GVSU students team up with elderly for ArtPrize accessibilty

GVL / Courtesy - Michelle Robinson

Michelle Robinson

GVL / Courtesy – Michelle Robinson

Samantha Elliott-Mosley

Grand Valley State University graduate students teamed up with up older adults to help them navigate the eighth year of the city-wide Grand Rapids ArtPrize competition Wednesday, Sept. 28.

GVSU master’s degree students in the occupational therapy (MSOT) program worked as route coordinators in this partnership with Four Pointes Center for Successful Aging in Grand Haven, Mich. For the past six years, this project has been a part of the OT program, with the goal of giving students an opportunity to interact and learn in a community setting.

With 170 venues showcasing over 1,400 entries during this year’s ArtPrize, planning a successful route can be difficult for any event attendee. This project pairs up students and older adults on a one-to-one basis giving everyone involved a chance to bond and experience a day of art and culture together.

Students met with Four Pointes members last week to develop group routes based on the older adults’ walking and viewing preference in preparation for this project.

Lifestyle coordinator Stacey McManus and wellness director Jessie Riley, both of Four Pointes, helped coordinate this program with GVSU’s MSOT program.

“Members are equally excited about the interaction with the students as they are about being downtown and seeing the pieces,” McManus said. “It is always a quick introduction, but by the end of the day I usually have to rush them on the bus because they’re all hugging each other. They really connect throughout the day.”

This project is meant to not only give students an opportunity to interact with an older population, but to incorporate an older demographic into a big community event.

“The whole experience is really exciting for people of all abilities. Everyone gets the same experience and interaction,” Riley said. “That is what really makes the opportunity unique, that there is a huge level of inclusivity in the project.”

Michelle Robinson, a student in the MSOT program, participated in this event as part of her coursework and found value in this experience beyond the grade.

“It is an experience for us to get to know the population that we might be working with some day,” Robinson said. “It is important to understand the people and the communities that you could possibly be working with.

“It is also an experience for the older adults to see that they can still be involved in the community, no matter what kind of condition that they have.”

Robinson also talked about the importance bringing awareness to the stigma held about what it means to be old in our society.

“Just because you’re older doesn’t mean that you can’t be an involved community member and see those exciting things that are involved with the community, like ArtPrize,” Robinson said.

In doing this project, Robinson said an additional goal is to encourage other disciplines and professionals to get involved with people who may have limitations and help them to be involved in the community.