“I really enjoy being here,” she said. “I get up in the morning and do stuff all day.”
Prater is a client of Southeast Missouri State University’s Hoover Center, a facility offering supportive programming during the daytime hours to well and frail senior adults age 60 and older.
The adult day care program is a unique space serving the elderly and their families in the Cape Girardeau and Jackson areas, said Lynn Ware, director of the Hoover Center.
“Our goals are to provide opportunities for participants to pursue educational interests, interact socially, continue to thrive individually and contribute to the community,” she said.
The Center, located at 805 N. Sprigg Street and licensed by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, provides a free, three-day-a-week program, complete with pick-up transportation at 8 a.m. and return delivery to the senior’s home when the day ends at 3:30 p.m.
Ware says the Center is focused on the participants’ physical, mental and emotional well-being.
“Here they can stretch their minds, exercise their bodies and create and have wonderful relationships with others,” she said. “Those things are so important for human beings of all ages, and even more so as our friends and family members get older. Here we show compassion, patience and support for all the things they can and still want to do.”
As part of its services, the Center provides fitness classes, cognitive stimulation and memory exercise activities, trips to various community locations, including banks, pharmacies and grocery stores, sightseeing field trips to historical or tourist attractions such as Trail of Tears State Park, and participation in community service projects.
The Center also serves as an educational training facility for Southeast undergraduate students majoring in family studies and communication disorders. It provides them the opportunity to have a hands-on experience with senior care while learning the skills and knowledge necessary to run a facility like the Center, including budgeting, grant writing, supervising, event organizing and managing local and national health and social services requirements.
As part of their practicum during the last eight weeks of the fall semester, Southeast students will spend time at the Center interacting with the participants and meeting weekly with Ware to discuss issues related to running a senior adult day program.
For Hailey Sawyer, a senior speech therapy major from Galt, Missouri, the practicum is an opportunity to gain more experience working with older adults and learn how to interact with them, in a personal and professional environment.
“I really want to work in a hospital or nursing home, and I wanted to take this course and have these experiences with a group of elderly adults before I graduate,” she said. “I feel that older adults are a special part of any community, and we should value them.”
Sawyer hopes her time at the Center and with its participants will help prepare her to better work with older adults as part of her future career.
“I’m really interested in speech language pathology and working with older adults who have had strokes or swallowing disorders,” she said.
For Tatianna Hanna and Madison Littrell, both family studies majors, their experiences at the Center will help them expand their understanding of family structures and dynamics at all stages of life.
“I’m getting the chance to work with older adults and understand their perspectives,” said Hanna, a sophomore from St. Peters, Missouri, who hopes to pursue a career in counseling. “It’s great because they get to share their experiences with me and I can learn from them. I’m helping them as part of this class but they’re helping me too.”
Luttrell, a junior from Richwoods, Missouri, wants to work with children, but feels it’s important to study all aspects of family structures and all populations.
“I want to broaden my horizons and understand all levels of a family, and I can be better equipped to help elderly adults in the future if I need to,” she said.
The students, who are in their second week at the Center, have already had many eye-opening experiences observing and interacting with the Center’s participants.
“They’re really down to earth and jokesters,” Hanna said. “They like to laugh, and I really enjoy hanging out with them.”
“It’s been really interesting to observe the interaction between them and how they help one another,” Luttrell said. “They may be going through the same thoughts, feelings or ailments and they offer help, advise or just listening.”
The Center’s ultimate goal is to create a sense of community, which coupled with the Center’s programs can help the participants increase independence and self-reliance, assist in remaining in their homes, prevent premature institutionalization, and increase resource accessibility, said Ware.
“We hope to be a fun and safe place for every person that comes here,” she said. “They’ve been in this world for many years, and they need our compassion.”
Paula Johnston says having her mother Edith going to the Center has been life-changing. Her mother is more active, engaged, alert and communicates more since she began attending the Center less than a month ago.
“Her health has gotten better. Her demeanor has changed,” Johnston. “Just the other day, she told me she walked eight laps without her walker at the gym they exercise at. She talks about the Center even when she’s not there. It’s just been a dramatic change and turnaround for her and for us.”
For more information about the Hoover Center, visit https://semo.edu/hoover-center/index.html.