STEP Recruits Seniors to Pair with MU Medical Students

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COLUMBIA - Peggy Gray and David Oliver, both from MU's Interdisciplinary Center on Aging, gave out a free seminar "STEP-ping INTO UNDERSTANDING" at the Columbia Area Senior Center Friday morning. They introduced the Heyseel-STEP program, which stands for Senior Teacher Educator Partnership. The program pair seniors with first-year medical students at MU in order to improve understanding of the aging process in the students.

Joyce Snow has participated in the STEP program for two years. She called herself a "STEP mother." Snow lives in Columbia with no nearby relatives. Her grandchildren live in Michigan. So she's setting up what she calls "dates" with her medical student partner.

"Our first date is here in the senior center for dinner, and then we've been out for dinner several times. She's going to church with me. We went to the Air Force Band, and she's been to my house to do food and many other things," Snow said.

Lila Adams is a volunteer at Columbia Area Senior Center. She organizes senior-related seminars every week. She said she would be more than happy to join the program if she doesn't have a knee problem.

"It's important for the younger people and the older people to get to know each other, and to fill that generation gap," Adams said.

As the assistant director of MU Interdisciplinary Center on Aging, David Oliver said the aging issues are critical to the medical students because one out of five people is expected to be senior citizen in the year 2030.

The program has been offered in the community for ten years. More than 350 students and 400 seniors have joined the program. This year, the MU School of Medicine enrolled 104 new students. Oliver said more than half of these new students would join the program voluntarily.

The program is recruiting seniors this summer. People who meet the following requirements can register for the program.

• aged 65 or older
• willing to spend about an hour per week during the school year talking/visiting with a University of Missouri medical student

• able to attend meetings at MU's School of Medicine.

The kickoff event this year will be on September 13th, 2011.

For registration, people can register on the STEP website, or call Peggy Gray in MU's Center on Aging at 573-884-3337.