Indiana State University Newsroom

Students work to strengthen 'Dine with a Doc'

May 9, 2013

Some Indiana State University students spent part of the spring semester helping ensure that senior citizens get the information they need and want in order to live healthier, more productive lives.

Students in a health promotion and aging class interviewed senior citizens at "Dine with a Doc" programs in Terre Haute and West Terre Haute to find out what topics interest them the most.

While cancer, neurology and dementia were the most requested subjects for the lunchtime programs, many aging Wabash Valley residents expressed interest in topics beyond health care. Wills and advanced directives ranked fourth on the list of subjects, while finding reputable home repair services was fifth.

Attendees at "Dine with a Doc," sponsored by Senior Education Ministries, are not just concerned about their own health, either. Many are concerned about their pets. Veterinarians made the list - right between knee surgery and hip replacement.

"I haven't done a lot of work with older adults in health promotion so I didn't really know what to expect, but it proved a bunch of stereotypes wrong," said Ashley Wilson, a senior elementary education major from Terre Haute. "They were ... nice and participated with us. They had fun with us and I had fun with them.."

Courtney Hull of Terre Haute took the class to supplement her future psychology degree with a certificate in gerontology.

"It's a growing field and there are a lot of needs in this population," she said. "They have a lot of questions concerning problems that are more common as people age and they don't really know where to go to get the resources they need."

To help provide those answers, the students - after determining the topics seniors want addressed - prepared information sheets for the "Dine with a Doc" participants.The semester long project served as a great example of civic engagement and experiential learning, which are both major components of an Indiana State education, noted Tina Kruger, assistant professor of applied health sciences.

Indiana Campus Compact named Kruger a Faculty fellow for 2012-13. She developed and implemented the aging class as part of her fellowship and as a faculty member in the Science Engagement for New Civic Engagement and Responsibilities (SENCER) program.

"I linked the two because they are both about civic engagement and experiential learning for students; and I'm also a gerontologist," Kruger said. "I was brought here to develop a gerontology program, and I want to incorporate service learning activities into as many of my courses as possible."

This semester marked the first time Indiana State's College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services offered the class.

"The students' research has been very reaffirming that we are meeting the needs of the seniors," said Lori Aplin of Senior Education Ministries. "They have also enlightened the ministry with some insights as to things to enhance the program. Sometimes it's hard to see the forest through the trees and fresh eyes do wonders. We will be putting several of their suggestions into play."

Those include greater emphasis at each program on the area of each speaker's expertise, so those in the audience will ask appropriate questions, and asking speakers to repeat audience questions before responding, Aplin said.

Senior citizens also said they want to hear the personal stories of those who have experienced or are experiencing specific health issues.

"Without even knowing this was a suggestion from the study, we implemented this at a recent ‘Dine with a Doc' when the physician had a last-minute emergency and had to cancel," Aplin said.

Topics related to wills and home repair, however, will not be incorporated into "Dine with a Doc" because they are covered in other programs for seniors, she said.

The Indiana Campus Compact Faculty Fellowship allowed Kruger to create "a cutting edge scholarship of engagement experience," said Nathan Schaumleffel, associate professor of kinesiology, recreation and sport and senior faculty fellow with Indiana Campus Compact.

"Dr. Kruger is an advocate for older adults and is an emerging campus leader. Her partnership with Senior Education Ministries is a perfect example of the work Indiana State has become known for," Schaumleffel said. "It is partnerships like these that the community benefits from through dynamic nonprofit service delivery, students learn at higher levels, and faculty have the types of powerful experiences that develop their professional and academic careers in their discipline."

Students said their work with Senior Education Ministries complemented what they learned in Kruger's classroom.

"If I had any questions I could ask (the senior citizens) about what they think of health promotion and ... I could ask them why or how they could better themselves. I feel like I learned as much from them as they did from me," Wilson said.

"It was cool to see first-hand their experiences and relate them to what I've done in the classroom," added Hull.

Photo: - Jessica Turpin, a junior family and consumer sciences education major from Crawfordsville, listens to a senior citizen during a Feb. 27, 2013 "Dine with a Doc" program at the Wabash Senior Center in Terre Haute (ISU/Tony Campbell)

Photo: - Tina Kruger (standing), assistant professor of applied health sciences at Indiana State University, monitors a focus group discussion in which some of her students interviewed senior citizens attending a Feb. 27, 2013 "Dine with a Doc" program at the Wabash Senior Center in Terre Haute. (ISU/Tony Campbell)

Photo: - Indiana State University students Sharay Hughes (left), a junior human development and family studies major from Indianapolis, and Jessica Turpin, a junior family and consumer sciences education major from Crawfordsville, confer during a focus group session with senior citizens Feb. 27, 2013 at the Wabash Senior Center in Terre Haute. (ISU/Tony Campbell)

Contact: Tina Kruger, assistant professor of applied health sciences, Indiana State University, 812-237-8483 or

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or