Iona College Students Pioneered Virtual Home Safety Assessments to Support Effective Aging in Place During Pandemic

Students and professors in Iona’s graduate Occupational Therapy program. Left to right: Hailey Burke, Daniel O'Brien, Dr. Danielle Mahoney, Dr. Laurette Olson, Dean Kuldraree, and Gianna Vento.

Students and professors in Iona’s graduate Occupational Therapy program. Left to right: Hailey Burke, Daniel O'Brien, Dr. Danielle Mahoney, Dr. Laurette Olson, Dean Kuldraree, and Gianna Vento.

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — Students in Iona College’s graduate Occupational Therapy program were in the midst of learning how to properly conduct in-person home safety assessments when restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic prohibited them from pursing their trainings in a traditional way. But that didn’t stop them. Instead, they pioneered some of the country’s first virtual home safety assessments to keep community dwelling older adults safe while working within the limitations of the pandemic.

Home safety assessments offer a valuable alternative to expensive facility placements and are used to help students collaborate with older adults living in the community about safety recommendations while fostering conversations about environmental adaptations; they are a cost-saving, life-changing experience for aging populations across the country.

Dr. Danielle Mahoney, assistant professor in the graduate Occupational Therapy program, used the Home for Life Design® application tool to allow students to virtually engage with members in LIRIC (Learning in Retirement at Iona College) – an organization of older adults ranging in age from 65-105 who regularly support OT students in developing clinical skills and professional behaviors. From their homes, apartments, dorm rooms or classrooms, students launched the home assessment application from their laptop or tablet.  

“I really felt like an occupational therapist while completing a home assessment with a client.  It was a great experience that I learned so much from,” said Occupational Therapy graduate student, Hailey Burke ’23.  

With the LIRIC member using a video-sharing app such as FaceTime or Zoom, the student would observe the member in their home and proceed to walk through the Home for Life Design home assessment process as if they were there in person. 

“We designed the Occupational Therapy program with the goal of intentionally developing our students’ entrepreneurial mindset so they are ready to re-envision their OT services to meet the needs of their clients in spite of any environmental, task or personal challenge,” said Mahoney. “We, as a faculty, engaged students in the problem-solving of real-world restrictions on services taking place due to the pandemic, and as a result, the students were able to take part in an innovative shift from a traditional, in person, home assessment service model.” 

Read more about Iona’s OT students conducting virtual home safety assessments .

Founded in 1940, Iona University is a master's-granting private, Catholic, coeducational institution of learning in the tradition of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers. Iona's 45-acre New Rochelle campus and 28-acre Bronxville campus are just 20 miles north of Midtown Manhattan. With a total enrollment of nearly 4,000 students and an alumni base of over 50,000 around the world, Iona is a diverse community of learners and scholars dedicated to academic excellence and the values of justice, peace and service. Iona is highly accredited, offering undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, science, and business administration, as well as Master of Arts, Master of Science and Master of Business Administration degrees and numerous advanced certificate programs. Iona’s LaPenta School of Business is accredited by AACSB International, a prestigious recognition awarded to just five percent of business schools worldwide. The Princeton Review recognized Iona’s on-campus MBA program as a “Best Business School for 2023.” Iona University also recently launched a new, fully online MBA program for even greater flexibility. In July 2021, Iona University and NewYork-Presbyterian announced the establishment of the NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences, to be principally located on the University’s new campus in Bronxville, N.Y. Supported by a $20 million gift from NewYork-Presbyterian, the NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences offers a new vision for collaborative health care education, modern workforce development, and community care. On July 1, 2022, Iona officially changed its status from College to University, reflecting the growth of its academic programs and the prestige of an Iona education.