OTD student's capstone research to be presented at national conference
Lauren Zack collaborated with Jim Siberski on the memory fitness center research.
A Misericordia University geriatric care management professor and graduate student recently completed their collaborative research project, “Occupational Therapy and Geriatric Care Management: Collaborating to Increase Expertise of Cognition and Memory in the Elderly Population through the Establishment of a Memory Fitness Center,’’ which showed that all participants’ cognitive abilities improved by participating in a “memory fitness center.’’

James Siberski, M.S., C.M.C., CRmT, is an assistant professor and coordinator of the Gerontology Education Center for Professional Development at Misericordia University. He collaborated with his student, Lauren Zack, M.S., O.T.R./L., a licensed occupational therapist who is seeking her certification in geriatric care management, as part of her capstone research project for her doctorate in occupational therapy at Misericordia University. The memory fitness center’s activities provided the residents an opportunity to engage in a non-pharmacological approach to a healthy mind.

The Misericordia University researchers established the memory fitness center at the Mercy Center Nursing Unit in Dallas, Pa., a skilled nursing and personal care home. The programming for the five volunteer subjects consisted of two weekly sessions over six weeks for 12 sessions overall. The memory fitness center utilized the computer program, Brainaversity, which incorporates training categories for language, memory, math and analysis, as well as paper and pencil activities, such as word scrambles, crossword puzzles, word searches and more. Finally, an educational component was provided to participants in order to explain to them the benefits of engaging in this type of program and the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle, a healthy diet and keeping the mind active.

“The memory fitness center provided residents of the facility with mind fitness activities to empower these aging adults with the skills they need to learn even as they get older,’’ said Zack, a Shavertown, Pa., resident who also graduated from Misericordia University’s 5-year Master of Science degree program in occupational therapy in 2011 and will earn her occupational therapy doctorate from MU in May 2013. “The programming keeps their brains active and helps them function at their highest level possible through prevention, maintenance, and restoration techniques of cognitive abilities.’’

Before the memory fitness center programming began, Siberski and Zack administered a cognitive assessment of each individual. At the conclusion of the program, all of the participants had higher cognitive assessment scores, according to the Misericordia University researchers.

Zack’s research also has been accepted for presentation at the American Occupational Therapy Association Conference in San Diego, Calif., in April. The daughter of Robert and Elizabeth Zack will offer her findings in a research poster presentation.

For more information about Misericordia University’s geriatric care manager certificate program or the occupational therapy program, please log in to or call (570) 674-6400. Founded and Sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy in 1924, Misericordia University is Luzerne County’s first four-year college and offers 37 degree programs in three colleges in full- and part-time formats.


Misericordia University researchers recently conducted a study at Mercy Center in Dallas Twp., by establishing a memory fitness center. Participants of the study, seated from left, included Sue Smaka of Shavertown, Pa., a Misericordia University occupational therapy student assistant; Jack Nugent, study participant; Sister Colman Krise, study participant; Lauren Zack, Misericordia University graduate student researcher; Sister Anne Francis Pulling, study participant; and Mark Williams of Mercy Center; second row, Nicole Schwartz, Toms River, N.J., and Rebecca Hanke, Cranford, N.J., Misericordia University occupational therapy student assistants; Sister Toni Manley, RSM, Mercy Center Personal Care Unit; Jim Siberski, assistant professor, Misericordia University, and Dana Kinter, Lehman, Pa., Misericordia University occupational therapy student assistant.