A hand is holding a black pen, writing on a small notebook, held by the other hand.

On March 4th, 2021, Rexdale Community Health Centre (CHC) hosted a virtual health fair for 55 seniors from the Etobicoke community.  

Spearheaded by two groups of eight Bachelor of Nursing students and two clinical instructors, the initiative followed the theme, “Head to Toe.”  

“In Humber College’s Bachelor of Nursing program, experiences with the older adult population expand beyond the acutely or chronically ill,” said Liselle Kuk Wah, clinical education resource manager in Humber’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellness.  

“From active senior living centres or centres for seniors living with disabilities to long-term care homes, our Humber nursing students had a unique and crucial learning opportunity to engage both residents and community-dwelling older adults through the virtual health fair.”  

Simone Volpe, a placement officer from the faculty, approached Rexdale CHC with an opportunity to present the virtual health fair.  A blue slide has the heading SOCIAL ACTIVITY and explains how to manage stress. There are two photos of seniors.One is a cartoon

The centre signed on immediately. The fair would allow Rexdale CHC to support Humber Nursing students and had the potential to become an annual event.  

Truly head to toe  

Students produced 15-minute presentations, which they delivered to 55 seniors. The presentations were pre-recorded on video or via PowerPoint and uploaded to Zoom.  

Presentation topics included mental health, vision and oral health, digestion, nutrition, fall prevention and risk and physical activity.  

The presentations required students to face a unique challenge. 

“Individuals in senior homes may not have access to the Internet or know how to search for resources when in need. Due to this potential barrier, I focused on activities or tools they may have access to such as newspapers, puzzles, and books,” said first-year Nursing student Jesika Dhaliwa. 

Her group created the mental wellness presentation.  

Dhaliwa says she realized the pandemic had taken a toll on all of us, especially seniors, who are more susceptible to COVID-19.  

“Being isolated has shed more light on mental health as a whole. Informing people about mental health can encourage positive thinking and increase awareness of emotions,” she said. A blue slide shows a row of cartoon people and a thought bubble that says 'How do I improve my mental health?'

“It’s important to teach people of all ages how to handle their anxiety, stress and any other negative emotions they may experience – and how to do so when social activity is not an option.” 

The group even led a guided meditation session which elicited excellent feedback, according to organizers. 

The virtual health fair registrants gained awareness of a host of new health information and practices, which can boost their physical and mental health and their social capital. The seniors now have a better understanding of and connection to the healthcare system.  

While the groups were unsure how their audience would receive the information, they found the seniors stayed actively engaged throughout the sessions.  

The benefits, though, are reciprocal.  

Students developed insight into the social, financial and health aspects of older adult communities.  

The faculty has plans to hold the virtual health fair again and is seeking other partnership opportunities like this one.  

Other organizations interested in supporting this student placement can send an email to simone.volpe@humber.ca