Neighbors Helping Neighbors (NHN), a well-established program of the University of Utah College of Social Work’s W.D. Goodwill Initiatives on Aging, is committed to helping older adults remain in their own homes. Utilizing applied social work education, NHN improves the health, safety, and quality of life of community-dwelling older adults through the promotion and maintenance of independent living.
NHN launched in 1997 in response to what Wilford Goodwill, a Salt Lake area businessman, had experienced – a hole in the availability of services to Utah’s older adults. Mr. Goodwill noticed that as his mother aged, her physical and mental health needs changed and her ability to maintain her home deteriorated. Mr. Goodwill realized that without her family, his mother’s needs would likely have gone unmet. Mr. Goodwill’s enthusiasm and generous financial support enabled the College of Social Work to develop an innovative model for hands-on training, education, research, and service.
By linking academic theory with applied social work practice, NHN provides a valuable training venue for undergraduate and graduate social work, nursing, and gerontology students. In addition to developing population-specific clinical skills and learning to effectively advocate for older clients, student interns help fill the gap between public and private services by providing assistance to older adults who do not qualify for public services, yet cannot afford to pay for private services.
NHN has the flexibility necessary to personalize individual plans that improve quality of life in a multitude of ways. Under the supervision of knowledgeable NHN staff, social work student interns learn to address underlying mental health issues and mobilize existing community supports, enabling older adults to remain independent in the community.
Student interns may assist older program participants by:
- assessing their social, psychological, environmental, and economic situation
- guiding them through the Medicare, Medicaid, and/or managed care systems
- assisting with transitions between living situations
- monitoring and improving service delivery and treatment
- engaging family and other support networks
- providing education about disease prevention
- connecting them to available social and health care resources
- coordinating with NHN community partners to meet home maintenance or improvement needs
NHN strives to enable older adults to reside in the community for as long as possible by:
- effectively educating future gerontological social workers
- linking older adults with community resources to address unmet needs
- developing opportunities for socialization in an effort to minimize isolation and depression
- providing continuous assessment, as well as ongoing support, follow-through, and monitoring to ensure that identified needs are met
- bridging the gap between formal aging services and informal community resources by building community through partnerships with diverse local entities
Neighbors Helping Neighbors services are provided to older adults in need, free of charge, regardless of their income.