Service Learning
A teaching tool connecting community and classroom

Occupational Therapy students reflect on their service learning project

Gillian Collins and Orla Lyons

3rd Year Occupational Therapy students, reflect on their community Service Learning project

"Service Learning is an integral part of the 3rd year undergraduate occupational therapy programme. Students collaborate with community organisations and community groups who do not have access to occupational therapy services to develop occupational therapy programmes which support participation and promote health and well-being. This year there are over 12 community-university partnerships ranging from occupational therapy with family support services to occupational therapy with local active retirement groups.

Our project which is supported by funding from the Community Knowledge Initiative is a partnership between the Discipline of Occupational Therapy and Salthill Active Retirement Association (Salthill ARA). The aim of the project is to promote active and healthy aging among member of the local community. Our work is based upon research from the United States and the United Kingdom which suggests that preventative occupational therapy services have a significant impact on reducing age related disability and increasing health and well being.

We began working with Salthill ARA in September 2011. From the outset we adopted a partnership approach and met with representatives from the group to identify the occupational therapy needs and interests of the older adults. In collaboration with our lecturer Ms. Margaret McGrath and working closely with the steering committee from Salthill ARA we have developed a 6-week occupational therapy programme designed to support older adults to engage in meaningful and health promoting occupations. Our programme is facilitated each Tuesday in Lesiureland in Salthill and is made up of a combination of theory and practical sessions. Examples of topics covered include falls prevention, joint protection, gentle exercises and maintaining a healthy diet."