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USC Gerontology Students Participate in 'Aging Sensitivity Training' Provided by SCAN Health Plan

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Gerontology students at University of Southern California had an opportunity to "become senior citizens" on Friday thanks to Trading Ages(TM), an interactive senior sensitivity training program sponsored by SCAN Health Plan. The award-winning program is a workshop that provides participants the opportunity to literally "walk in the shoes of a senior" through a series of hands-on exercises and sensory perception education.

Participants included approximately 60 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students from the USC Davis School of Gerontology. Some were younger adults with little work experience, while others were much further along in their careers with many years of experience.

"This was an invaluable opportunity for students at all levels to experience the common physical and emotional challenges that are a part of the aging process," said Assistant Dean Maria Henke. "We are proud of the solid training ground we provide to future gerontologists and given SCAN Health Plan's strong background in serving and meeting the needs of seniors, this was an ideal pairing."

According to Sherry Stanislaw, senior vice president of the nonprofit SCAN Health Plan, who created the Trading Ages(TM) program, participants are often surprised by how they react to certain physical limitations that are mimicked during the program, and many have commented on what an eye-opening experience it is.

To mimic the difficulties experienced with arthritis, for example, program participants were asked to don heavy, clumsy gloves and then button their shirts or open medication bottles and handle small pills. Participants also put popcorn in their shoes and walked around to simulate the feeling of painful joints. Others strapped their arm to their side to see how limiting it can be to deal with the effects of a stroke.

Depriving participants of the level of hearing and sight that most people enjoy their entire lives was also a critical part of the program. Ear plugs were used followed by a hearing test to demonstrate how isolating hearing loss can be. Perhaps most difficult for many participants was when they were asked to wear special glasses that severely limited their vision and approximated many of the vision challenges and disorders that accompany aging.

"It was illuminating to experience firsthand the vision loss that comes with age," said Zachary Gassoumis, a third-year Ph.D. student. "I have worn glasses since I was 10, but I now realize I would have a hard time enduring the effects of cataracts or macular degeneration."

SCAN has been offering aging sensitivity training to its employees for many years as a way to better understand the needs and mindset of its health plan members. The program also continues to be offered to SCAN board members, physician groups and to elementary school children to enhance their sensitivity in dealing with older adults.

"With our society rapidly aging, this type of education across all ages and industries is more important than ever," said Stanislaw. "As a health plan focused exclusively on the needs of seniors, SCAN is in a unique position to help people understand more about the aging process."

For more than 30 years, SCAN Health Plan has been focusing on the unique needs of people with Medicare and today is the fourth-largest nonprofit Medicare Advantage Plan in the United States. The company currently serves approximately 110,000 members in seven Southern California counties as well as Maricopa County in Arizona. Further information may be obtained at

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