Category Archives: Midd Blogosphere

Article: Isolating the Elderly Is Bad for Their Health

By Betsy Morris

Society hasn’t figured out how to protect the elderly from coronavirus without imposing another very real health threat: isolation. For more than 100 days in some places, residents in nursing homes and retirement communities across the country have been separated from spouses, children, grandchildren and friends of many decades. Residents have been kept apart, eating meals in solitary.

The actions are well-intended. Covid-19 has caused more than 56,000 deaths in about 11,600 long-term care facilities in 44 states, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But there are unintended consequences. As scientists learn more about how the human brain works, they are getting a clearer picture of neurological and physiological changes that occur when people live in isolation. These changes may help explain why living alone with little social interaction is often implicated in higher rates of cardiovascular and other types of disease, worsening dementia and Alzheimer’s, and shortened lives.

Plenty of research shows that social support and social “integration,” which refers to a person’s varied roles and responsibilities, play a big role in determining someone’s health and longevity. “The combination of social isolation and loneliness is very unhealthy for anyone, but for older adults, it’s particularly bad,” said Bert Uchino, University of Utah psychology professor who studies the ways in which social relationships affect health. “Just about every biological system is impacted in one way or another by psychosocial relationships.”

The pandemic has been soul-crushing not just for the isolated elderly, but also for their children and care givers, who often have to follow strict rules they know might be as bad as the disease. “Everybody is trying to protect them. I understand. But this is not the right way,” said Atouria Bodaghi, a registered nurse at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix.

New course: INTD 0121 Community-Connected Learning!

Are you civically-minded and want to impact social change in the community? Consider signing up for this class!

INTD 0121 Community Connected Learning

Community-connected learning supports civic knowledge cultivation, skill building, and identity development. In this course students will apply their relevant coursework to place-based contexts by collaborating with community partners independently or in groups to complete a community-connected learning project that will contribute to the public good. Center for Community Engagement (CCE) instructors will meet with students weekly in cohorts to explore the social issues raised in their experiences. Final projects may take a variety of forms, such as a portfolio, media production, or paper. Students who are not already involved with a CCE program should contact the instructor to be matched with a community partner. 3 hrs. lect.

This is a flexible online class, with the choice between an in-person or online discussion section. CCE instructors will meet with students weekly in cohorts to explore the social issues raised in their experiences. Students who are not already involved with a CCE Program should contact Ashley Laux, at alaux@middlebury.edu, to be matched with a community partner.

2020 Virtual NIH Graduate & Professional School Fair

The NIH is pleased to announce the 2020 Virtual NIH Graduate & Professional School Fair. The event will consist of

(1) live workshops (August 4th, 2020)

(2) prerecorded workshops, panels, and interviews (recordings will be available on the OITE YouTube channel on or after August 4, 2020), and

(3) online exhibitor sessions (August 5th through 7th , 2020).

Students need to register to get the links of each session and for the virtual exhibitor session links and schedule.

This is a great opportunity for students interested in graduate, medical,  MD/PhD programs, as well as Public Health, Clinical Psychology, Genetic Counseling, Data Science/Computational Biology/Bioinformatics, Bioengineering and Academic Postbac Programs.

Impact Public Policy: Regional Economic Models is Hiring

Regional Economic Models Logo (REMI)

Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI) is the leading provider of economic forecasting and policy analysis models. REMI’s analysis has guided public policy decisions on healthcare policy, national security issues and state tax legislation. Clients include government agencies, consulting firms and academic institutions. Established in 1980, we are a small firm based in Amherst, Massachusetts with extensive national and global networks.

REMI is excited to offer new remote positions for students interested in Economics, Marketing, Administration, and Software Development used to impact public policy.

REMI works with countless government agencies and consulting firms in their daily work and these positions expose employees to successful careers in public policy and software development through strong REMI leadership and focused guidance at all levels of the firm.

Deadlines are fast approaching – do not delay your application as candidates are reviewed on a rolling basis.

Deadline: August 6

Deadline: August 15

Deadline: August 17

Deadline: August 20

Deadline: September 6

Deadline: September 14

Deadline: September 20

AlphaSights: Give yourself a head start on your 2021 job or internship search

AlphaSights will be hosting a series of Virtual Open House webinars during the week of Monday, August 10th to discuss open roles in New York and San Francisco. All attendees will be provided with the links to apply to the firm’s soon to be open Full-Time Associate and Summer Associate Program positions for the hiring class of 2021 (open to rising juniors and seniors) with eligibility for an accelerated interview timeline!

RSVP for the webinar events using the links below: 

You’re welcome to attend any and all sessions you find relevant. All sessions will be presented by different members of the AlphaSights team, and will include information about the firm’s opportunities and hiring processes!

Cynthia Ramos ’21: Bridging Generational, Cultural, and Linguistic Differences Remotely

Read this article to learn more about Cynthia Ramos’s ’21 experiences bringing together members of Entre Elas, a women’s theatre group in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and students in Middlebury’s Portuguese Language School, as one the CCE’s three language immersive interns this summer.

This summer, the CCE supported a cohort of language immersive student interns to coordinate and facilitate community-engaged co-curricular projects for students in Middlebury’s Korean, Portuguese, and German Language Schools.

One of those interns, Cynthia Ramos ‘21, facilitated weekly conversation and intercultural exchange between students in the Portuguese language school and the members of Entre Elas, a community theatre group of 15 elderly women in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. 

Cynthia has multiple connections to the city of Belo Horizonte, making this project especially impactful for her. Belo Horizonte is the city her parents grew up in. She chose to study abroad in Belo Horizonte this past year to learn more about their culture and her heritage, but but was only there for a month and a half before the experience was cut short due to COVID-19.

Cynthia Ramos ’21, CCE Summer Language Immersive Intern

This internship has provided Cynthia, the Portuguese students, and especially the Entre Elas women with valuable social interactions this summer. In Cynthia’s words:

“These women were really active members of their community before the pandemic broke out, performing in various cities, and now they’re confined to their houses. So not only is there an intercultural exchange happening, but students have helped keep this community from falling apart during the pandemic—the Entre Elas members wouldn’t have come on Zoom if it wasn’t for them. We were able to build community online, bring it to their doorstep—a safe way to keep them mentally and emotionally strong.”

Like all community building, especially that occurring across cultural, linguistic, and generational barriers, the process has been at times difficult and messy. In her weekly written reflections, Cynthia chronicles the difficulties of bringing diverse communities together through Zoom, being a key member of a pilot program, and keeping herself accountable remotely.

Members of the Belo Horizonte theatre group Entre Elas met with Portuguese Language School Students on July 10 for conversation and intercultural exchange. The day’s topic was “Our Relationships with the Elderly.”

She describes one disheartening incident where her Internet service kept failing, leading to a 30-minute delay in the discussion start time. “It was a huge waste of time,” she laments, “Because I was still flustered from my Internet not working, I messed up the [Zoom] breakout rooms the first time I created them as well.”

Apart from technical difficulties and Internet access issues, Zoom presents a host of other challenges, which Cynthia describes eloquently: 

“Working remotely makes you hyper-aware of your own appearance and presence. With your camera on, you may find yourself examining your own expressions as you talk, a process that is unconscious, but tiring nonetheless. Working remotely also makes it impossible to read other people’s body language…This complicates already complicated interactions.”

Cynthia’s reflections, though, are held together by an overwhelming sense of optimism. Even the hard parts are quickly followed up by gratefulness. “Technical difficulties are a doozy,” she writes, before adding in parentheses, “(I still had fun though!).”

She relishes the seemingly small personal and program victories—the conversations and relationships formed, the learning taking place in herself and participants, and the process of forging ahead despite setbacks and uncertainties—while also displaying the capacity and courage to step back from the details to see the larger picture:

“In these past three weeks, we have been able to find, connect, and build a project with partners from across a continent from scratch! It’s my first time being a part of a program that isn’t already well established, and I understand that whatever I do will be of great help in the future…that makes me so excited!” 

Cynthia operates from a posture of humility, always open to learning, deeply reflective, and respectful of cultural differences and power dynamics:

“In my project, I am often facilitating not only intercultural exchanges, but intergenerational exchanges as well. I have to try to be respectful to my elders in Portuguese while also trying to guide conversations between them and students who are also older than me.”

To help her accomplish such difficult feats with grace, Cynthia relies on the support, guidance, and wisdom from Liliane, the woman who led the Entre Elas group prior to the pandemic, her supervisor Kristen Mullins, and her peer interns working with the Korean and German language schools. Reflecting on their support, she writes:

“This is not an easy feat, but luckily, I have the help of Liliane Psi, who led Entre Elas pre-pandemic times….Then there’s also the one-on-one meetings with Kristen and cohort meetings with Sean and Maddie. Those have really helped me to reflect in a way I might not have on paper.”

But she has perhaps learned the most from the Entre Elas women themselves. She leaned into their model of equality, despite generational differences, becoming closer to them and more aware of herself in the process:

“[Liliane] and Entre Elas members treat each other as comadres, or co-moms, a concept that has helped me to see myself as more their equal than their granddaughter. The flip-side is that this concept also helps me to not patronize the women by treating them as “cute” grandmothers, for example. It brings us closer in time and space, tying our generations together. This is especially important in a country where older generations are often scorned and younger generations accused of ruining good things.”

Members of the Belo Horizonte theatre group Entre Elas met with Portuguese Language School Students on July 17 for conversation and intercultural exchange. The day’s topic was “Music as Therapy.”

Cynthia’s genuine care for the Entre Elas & Portuguese language school students is not only evidenced in the time she dedicates to learning and self growth, but also in the way she cherishes conversations and pays close attention to the differing needs of the program participants, weighing options carefully: 

“I’ve noticed that the students really need a lot more structure than the elderly women in Entre Elas. The things that make students comfortable—PowerPoints, schedules and breakout rooms—are counterproductive for creating community amongst the Entre Elas women. Sharing my screen and presenting a PowerPoint takes up time that could be used making ‘eye contact’ and otherwise interacting with my participants. In my case, I’ve discovered it is not a tradeoff worth making.”

Contemplating the program’s overall impact on herself and participants, Cynthia concludes:  

“I have learned a lot about this community of women living in my parents’ hometown, and it has really made me grateful. Since my study abroad in Brazil experience in Belo Horizonte was cut off, this internship was the supplement that I really needed to bring my online study abroad experience full circle. 

We’ve talked about family, where we live, how we relate to the elderly, funerals, folk music, Entre Elas’s music, mental health, and coronavirus, among other things. The students…have all gotten the opportunity to practice their speaking and listening skills, as well as gain a greater understanding of a microcosm of Brazil.

We’ve accomplished so much, and come so far, when this project didn’t even exist until May of this year.”

Thank you, Cynthia, for being such a vital part of making this project meaningful for everybody involved!