UW–Madison students invited to make New Friends

The Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute invites UW–Madison undergraduate or graduate students to apply to participate in New Friends, a unique campus program. The volunteer program meets monthly and gives students an opportunity to learn from people living with dementia and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and gain an in-depth look at related healthcare careers. The average time commitment is four hours a month between October 2022 and April 2023.

Students who have participated in the program said it was a good opportunity to gain insight into careers in healthcare and a chance to meet students with similar interests. Here’s two examples of testimonials from students who participated in the 2021-2022 program:

“This program challenged the preconceived notions I had about dementia and the experiences of someone with dementia. It also allowed me to meet amazing people, and I will always cherish the time we spent together.​​”

“New Friends changed the way I understand people living with MCI. I now interact with a sense of grace, empathy and respect that I didn’t bestow before. Understanding their struggles will allow me to better accommodate and care for people with MCI as a future nurse.”​

Got a few minutes? Watch a 12-minute video to learn more about the program. Find details and apply on the New Friends webpage.

About New Friends
This year, the hybrid program will be held once a month on Zoom or in person. Program leaders pair a community member, a person who is living a mild memory impairment (MCI), with a student, and the group works on projects together and participates in shared activities. Recent program activities included things like visiting a museum, taking a walk together, playing a trivia game on Zoom, or meeting for coffee.

New Friends students and mentors can connect on an informal basis outside of the clinical setting. Through shared activities and conversations, New Friends provides an opportunity for students to learn from the mentor as they share their experiences with dementia. It also provides an opportunity for the mentor and their family to voice concerns regarding their care and contribute to the training of future health professionals.

Who should apply?
You must be a UW–Madison student. Typically, participants are undergraduate or graduate students who are interested in the healthcare fields like medicine, nursing, social work, occupational, physical and speech therapies, pharmacy and public health.  In addition, any student that is interested in learning more about Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and MCI is invited to register to participate.

 Four hours a month
The time commitment is approximately 4 hours each month. Some of that time is meeting with your mentor, the other part is a monthly educational meeting with fellow students and program staff. The program runs from late September 2022 through April 2023. Some student/mentor meetings will be in person, while others will be online or virtual. Meetings will typically be during the week, with the exception of Match Day, a luncheon held on Saturday, October 15, 11:30-1 p.m. at the WARF building on campus. Applications will be accepted now until Friday, Sept. 23, 2022. Apply here

Unique, real-world experience
Mentors are people living with mild cognitive impairment or early-stage Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Did you know? Alzheimer’s disease is the number one cause of dementia and the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. In Wisconsin, there are more than 120,000 people living with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and 198,000 family caregivers helping provide unpaid care for a loved one with memory loss. New Friends bring future health care professionals together with community members who have a unique, valuable perspective that can shape future health care policy, medical care and help create a society that is dementia friendly.