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The Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation (iCubed) is a cutting-edge institute focused on creating collaborative connections between the university and Richmond through innovative academic and research programs. iCubed consists of six transdisciplinary cores which unite faculty members and students to work with key community members to develop holistic solutions to 21st century urban challenges. One of these cores, the Health and Wellness in Aging Populations (HWAP) core, was designed to educate and assist low-income older adults in becoming self-sufficient in navigating healthcare services. The HWAP core is centered within the Richmond Health and Wellness Program, an interprofessional care coordination and wellness service that serves Richmond’s low-income senior housing communities. As part of its inaugural mentorship program, iCubed created the Commonwealth Scholars Program (CSP) to pair academically talented undergraduate students with faculty members in the HWAP core to conduct research on aging populations in Richmond. As part of their responsibilities, the students were tasked with interviewing HWAP core faculty members to assess their perceptions of the core’s mission and progress. As such, the current study summarizes the findings from these interviews and offers guidelines for future directions.
CSP conducted interviews with HWAP core faculty members (N=10) to establish a multiperspective vision of HWAP core objectives. Interviewed members come from the following VCU Departments: Family and Community Health Nursing/School of Nursing, Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science/School of Pharmacy, Family Medicine and Population Health/School of Medicine, Gerontology/School of Allied Health Professions, Adult Health and Nursing Systems, and Urban and Regional Studies, Planning/L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. Each interview lasted approximately 10 minutes and was recorded into an electronic document. Themes from the interviews were identified and main themes are described. Coded themes indicated that the HWAP core aims to deliver care, offer education, and help aging clients navigate the healthcare system. Faculty members noted that HWAP core’s engagement with the community aims to build trust with community members and create lifelong partnerships. Findings indicated that the HWAP core has the potential to improve the quality of life for older adults and empower community members to maintain their independence and age in place. Future opportunities for the HWAP core include training older adults to become community health workers to be truly vested within the mission and actions of the core. In conclusion, the HWAP core aims to improve the lives of low-income older adults in Richmond and does so by connecting VCU researchers and students with community members.
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