Oregon's THINK FIRST Chapter at OHSU Connects Teens and Seniors

08/03/00    Portland, Ore.

They're two groups at high risk for head and spinal cord injuries -- teenagers and senior citizens. This summer for the fourth year in a row, the THINK FIRST program at OHSU is uniting both groups for a learning experience that transcends decades. The six-week THINK FIRST CONNECTIONS program offers activities for a combined group of teenagers and senior citizens in an attempt to prevent injuries to both of these at-risk populations.

The THINK FIRST CONNECTIONS summer program features four major components:

  • Computerized driver's education courses -- featuring a CD-ROM-guided program specially designed by the Automotive Association of America Foundation for Traffic Safety to improve driving skills. Statistically, teenagers and senior citizens are at a greater risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident than the general population.

  • Teen-taught computer training -- where teenagers teach seniors how to use e-mail and the Internet.

  • Fitness training by a certified fitness instructor -- teenagers spot their senior partners and provide encouragement. In past years seniors involved in the program have made significant strength gains and improved their overall fitness. These benefits are beneficial to maintaining independence in older age, and decreasing the impact and likelihood of injury.

  • Group-building activities -- teens and seniors often feel isolated and disconnected. Team-building behavior between these two groups has been shown to fulfill individual needs, and decrease isolation and depression. In addition, group-building exercises tend to keep teenagers from participating in risk-taking behaviors.

This year's program involves teenagers and seniors from the Mittleman Jewish Community Center. Teenagers from the Mount Olivet Baptist Church also are taking part. The group meets at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center, 6651 S.W. Capitol Highway, on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to noon through Aug.16.

THINK FIRST is a national, nonprofit organization founded by neurosurgeons across the country. The mission of THINK FIRST is to educate young people about the prevention of brain and spinal cord injuries. Oregon's chapter is under the supervision of neurosurgeon Edward Neuwelt, M.D., a professor of neurology and neurosurgery in OHSU's School of Medicine. Additional funding for THINK FIRST Oregon comes from the Oregon Department of Transportation and Regence BlueCross/BlueShield of Oregon.

Editors: If you would like to attend one of the THINK FIRST CONNECTIONS meetings, please contact Jim Newman in University News and Publications at 503 494-8231.