Senior Outreach

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Abstract: brief summary of the background of how this project started, and what’s involved in it

The Grillo Health Information Center is a community organization located at the Tebo Family Medical Pavilion in Boulder, CO, It is committed to increasing health care knowledge and the decision making ability of health care consumers through free individualized research of credible sources and through public lectures. The Grillo Health Information Center Senior Center Outreach Project was supported with Federal funds from the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services under contract with the University of Utah. The purpose of the project was to increase health information literacy, in partnership with the City of Boulder, by providing on-site health information resources to the 1200 seniors who patronize the Boulder West Senior Center.

Issue: Describe the challenges that the effective practice was designed to meet

Prior to the start of the project, we implemented a Needs Assessment at the Boulder West Senior Center, which found that 80 percent of seniors said they often or sometimes need additional health information, and 78 percent said they highly or somewhat value having access to additional sources of reliable health information.

Action: What actions were taken that were found to be useful?

To meet this clearly identified need, we stationed a trained volunteer researcher at the senior center. However, in the initial stages of this project, we found that some seniors were reluctant to utilize our services. We learned that it was critical to establish trust and personal connections with this population. By doing so, we found that the Grillo Center volunteer, in one-on-one confidential interaction, was able to provide caring support to help the senior citizen frame the health question, and understand exactly what information was needed. The more introductory activities in which we engaged to help seniors understand and trust our intentions, the more effective we were in establishing a welcoming presence at the project site and providing individual services. Some of these activities included meeting with existing groups at the Boulder West Senior Center and talking to them about our service, answering their specific questions, and reassuring them of the intention to confidentially meet their health question needs. We also attended some lunch and dinner gatherings where seniors came to socialize. We passed out brochures and answered personal questions about our services. We found that the presence of the same volunteer assigned each week helped establish relationship connection and trust. When some seniors began using our health information services we encouraged them to talk about their experience with others in the senior center. We also welcomed senior center staff to use our services and they spoke positively of the assistance they received.

Context: Where was the effective practice carried out? Provide details about the community, the people, the setting, etc

The project originated at the Boulder West Senior Center. The Grillo Health Information Center Senior Outreach Project has enabled expansion beyond the initial senior center location to Three other senior locations throughout the community. They include the Golden West retirement community, the Frasier Meadows retirement community, and The Atrium retirement community. The new locations are an outgrowth of the efforts and success of the initial NNLM funded project. By our expanded presence in the three separate Retirement Communities we were able to serve the health information access needs of these senior populations. Additional partners, and interest, have emerged. For example, a physician and a physical therapist in one facility wish to explore creative ways to market to and attract resident seniors to increased health information and health care access. Another facility is targeting outreach regarding Grillo Health Information Center services to family members of senior residents. Working relationships have been enhanced and have opened doors to new opportunities regarding collaboration and outreach ideas. These other senior community partners learned of our project through our presentations to residents or by scheduled meetings with facility administrators. One facility, Frasier Meadows, asked us to present to the Resident Activities Committee where we were interviewed and “grilled” about our services. Once satisfied with our good service and intentions, they then recommended to the Administration to officially invite the Grillo Health Information Center to schedule regular volunteer shifts at their senior facility. We held a community-wide meeting for any resident to attend and hear about our services, ask questions, and have members of their own resident committee also add information they learned from our earlier presentations to them.

Outcome: What changes occurred – to the community, those involved in the program/project as a result?

During the duration of the Grillo Senior Center Outreach Project, we have asked patrons to evaluate the effectiveness of our services and to provide some voluntary demographic information. We have analyzed the feedback from these formal evaluations. Ninety-seven percent of those who responded rated the quality of our services as excellent or good. Seventy-five percent of those we serve in the entire community are considered senior citizens. Eighty percent rate themselves as low-income. These are significant indicators of the value of Grillo Health Information Center to the more vulnerable populations in our community. It has helped us plan for, and implement, targeted outreach projects in particular neighborhoods. By taking our services to where populations reside or to their familiar environments, we are better able to meet their needs. Trust is a critical factor in making our resource available. We learned this early in the Senior Center Outreach Project. We also learned that our pace for progress does not necessarily reflect that of the population we are trying to serve, and that time is an important factor in building relationships and credibility.

Evidence: How do you know this worked?

We have found that our efforts to reach the more vulnerable, under-served senior population has expanded as a result of this project. This project has certainly introduced health information services to more seniors. Although we do not have hard outcome data on improvements to health literacy, we believe we are making a difference. The collaboration with the University of Colorado is intended to establish data that shows a direct relationship to Grillo Health Information Center and health literacy. The project is intended to develop metrics and outcome data in order to demonstrate the effects of our services on health and on health literacy, and on reduction of health care costs.

Contact1: Grillo Health Information Center; 4715 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, CO 80303; Phone: 720 854-7293; Email: [email protected]; Website:; Executive Director: Johnny Daurio; email: [email protected]; cell: 303 956-4152.