Aging Gracefully

Engaging seniors in building a health-and-wellness plan

By Laci McKinney

Many senior citizens set resolutions regarding health and wellness, only to revert to their previous routines midway through the year. A sedentary lifestyle is harmful to all ages, especially older adults. Just becoming socially active adds to the quality of life, and allows older individuals to remain independent longer. Not only is the physical aspect important, but other components should be incorporated as well, such as social, environmental, and educational, In order to meet patrons’ needs, senior centers must be more than a place to sip coffee, read the paper, or have a friendly game of cards. Centers need to create a healthy environment that supports aging gracefully. 

Find A Purpose

To give a program substance and credibility, begin with a purpose. Decide what you are trying to accomplish. Form an advisory committee, or use members from a previous committee. Brainstorming ideas will help benchmark a program as it grows. If a staff or advisory committee isn’t equipped with a health-and-wellness professional, consult an expert before implementing a program.

Dream Up A Theme

Next, develop a theme. Although a theme helps maintain commonality throughout a program’s life, it should be modified each year to keep the program fresh. Get creative during the planning process and engage members. Allow members to present different theme ideas, and then let them select their favorite.

Photos Courtesy Laci McKinney

Include social, environmental, and spiritual components: 

  • The social component is very important to older adults, for some have lost spouses and find this time quite valuable to engage with others. Use holidays or seasons to create social events, such as a luau or a Fourth of July barbeque. 
  • To incorporate an environmental component, start a recycling program. 
  • Create a team of volunteer Wellness Ambassadors as a spiritual component.

While one senior may gravitate toward the physical aspects of a program, such as exercising, others may find interest in an educational component. Many organizations–such as local hospitals–offer educational presentations free of charge. Topics such as nutrition, the importance of physical activity, and disease management can be presented by a community-outreach department.

Offer Incentives

Adding simple and non-monetary incentives to a program can energize participants Partnering with other organizations can have a two-fold purpose: providing a center with a sponsor and the organization with potential clients. Have participation drawings, give certificates for a top performance, and reach out to sponsors to host challenge dinners. Staff members can be engaged in the planning process to give insight on what will work, or to offer suggestions to boost the popularity of the program.

Photo Courtesy Sue Garding

Create A Buzz

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