to developing and advancing age-related research and programs across the university.
As the number of older adults in our community continues to grow and more individuals are experiencing increased longevity, responding to the educational needs and interests of older adults will provide many opportunities for Dominican to advance its research, teaching, and community engagement focused on delivering age-friendly programs. We will also continue to identify gaps and shape our age-friendly practices in order to reach an increasingly diverse older adult population in both Marin County and California.
In 2019, Dr. Gina Tucker-Roghi, Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy (OT), was awarded a $300,000, three-year GACA grant by Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). She has since been working to develop resources and training opportunities for occupational therapists and other healthcare providers who serve older adults with dementia.
In 2020, the OT department received a Wellness Promotion and Disease Prevention program grant from Marin County’s Health and Human Services jointly with Age-Friendly Sausalito. This grant allowed 10 community instructors, including six OT students and four community members, to be certified as instructors for Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention program. Tai chi classes were offered online to older adults to help promote balance and prevent falls.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the health professions programs at Dominican pivoted to telemedicine, telehealth, and teletherapy sessions, which enabled homebound older adults to safely receive services and support and also allowed DUC students to complete required clinical hours.
Dominican currently offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in nursing, occupational therapy, public health, physician assistant, counseling psychology, art therapy ( as of fall 2021), and psychology. The University also has an innovative MS in Biology program focused on researching the biological causes of aging in partnership with The Buck Institute for Research on Aging and the S.E.N.S Institute.
Ongoing partnerships with key aging organizations in Marin, Sonoma, and Santa Clara counties provide students with internships and fieldwork placements. Intergenerational interaction is at the heart of many of these partnerships with community agencies and skilled nursing facilities. Community partners include Marin Villages, West Marin Senior Services, Vivalon, and the Aging Action Initiative. Each year Dominican students participate in the Marin County Senior Information Fair, offering information and resources to support healthy aging.
For more than 15 years, Dominican’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute has offered older adults fun, challenging learning opportunities on both the San Rafael campus and at senior residences and other Marin County venues. The university also offers an annual Leadership Lecture Series, featuring renowned authors, politicians, and public figures.