Prospects and Challenges of Implementing Multidisciplinary Healthy Aging Programs in Multicultural, Subsidized Senior Housing

Publication Date


Document Type


Publication Title

The Third Annual CHAMP Conference on Health and Aging

Conference Location

San Jose, CA


Increasing numbers of seniors in subsidized housing are aging in place and experience greater risk for chronic illness and disability due to their advancing age and lower incomes, necessitating the implementation of multifaceted programs to enable residents to maintain wellness. We report on the opportunities and challenges of implementing a grant-funded, multidisciplinary wellness project at a subsidized senior housing facility with 160 seniors aged 60 plus led by faculty and students from six different professions. Assessments and educational interventions were conducted related to healthy aging in the context of the daily lives of a diverse group of residents representing 5 linguistic groups: Chinese, English, Russian, Farsi, and Korean.

We examined the needs assessment data from a recently conducted survey and semi-structured interviews; proposed a series of tailored wellness interventions based on these data; conducted 3 community forums to obtain resident feedback on the interventions; organized two events to collect pre- and posttest data; and implemented the following interventions: blood pressure monitoring (Nursing), recreational activities (Recreation Therapy), workshops on home safety and Strategies for better sleep (Occupational Therapy), Matter of Balance classes (Kinesiology), and nutrition education (Nutrition). The MOS Short form-36v2 was administered to all residents to determine its utility as a standardized assessment tool for the housing facility (Social Work).

Sixteen SJSU students (graduate and undergraduate), supervised by faculty, participated in delivering the program. The project enabled students to learn skills necessary for effective practice such as: learning about different measures and interventions provided by various professions; opportunities to practice skills interacting with multicultural older adults; and work in the context of a subsidized housing community. Additionally, about 15 to 20 students served as translators and assisted with data collection and implementation of interventions. Faculty gained useful insights into resources (peer consultation) that became available through collaboration, and the challenges of implementing interventions in multicultural settings such as: scheduling events that address resident needs/preferences and student availability; finding translators and interpreters to cover all the languages and providing enough lead time to have materials translated; multiple IRB applications; and coordination of project activities. From the perspective of the facility staff, opportunities included providing residents with a variety of needed activities to maintain wellness. Challenges included scheduling, advertising programs, encouraging and reminding residents to attend programs, ensuring translation accuracy, and additional coordination responsibilities. Facility staff also recruited volunteers to assist with translation and program implementation.

Implementation of the wellness programs in this multicultural setting provided significant opportunities to: 1) train the future workforce on multidisciplinary perspectives on healthy aging through service and research; 2) provide evidence-supported programs to vulnerable seniors in low income housing; 3) engage in meaningful university-community partnerships to establish ongoing training/internships for future students to continue and expand the wellness programs. However, these projects require adequate resources (funding, time, and student availability) to start up and maintain. Possible strategies for next steps in the evolution of this partnership will be presented based on a collaborative examination (faculty, students, and facility staff) of the data.


Kinesiology; Nursing; Nutrition, Food Science and Packaging; Occupational Therapy; Public Health and Recreation; Social Work