By Tanika White Davis
Photos by Will Kirk
Despite being in a room full of nurses, Hattie Gross, 84, and Gladys Buchanan, 87, had no use for talk of diabetes or swollen legs.
There were better topics, after all, in this decked-out room of shiny, paper hearts strung from the ceiling, pink and red balloons dotting the corners, and a jazz trio softly strumming.
Here, at the “Senior Prom,” an annual reception and dance organized by the School of Nursing’s Geriatric Interest Group (GIG) for residents of Apostolic Towers, student nurses can see first-hand the manifestation of that commonly-read statistic. They also get to sit informally and just talk with the seniors, many of whom might be their patients one day. Over strawberry cupcakes and low-sugar candies, while the music plays, they learn things that books and labs can’t teach.
“In the next 20 years, a very significant portion of the population is going to be over 65,” said nursing student Kelsey Oveson, accelerated ’09, one of the Prom’s co-planners.
“Events like this help expose you to different back-grounds, different cultures,” agreed nursing student Stephanie Sandor, accelerated ’09, also a co-planner. “It expands your level of practice and your understanding.”
The Valentine’s Day-themed dance held in a community room at the senior building is intended to pro-mote intergenerational activity between students who are interested in aging from the Schools of Nursing, Medicine, and Public Health, and the building’s older residents, many of whom see the students regularly in the Tower’s Isaiah Wellness Center.
“Getting to know their community better,” said School of Nursing assistant professor Elizabeth (Ibby) Tanner, PhD, RN, who began the GIG in 2004, “will make these future nurses better able to understand the population, and thus, better able to relate to them and talk with them about health-related topics, such as diet, exercise, and medication management.”
“I’m from California,” said nursing student Jessica Kensky ’09. “So to do some-thing that is right across the street from Hopkins, but isn’t necessarily always connected to Hopkins, that helps me be a part of the community. And it makes me understand and work with my patients a little better, because a lot of them do come from this community.”
Using what she learned just from attending last year’s Prom, Jessica already is better at providing things her patients need.
This year, for example, she dragged her smartly-suited boyfriend, Patrick Downes, to the dance, so that-just when Linda Conyers was about to give up on having a dance partner-she could send Patrick over to gallantly ask for her hand.
“Oh, this is wonderful,” said Linda, 70, when their sweet, jazzy dance ended. “It makes you feel young.”