Era Living’s Long-Standing Partnership with the University of Washington
Of the many partnerships Era Living has developed within local and regional communities, the working relationship with the University of Washington (UW) remains one of the strongest and most beneficial to date. With over three decades of collaboration, the Era Living-UW partnership advocates continued learning within residential communities to the benefit of residents and the medical community.
The History of Era Living and the University of Washington
Era Living first teamed up with the University of Washington in 1990 while Eli and Rebecca Almo were in the process of developing their first residential community, the flagship Ida Culver House Broadview. After reading an article on shortages in gerontology nursing, the Almo’s reached out to its author, then UW School of Nursing’s dean Dr.Hegyvary.
We approached Dr. Hegyvary to discuss whether the School would be interested in establishing a partnership where faculty and students would be able to apply their education and research of older adults into practice at our upcoming, state-of-the-art retirement community and healthcare center,” said Eli Almo in an interview, “This was very much in alignment with the School’s goals. With Dr. Hegyvary’s leadership, we created a model partnership that has been a win-win since inception. We have since expanded the partnership across our entire organization, including eight retirement communities in the greater Seattle area.
Since 1990, a number of groundbreaking ideas have come to fruition through this partnership. From implementation of practical aging programs to support of long-term care policies through the state and federal political arena, this partnership has birthed a plethora of research studies, grants, and wellness programs while actively benefiting educators, students, and residents. Looking at these successes more specifically we can see the many ways- big and small- this partnership has given back to the community.
UW Schools in Partnership with Era Living Facilities
Era Living partners with a handful of schools in the UW education system; the School of Nursing, the School of Social Work, the School of Pharmacy, and the UW Retirement Association. Residents benefit from this partnership with access to current industry research and innovative wellness. On the flipside, resident participation provides critical feedback for future programs and ensures programming is a best-fit for everyone’s needs.
Our communities have developed an extensive working relationship with the nation’s top-rated nursing school, the University of Washington School of Nursing. Wellness and Active Aging pilot programs allow residents the chance to participate in ongoing research while nursing leaders gain data and insight through interactions with Era Living’s 1,500 residents. The de Tornyay Center for Healthy Aging in particular is dedicated to “addressing and embracing the changing needs of our population” and has benefited residents in many ways. Open to the public, the yearly de Tornyay Center Ignite Aging symposium showcases resident artwork. Era Living founder and CEO Eli Almo dedicated 20 years serving as board chair for the UW School of Nursing Advisory Board before recently stepping down.
Since 2011 Era Living has partnered with the University of Washington School of Pharmacy and the Plein Center for Geriatric Pharmacy Research, Education, and Outreach. This partnership develops innovative methods to optimize medication use while advocating healthy aging. Goals are promoted through continuous education available to residents, monthly newsletter articles, research facilitation and access to consultations with a clinical pharmacist.
Innovative services are designed and tailored with help from the University of Washington’s School of Social Work. Social workers help residents in various ways, including organizing and leading discussion and support groups through the Resident and Family Supportive Services programs. The “Almost Like Family” program provides 24/7 on-call personnel to assist with emergencies, accompany residents to appointments and provide companionship to those whose families are far away.
The University of Washington Memory and Brain Wellness Center offers diagnostic services, treatment, and resources for people suffering degenerative brain disorders. Operating out of Harborview Hospital, scientific researchers collaborate with care providers to provide and deliver treatment to those with dementia. Era Living became the first corporate sponsor of the center, showcasing institutional support for progressive care and dementia treatment.
Last but not least, the University of Washington Retirement Association (UWRA) has had a major impact on senior living services, including the founding of both University House Wallingford and University House Issaquah. The UWRA advocates the development of senior living communities through top-notch housing and programming for residents. Era Living residents benefit through onsite lectures and visits, curated arts and cultural programming, and access to active aging programs.
These communities attract academics, retired professors and teachers who have a passion for life-long learning. UWRA members and parents of members receive priority benefits when moving into the communities. All residents living at these two communities also have access to the robust UWRA programming calendar.
Current Programs and Research through the University of Washington
A number of wellness programs are currently in place at Era Living communities, including the Thrive and Enhance Fitness programs.
The Enhance Fitness program is an evidence-based wellness program focused on improving muscle strength, balance, and agility. With use of technology-based solutions, staff and scholars address the various challenges older adults face today.
Thrive is a comprehensive wellness program designed to promote healthy aging. With evidence-based research and activities, Thrive unifies the focus on mind, body and spirit. Intergenerational programming establishes connections between local high school students and residents, who form panels to discuss relevant topics. Evidence of Thrive research can be seen throughout community-wide programming.
Another effort led by Thrive, called Mats for the Homeless, brings residents together to knit and weave sleeping mats for the local homeless population. Other success stories can be read in Thrive Director Cliff Warner’s article published in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing.
Era Living nurses and social workers have published a number of guest editorials with UW support. UW School of Nursing staff such as Dr. Basia Belza have published seven editorials to date in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing. Topics include cybercrime, infection control, the role of family caregivers, nursing care partners, and the role of nursing in death and dying.
Educators such as Dr. Basia Belza and Dr. Barb Cochrane participate heavily in Era Living research, attending nurse meetings while helping to organize journal clubs amongst nurses. Dr. Barb Cochrane brings international visitors from care facilities worldwide to tour Era Living communities.
Lastly, residents have participated in research studies and quality improvement projects that enhance collaboration across the board. Published research has appeared in the International Journal of Medical Informatics, the Journal of Applied Gerontology, the Journal of Gerontological Nursing, and Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, to name a few.
Scholar Presentations to Era Living Communities
Era Living communities host bimonthly speaking events to address topics selected by residents. Visiting speakers are typically pre and post-doctoral fellows and faculty, informing on a wide breadth of topics.
Past presenters include UW School of Nursing’s Dr. Basia Belza’s research titled “Workout your Brain with Physical Activity,” which came as a follow-up to a social isolation presentation. Another presentation included Dr. Barb Cochrane discussing “Sex after Sixty: Aging Together and Loving it!” which came after scholar Sarah McKiddy’s presentation “Music on my Mind.”
Residents and attendees have given exuberant feedback to past presentors, with residents saying “Speaker was engaging and really made it interactive” while another commented “More information about our bodies and the changes to expect.”
Upcoming Partnership Events
Era Living operates under a “life-long-learning” approach and pairs intentionally with partners that encourage positive community growth and expansion of skills and knowledge.
Here are a number of upcoming events through the UW:
- UW School of Pharmacy discussion on “CBD: Is it right for me?” – April 20th 10:30AM at University House Wallingford
- UW School of Nursing talk “Music and Healthy Aging” featuring musician and doctoral students Sarah McKiddy and UW School of Nursing professor Nancy Woods – March 31, 2023 at 11:00AM, register online
- UW School of Nursing 6th Annual Ignite Aging Symposium, “Building Bridges” at the Center for Urban Horticulture. Next event Friday, September 29th, 2023.
We can’t wait to see you there!