By Lexie Stypelkoski / EMU
YPSILANTI — According to an article from Forbes, nearly 18 million older adults, or nearly half of everyone 65 and older, report that they need some assistance with routine daily activities. With support from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, help for older adults with chronic illness is underway with the launch of a collaborative initiative between Eastern Michigan University and Lori’s Hands, a Delaware-based nonprofit organization.
Lori’s Hands, which has been operational in Delaware since 2009 and in Baltimore since 2020, creates mutually beneficial service-learning partnerships between older adults with chronic illness and college students. EMU students assist older adults, individuals with chronic conditions, and their caregivers in both Wayne and Washtenaw counties with essential day-to-day activities such as grocery shopping, housekeeping, and meal preparation. Simultaneously, clients play a role in students’ education: interns from the schools of social work and nursing and campus volunteers will develop insight and empathy into chronic illness and will develop skills relevant to their future professions.
“For older adults living in their homes, available support services are often insufficient in meeting the full range of their needs,” said Christina Marsack-Topolewski, associate professor at EMU’s School of Social Work. “Another obstacle that exists is lengthy waitlists for home- and community-based services.”
According to Marsack-Topolewski, students will have the opportunity to learn about the lived experience and management of chronic illness through the lens of aging from those they are helping through the Lori’s Hands program. “This presents the possibility for students across numerous fields to observe the daily challenges that people with chronic illness experience and solutions to address them accordingly,” Marsack-Topolewski added.
“As the population ages and health care needs continue to grow, this knowledge and experience are relevant to many careers including social work, nursing, public health, and more,” said Marsack-Topolewski.
This initiative has had previous success in diminishing social isolation, providing services to individuals with chronic illness, and supporting caregivers in Newark, Delaware, and Baltimore, Maryland.
“We are excited to bring this program here to Michigan and our local community to benefit those needing services,” said Marsack-Topolewski. “The mutually beneficial partnerships developed through Lori’s Hands will strengthen the EMU and surrounding communities.”
Funding provided by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund will be used to launch the chapter, support a full-time program manager, provide supervision to interns from multiple disciplines and manage the overall needs of the program. This funding will span for two years with the hope to extend services to older adults and their caregivers in underserved areas of Michigan while offering valuable internship and service-learning opportunities to prepare future healthcare professionals.
For more information, please visit https://lorishands.org/
About Lori’s Hands
Lori’s Hands was founded in Newark, DE in 2009 in memory of Lori LaFave. Lori’s Hands creates mutually beneficial, intergenerational partnerships between college students and community members with chronic illnesses. While students help with day-to-day activities made difficult by disease, clients educate students on the human experience of chronic illness. Clients report decreased isolation and improved independence, and students gain communication skills and confidence as they prepare for careers in and outside of health care. Originally founded at the University of Delaware, Lori’s Hands launched its second chapter in Baltimore, MD in 2020. Lori’s Hands now engages students from more than 10 colleges and universities across both locations and has connected thousands of community members and college students in meaningful service-learning since its inception. Metro Detroit will be Lori’s Hands’ third chapter. For more information, visit the Lori’s Hands website.
About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 16,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral, and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences, and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors, and concentrations are delivered through the University’s Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University’s website.