Older Adults and OT Students: A Mutually-Beneficial Clinical Rotation

The SMU Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) students have been doing good work at Bay Area Community Services (BACS) for six years. BACS is an adult day care facility in North Oakland. It is a socialization program serving older adults, many of whom have dementia.

This clinical rotation is one of three for the Psychosocial course taught by professor, Gordon Muir Giles, Ph.D., OTR/L, FAOTA, and Assistant Professor Beth Ching, M.Ed., OTR/L, who supervises the MOT students at BACS. Learning objectives of the clinic include identifying the importance of culturally responsive care and gaining therapeutic group activity ideas that speak to Universal Design learning practices.

Like many community-based mental health programs, BACS does not employee Occupational Therapists due to limited funding. However, the BACS Program Director, Roberta Tracy, definitely sees the need for Occupational Therapy.

In fact, BACS staff have commented that the SMU MOT students “make us better at what we do.” 

“Occupational Therapy students dedicate themselves to helping clients of all ages achieve independent, productive, and satisfying lives,” says Tracy. Roberta Tracy stated that the main goals for the BACS participants generally revolve around giving families respite and keeping participants in their homes and out of skilled nursing facilities.

A former student described that being at BACS was “like a party” or very festive. Opportunities for intergenerational activities are valued. Theme Days are popular at BACS—fifties day, casino day, and Mardi Gras day to name a few. Many of the BACS participants are from the South, and they do not seem to mind having Mardi Gras in November as well as in the springtime.

"My favorite part of my experience at BACs was getting to know the people and the stories they shared with us," said Vanessa Zanders, second year MOT student.  "Everyone was warm, welcoming, and eager to learn about us as well. I learned that one of the clients and I were both alumnae of Spelman College; she was so excited to chat with me and exchange stories."

“The benefit of this experience is that students become familiar with working with older adults in a mental health setting, and older adults have occupational therapy services,” says Ching.





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