Health and Aging in Nicaragua

Instructor Name: 
Dr. Margaret B. Neal
Course Description: 

For more information, contact Iris Wernher (Assistant Program Coordinator):


The program connects classroom learning on the topics of gerontology, community development, cross-cultural communication, and public health with collaborative community service in Nicaragua. The spring-term course builds on student knowledge and skills in order to prepare teams of students to successfully complete projects in the field while traveling in Nicaragua. Students will work with each other, faculty members, and community partners in the U.S. and Nicaragua on challenges and opportunities identified by partners in Nicaragua. Upon completion of the program, students can expect to strengthen their understanding of how aging, public health, and community development projects in a developing country can prepare them for future careers and educational avenues.


The two weeks when students are in Nicaragua will have four components: (1) building group dynamics (within the PSU group and with community partners); (2) engaging in service-learning activities; (3) scheduled time off; and (4) community presentations. At the beginning of the trip students will have dedicated time to orient themselves to the country and to build bonds among themselves and with identified community partners. Students will then work on select service-learning projects for the remainder of the trip, although the final days will be dedicated to travel between cities, finalizing reports, and wrap-up activities. 


Applications for the program are due in the winter term (2015 deadline is February 13) and are coordinated through Education Abroad (click here for the Program page). Although Spanish-speaking students have an advantage in communicating with community partners, students speaking only English may participate, provided there is at least one Spanish-speaking student for each English-only speaking student (in-country translators will also be provided). Students from a variety of backgrounds are encouraged to apply to maximize the interdisciplinary nature of the course.

Project Description: 

The world is facing an unprecedented growth in the number and proportion of older adults. Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, lacks resources and expertise to prepare for the coming age wave.  This Capstone affords students the opportunity to work with communities in Nicaragua to improve the quality of life of older adults and has continued to grow community partnerships since 2004, the first year of the program. Using an interdisciplinary approach to community development, students work directly with community members in Nicaragua on issues such as active aging, intergenerational program development, and built environment projects. 

During the in-county experience, students and faculty will travel to several destinations in Nicaragua, including Managua (capital city), Masaya, and northern towns (e.g., Somoto, Jinotega). Specific projects and teams will be determined after acceptance in the program as PSU faculty work closely with the Jessie F. Richardson Foundation and Nicaragua partners such as the Nicaragua Advisory Council on Aging and staff at homes for older adults.