In the city of Barberton, Ohio, students are making a difference with the residents of the local senior living community. And this past year, it’s been a community-wide effort to improve the quality of life for these residents and to spark meaningful connections for all involved.

The students at the Barberton City Schools have been fostering relationships with the residents at Pleasant View Skilled Nursing and Pleasant Pointe Assisted Living for the past 18 years. The program began as a capstone project where students would be paired with a resident for the duration of the school year and regularly engage in a variety of one-on-one and group activities at the facility as they form a connection. At the end of the year, students write a thesis paper on their experience and present it to their peers, family, and other members of the community.

The program has evolved over the years. It has grown to include the school’s STNA program (State Tested Nursing Aides ), where students work towards becoming a CNA,  – referred to as State Tested Nursing Aides (STNA) in Ohio – as well as annual career preparatory projects as part of SkillsUSA’s competition events. 

technology for all

One of the previous SkillsUSA projects, titled “Internet Cafe,” aimed to bring technology to the residents. The students who conducted this project recognized that this next generation moving into assisted living communities is using more technology and wanted to work to support this need in the Pleasant Pointe community. This particular project developed into an ongoing program where students work directly with residents on technology use. 

Debbie Ritz, RN, the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Teacher leading the program for the Barberton City School District, attended an STNA conference where another senior living community presented on the various technologies successfully being used within their community. One of the technologies being presented was Eversound (an easy to use wireless headphone system). Ritz recognized that Eversound would be beneficial for the residents at Pleasant View Skilled Nursing and Pleasant Pointe Assisted Living communities, and worked with her students to find a way to integrate it into their existing program as their project for SkillsUSA’s Career Showcase competition for the 2021-2022 school year. 

introducing Eversound

Ritz selected students from the program to work in collaboration with the Barberton Public Library to bring Eversound into the Pleasant View community. The students selected to use Eversound to work with the Pleasant View residents over the 2021-2022 school year included Rachel Denee, Alexis Prentiss, Mary Krege, and Leah Schenkenberger

The group hypothesized that “Within one year, Eversound will be incorporated into the local care facility. By using Eversound in activities to give the same listening and understanding experience [to all residents], we will promote the health of its users,” Krege shared.

Before they could begin using Eversound with Pleasant View residents and testing their hypothesis, the students worked with members of their community to help fund their project, including the middle school, the local coffee shop, and the local newspaper, the Barberton Herald. The students also worked with their peers to familiarize themselves with the Eversound wireless headphone systems before introducing it to the residents. As they began to introduce the Eversound system to the residents, the students collected data on how many residents had impaired hearing loss, how many had difficulty understanding and following conversations, and how many had hearing aids and reported on the impact of using Eversound with these residents. 

“After asking questions about their hearing, we put the headphones on each resident to speak to them and see if the headphones worked for them and if they enjoyed using it. And with the positive results, we decided we were going to move forward with using Eversound in Pleasant View,” Rachel Denee shared.

Alexis Prentiss shared that their goal for this project was to improve physical and mental health, enhance communication, and bring the community together. Over the course of the year, these students introduced Eversound technology to 15 residents, worked to use it in various activities like reading with residents, and collected feedback from the residents to build into a final report.

showcasing the impact of Eversound

At the end of the 2021-2022 school year, these students presented on their experience as part of SkillsUSA’s Career Pathway Showcase for Health Science. The students won first place in Ohio, and were invited to compete at the National SkillsUSA competition in Atlanta, GA, where they placed fourth amongst the first place winners from each state.

When sharing their experience, the students used words like unique, neat, and fun. Rachel Denee said “When [she] put the headphones on and spoke into the [microphone], there were some residents whose faces just lit up because they could hear! And that was really wonderful to see.”

Ritz went on to share that they plan to continue using Eversound with the Pleasant View community beyond this year’s project. “I think there’s a lot of opportunities, just a matter of becoming familiar with [Eversound] and have more people start using it,” she shared. 

Eversound will be integrated into their ongoing Capstone project, Internet Cafe program, into more community visits, and into the Barberton Library Club, where students from the city’s middle schools and high schools will use it for book club with the Pleasant View residents.