By Karen Guin
When Su-I Hou joined the UCF faculty in August 2015 she quickly sought local partners to collaborate with on studies of healthy aging and aging-in-place programs for older adults.
The public affairs’ professor found a partner in Thriving-in-Place, a Celebration-based program that enables residents to lead healthy, safe, independent and productive lives in their own homes.
It’s proved to be a winning match.
“I’m thrilled,” Hou said recently. “Our partnership just earned a LIFE @ UCF Women Faculty Excellence in Community Partnership Award.”
Hou’s partnership with Thriving-in-Place is one of four to receive the award out of 21 faculty-led partnerships honored March 31 at a celebration sponsored by the UCF Center for Success of Women Faculty. The award comes with a $150 prize from the Learning Institute for Elders, or LIFE, at UCF.
Hou said she knew Thriving-in-Place did “amazing work” with “incredible outcomes.” But she didn’t expect their partnership to win a competitive award in such a short time.
“How exciting that a program recognizing our aging population was given such recognition … [by] the UCF community,” wrote Gloria Niec, executive director of the Celebration Foundation, which helps support Thriving-in-Place. “Well done Dr. Su-I, well done!”
Thriving-in-Place Manager Mary Pat Rosenthal also wrote to Hou, thanking her for her hard work on the partnership and for “seeing the possibilities.”
Thriving-in-Place is part of a national Village to Village Network of individual “villages” that promote aging in place, according to Hou. The Orlando-based nonprofit Neighbors Network, also a member of the network, joined Hou’s partnership in 2016. Thriving-in-Place and Neighbors Network are the only two “villages” in Central Florida open to residents in their community.
Hou said the two villages consist of different characteristics and offer an opportunity to analyze the impact of different village models. She and her partners have been gathering baseline data and plan to gather follow-up data in the future.
“The partnership is critical in helping these village communities establish member and volunteer profiles,” she said. “It is also providing opportunities to develop and implement interventions that promote health.”
Hou is already making presentations about their study. Last year she presented results as a selected Gerontological-Society-of-America delegate at the 7th Urban Space and Social Life Conference in Hainan, China. And in March she presented early results on the two village models at the Second Mixed Methods International Research Association Conference in Jamaica. This summer Hou and two public affairs’ doctoral students will present two papers during an “Aging in Place” symposium Hou initiated and is coordinating for the 21st IAGG World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics in San Francisco.
Hou has extensive experience integrating service-learning opportunities into her work and has involved an undergraduate student in the study as well. She also see opportunities ahead as two new villages, in the Clearwater and Sarasota areas, join the Village to Village Network.
“With our rapidly aging society, both domestically and globally, I anticipate more villages to form and the partnership to expand,” she said.
Su-I Hou is a professor in the Doctoral Program in Public Affairs and the Department of Health Management and Informatics in the College of Health and Public Affairs at UCF. She serves as coordinator of the doctoral program’s Health Services Management and Research Track.