SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Aging Mastery returning to The Dale

Maureen Wendt

Interested in feeling better today and staying healthy for the future? Today, we are living longer, so it is good to be thinking about ways to engage in ongoing and positive ways to make the most of longevity. Quality of life is now an increasing consideration for adults.

In 1950, the average American who was 65 could expect to live another 14 years in retirement, with roughly half of that time in good health. Today, once people reach age 65, they can expect to live another 19 years with roughly 66% of that time in good health. And, a majority of older adults wish to remain in their own homes and communities throughout their aging years.

The Dale Association, in partnership with National Council on Aging, New York State Office for Aging, and Niagara County Office for Aging, offers the Aging Mastery program, which provides new pathways that encourage ongoing and positive engagement in life. It is an incentive-based program designed to inform, encourage and support aging adults as they take steps to improve their lives and stay engaged in their communities. Aging Mastery is about feeling better today and staying healthy for the future.

National Council on Aging is the nation's leading non-profit service and advocacy organization representing older adults and the community organizations that serve them. It works with national and local partners to give older adults tools and information to stay healthy and secure, and advocates for programs and policies to improve the lives of older adults.

First piloted nationally, the Aging Mastery program aims to empower adults to make and maintain small, effective changes to their behaviors to live a healthier, happier, and more secure life. Small steps can make a big difference in your health and well-being, and even modest improvements can make life fun and meaningful.

Program topics address the areas that are of an increased consideration for older adults and their quality of life, such as: material well-being, the ability (often financial) to meet needs for basics such as food and shelter; physical well-being, the ability to perform basic activities and to live independently; social engagement, i.e., involvement with and support received from family, peers, community members and community organizations; and emotional well-being, mental and psychological wellness often tied to physical health and social support. Each of these areas are critical to quality of life.

The topics include:

• Navigating longer life, with an emphasis on the new realities of aging and making the most of the gift of longevity.

• Overview of how sleep patterns change as we age and simple strategies to improve sleep.

• Review of nutrition as it relates to aging with a focus on strategies to incorporating healthy eating and hydration into daily routines.

• How to take medications as directed, how to store medications safely, and how to keep track of multiple medications.

• Overview of the importance of falls prevention among older adults and strategies to prevent falling.

• The benefits of being socially active, as well as exploring the risks of isolation. Focuses on continuing to build and strengthen healthy relationships and family connections as we age.

• Introduction to the value of identifying meaningful volunteer and community engagement opportunities.

• Discussion of the importance of aerobics, strengthening, flexibility and balance as they relate to aging, with a focus on strategies for incorporating physical activity into daily routines.

• Strategies for remaining economically secure in an era of longevity.

• Guidance around key steps needed to manage health care, financial, and housing/care decisions.

Aging Mastery is a free series of classes that will be offered over 10 Wednesdays, from 10 to 11:30 a.m., beginning Sept. 18, at the Dale Association, 33 Ontario St., Lockport. A graduation ceremony takes place at the end of the program.

Advance reservations are needed; to reserve your seat, please call 433-1886, or email sherry.livergood@daleassociation.com or stop in at the Dale by Sept 11. We hope to recruit a wide range of participants and the class is appropriate for adults of all ages from 50 to 100.

Participants set individual goals and a key element of the program is the reward system, designed to both motivate and encourage ongoing participation. The incentives are tied directly to the action steps in each class. Participants earn points for each action step they accomplish. At the end of the 10-week session, participants receive rewards based on the number of total points they achieved.

These testimonials highlight the impact of the program on past participants:

"I was reminded that it was important to feel and express gratitude each day, and I have tried to make this part of my morning routine."

"I developed a more positive acceptance of both my past and future."

"This program was very uplifting. I learned that the aging process can be done gracefully. I am working on a plan for the future to share with my family."

Maureen A. Wendt is president and CEO of The Dale Association, a non-profit organization that provides senior, mental health, in-home care, caregiver support services and enrichment activities for adults. For more information, call 433-1937 or visit www.daleassociation.com .

Recommended for you