Helping Seniors With Healthy Aging

HAP Partners (from left) Kealaoha Takahashi, Naomi Sugihara, Jan Pascua, Terri Halliday, Celia Melchor-Questin, Charlyn Nakamine and Johnny Yago

A program that began in Waimea and Koloa to aid seniors in dealing with health issues is going islandwide

Kaua’i County’s Agency on Elderly Affairs, the state’s Healthy Aging Partnership and community partners are working together to ensure the island’s aging population learns to live well by making healthy choices.

With a goal to improve the health status of older adults through improved nutrition and increased physical activity, several programs are looking to celebrate healthy aging, says Jan Pascua, coordinator for Better Choices, Better Health, a chronic disease self-management program.

Better Choices, Better Health offers weekly workshops led by trained facilitators for seniors with chronic illnesses or conditions. The next series of workshops will be offered Mondays beginning Aug. 8 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Kekaha Neighborhood Center. Preregistration is required and accepted through July 28.

Developed to improve the quality of life for those with long-term health conditions (ranging in everything from diabetes and arthritis to high-blood pressure, emphysema, fibromyalgia, neurological disease and cancer), the clinics are designed to teach seniors how to live healthily while managing their conditions, with an evidence-based approach based on Stanford University research.

“Research has shown that participants are able to manage their symptoms better and communicate more easily with their doctors and loved ones,” Pascua says. “People who take the program feel better, are less limited by their illness and spend less time at the doctor or in the hospital.”

Workshop participants are introduced to practical skills for healthy living while managing their ongoing health condition, including handling frustration, fatigue, pain and isolation.

Seniors at Koloa Neighborhood Center participate in EnhanceFitness

In addition to the Better Choices, Better Health program, seniors have the opportunity to augment their fitness levels and have some fun at the same time with EnhanceFitness, which, according to Pascua, also is a great way to make new friendships.

Originally launched in July 2007 at the Waimea and Koloa Neighborhood Centers, the EnhanceFitness program has expanded to seven sites and eight classes. During Older Americans Month in May 2008, it was nationally recognized as an Administration on Aging Program Champion.

The program focuses on balance, strength, endurance and flexibility.

“(EnhanceFitness) helps older people enjoy life by being physically active, and provides an opportunity to be with friends and meet new people,” Pascua says.

Formerly a public health educator in the area of chronic disease management in the Kaua’i District Health office for the state, Pascua says it is commonly recognized that regular physical activity in the older adult population can decrease the risk of developing high blood pressure, osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes and depression, or help to manage chronic diseases. Something as simple and fun as fitness classes have shown improvements in upper and lower body strength, along with agility and balance.

EnhanceFitness classes are held three times each week and taught by certified fitness instructors with the support of a master trainer. To learn more, go to kauaiadrc.org.

Better Health, Better Choices workshops cost $12 for seniors and their caregivers and $40 for those under 60. Scholarships for seniors available upon request.

To register, call Charlyn Nakamine at Kaua’i County Agency on Elderly Affairs: 241-4470.

Requests for auxiliary aid, special accommodations or materials in an alternate format can be made to the Agency on Elderly Affairs at least five working days prior to any workshops.

Want to learn more? Details about the BCBH program can be found on the Stanford University website: http://patienteducation.stanford.edu/programs/cdsmp.html.

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