A Helping Hand is proud of our internship program, and over the years we’ve shaped the program to positively impact our community and the world at large. Here are 15 ways the AHH internship program makes a difference:
- Providing access to healthcare for low-income seniors and adults with disabilities.
AHH interns help their clients with numerous tasks, but the number one need for clients is transportation. Without reliable transportation, clients would be unable to get to the doctor, dentist, pharmacy, or any medical specialist. Regular medical visits are essential to good health, and the health of our clients is facilitated by our interns’ service.
- Addressing senior food insecurity
Without a way to get to the grocery store every week, many of our clients would not have access to nutritious, fresh foods. Even assistance programs like food banks or SNAP are unable to help if individuals can’t get to the food bank location or grocery store in the first place. Having an intern they can count on each week for these types of routine yet essential errands makes a world of difference in our clients’ ability to live independently.
- Combating social isolation
A meta-analysis published in 2015 revealed that social isolation increases mortality risk by 29% – an increase comparable to that caused by smoking. Weekly visits from our interns give clients a social outlet and allow them to connect to the community.
- Creating intergenerational relationships
As the country becomes increasingly age-segregated, intergenerational friendships are rare. By matching college students with older adults, AHH gives both groups the chance to interact with each other. Often our interns find that they have a lot in common with their clients.
- Promoting an interest in geriatrics
The U.S. currently has a shortfall of 13,176 geriatricians – and that’s just to serve the most vulnerable 30% of older adults. By 2030, that number will increase to 23,617. We desperately need more healthcare professionals to work in geriatrics. AHH’s internship program gives pre-health students the opportunity to work one-on-one with older adults and encourages them to enter careers in the field of geriatrics.
- Challenging stereotypes and fighting ageism
By getting to know their clients as individuals, our interns find that their clients do not conform to the negative stereotypes about older adults! The interns are also put in a position to witness the ageism experienced by their clients as they navigate the world.
- Educating future healthcare practitioners about social determinants of health
By assisting their clients with daily tasks, interns see the full picture of the factors that influence a client’s health. They learn that health is determined not only by quality medical care, but by social connection, access to food, mobility status, access to transportation, and much more. This plays a crucial role in how our interns view their role as future health care professionals, and they come to realize how their future patients will be affected by these factors.
- Cultivating empathy in future physicians
By getting to know their clients as people first, not patients, our interns become more empathetic and compassionate – essential qualities for future doctors!
- Increasing community engagement
College students can easily get trapped in the college bubble. Through their visits with clients outside of their respective campuses, the interns get the chance to connect to the broader community.
- Teaching life skills
Our interns learn better communication skills by having to work closely with individuals with disabilities, different viewpoints, and many varied personalities! Many interns also pick up skills from their clients, from etiquette to hand crafts.
- Improving health later in life
Gaining experience with aging when you’re young may improve your health later in life.
- Creating advocates for marginalized populations
Older adults and adults with disabilities often don’t have a voice in our society. Our internship program prepares students to become lifelong advocates for these groups.
- Building communications skills
Our interns learn to communicate with their clients, many of whom have visual or hearing impairments. Being able to communicate effectively is essential in any career, but especially so in the field of healthcare.
- Creating compassionate caregivers
Today’s young adults will be caring for their parents or other relatives in the not-too-distant future. By gaining direct caregiving experience through the internship, our interns are better prepared to fulfill this role for the older adults in their own families.
- Making connections
After working with their clients, several of our interns have reported that they’re more motivated to strengthen connections with their grandparents or other elderly relatives!