Oral Health Education at Senior Centers and Assisted Living

Overview
This activity includes the development of a presentation about the importance of oral heath for seniors, and the delivery of this presentation to older adults in senior centers and assisted living apartments in six counties in rural Central Washington.

Submitted by: Debbie Peterson, RN, and Valerie Graber, Aging & Adult Care of  Central Washington.

Project Goal(s) 

  • Increase awareness among seniors about the importance of oral health and disease prevention
  • Promote Aging & Adult Care of Central Washington (AACCW) as a local community resource for those who have questions or concerns about oral health or other issues related to healthy aging

Approach 
The presentation was developed by a nurse with Aging & Adult Care of Central Washington. AACCW scheduled 23 presentations in senior centers and assisted living facilities throughout the six counties.  To optimize attendance at senior centers, the presentation was scheduled to take place at the end of the group meal time. When making presentations to assisted living facilities, staff coordinated with the activity planner, who distributed our flyer and announced the upcoming presentation to residents prior to the scheduled date.   In both senior centers and assisted living facilities, participants received oral health information and a “goody bag” containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss.

Successes and Challenges
The presentations were very well received.  Because our speaker was very engaging, she was able to get the audiences involved and receptive to the information.  Her infectious enthusiasm for the project, engaging style, and ability to bridge the topics of nutrition and oral health were key to ensuring the health messages were heard, and were critical factors in the success of this program.

As a result of the presentations, seniors in the community are now accessing more dental services. AACCW will continue to promote oral health and it’s likely that all staff involved will connect with seniors about oral health as they continue their work in other capacities.

Lessons Learned
We quickly learned that the more fun we make the presentation, the more engaged is the audience.  To this end, we included the “goody bags” of dental supplies and door prizes, like electric toothbrushes.   We also learned, through the client satisfaction survey distributed at the end of each session, that
attendees wanted information about denture care.  We have since incorporated denture care information into the presentation.

We determined that if we were to continue this effort we would focus more on the senior centers and less on the assisted living facilities.  The audiences in the senior centers were more receptive to the information shared, asked more questions, and were generally more engaged.  They appeared to be most likely to make changes in their oral health practices.

Materials

Sustainability
Since we have a tested presentation for community presentations, it’s feasible to continue our efforts of increasing awareness among seniors about oral health and disease prevention.

Photos from some of our presentations.

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