North Hill Senior Living and Olin College of Engineering Create Fund to Support Innovative Projects to Improve the Lives of Older Adults

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North Hill and Olin College are teaming up to fund projects that directly or indirectly contribute to expanding the potential of people 65 and older. Today, the two local institutions announced the launch of a new North Hill – Olin College Fund for Innovation in Aging to benefit older adults in Needham and beyond.

As America’s elder population begins to swell with baby boomers, aging well is seen as an increasingly important priority. North Hill and Olin College are teaming up to fund projects that directly or indirectly contribute to expanding the potential of people 65 and older. Today, the two local institutions announced the launch of a new North Hill – Olin College Fund for Innovation in Aging to benefit older adults in Needham and beyond.

“Olin College and North Hill have long seen a need for greater innovation when it comes to aging,” said Kevin Burke, CEO of North Hill Communities, Inc. “This fund demonstrates our joint commitment to spark and support products, services and opportunities that could enhance the lives of older adults.”

“It has been very satisfying to see our growing relationship with North Hill in recent years,” said Olin President Richard K. Miller. “This new fund puts that relationship on a higher level, and we look forward to the ways that we will collaborate to enrich the lives of older adults.”

Initiative Grew Out of a History of Collaboration
North Hill and Olin College have a long history of collaboration: residents of the senior living community have collaborated with and learned with and from Olin staff, students and faculty. For their part, Olin students and faculty have benefited a great deal from working with North Hill older adults on projects that have been both enriching learning opportunities and rewarding personal experiences.

“We teach our engineering students that we want them to design with the needs, priorities and values of people in mind,” said cultural anthropologist Caitrin Lynch, an Olin professor who teaches Engineering for Humanity, a class in which students design devices to help older adults maintain a healthy quality of life. “Working with North Hill residents and other local older adults gives them an understanding of the engineering problem-solving process, experience in participant-observer fieldwork and a feeling of satisfaction at having made a concrete difference in the lives of members of the community.”

Olin students and faculty collaborate regularly with North Hill residents and older adults and senior service organizations. Faculty members have been featured in North Hill’s True North Courses & Events and at community forums. Resident interest in Olin’s robotics programs is particularly intense and resulted in a $2,700 donation to the Olin Robotic Sailing program, known as “Sailbot,” in 2011. In another initiative involving North Hill, Olin students are creating a cell phone app that will improve communication between older adults and their care givers.

Providing Financial Support for Innovation that Benefits Seniors
Inspired by this generosity and engagement, North Hill approached Olin in late 2012 about the establishment of a fund that would broaden resident participation and provide funding for a variety of projects. Under the partnership, North Hill will match funds contributed by residents of the senior living community up to $5000 annually. In addition, a portion of the enrollment fees from North Hill’s True North Courses & Events will be contributed to the Fund. The initial target size for the fund is $10,000.

Qualifying projects should benefit older adults as well as provide a meaningful learning experience for Olin students. An advisory board comprised of representatives from North Hill, Olin and a third-party aging service or technology-related organization will determine which projects will be endorsed and at what level.

Projects may have an indirect impact on older adults (such as the ongoing marine robotics project) or may have a direct impact (such as the cell phone application). For some projects, Olin students and faculty may work with North Hill residents to develop projects and solicit input on design.

ABOUT OLIN COLLEGE: Located in Needham and enrolling 350 students, Olin College is an undergraduate engineering institution that has been exploring innovative approaches to engineering education since its founding in 1997. Olin is increasingly recognized as a leader in engineering education reform for its interdisciplinary, hands-on curriculum and distinctive learning culture. To learn more, visit http://www.olin.edu

ABOUT NORTH HILL: North Hill provides opportunities for vibrant living from its campus on the Needham/Wellesley line. Founded in 1984, a combination of location, the innovative Lifecare financial model and exceptional quality in healthcare and hospitality service have made North Hill one of the most sought-after retirement communities in Massachusetts. The North Hill vision is to be the leading provider of the most progressive, personalized healthcare and hospitality services to older adults in the Northeast. To learn more, visit http://www.northhill.org

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