KINGSTON, R.I. — Learning to stay healthy is critical to being healthy, especially as the senior years creep up for the aging Baby Boomer generation, and the Kingston Free Library is offering some seminars to help seniors.
The six-part “Tools for Healthy Living” program helps them learn about managing their health and well-being. It is an example of the need-to-know information that can increase longevity, cut health-care costs and produce more satisfactory living as people age, said Britta Obertello, the library’s adult program coordinator.
“It also just makes you feel you have another outlet to learn about your health and better your health,” said Obertello about the program that includes much group discussion and sharing about each person’s approach as they discuss tips and suggestions.
In Rhode Island, according to the state Office of Healthy Aging, nearly 183,000 residents – about 17 percent of the state’s population - are 65 or older. That number will increase as more of the post-war Boomer population, born between 1946 and 1964, move into their senior years.
The library’s program is co-sponsored along with the University of Rhode Island’s Geriatric Education Center. It focuses on the study and training in geriatrics education as well as providing teams of faculty for educational programs, such as the library is offering.
Obertello said that the library program is divided into six weekly workshops and enters the third session this week.
The session topics are: Improving Sleep and Managing Symptoms, Problem Solving and Understanding Emotions, Managing Pain and Increasing Physical Activity, Improving Communication and Eating Healthier, Managing Medications and Making Informed Treatment Decisions, and Weight Management and Goal Setting.
Two instructors run the weekly two-and-a-half-hour workshop by using written materials, discussions and other question-and-answer techniques to engage the audience and help them learn about these issues.
This series of workshops has so far drawn about 15 people for the first two sessions and range between 55 to 75 years old.
Often people will think they know much of what is needed to manage changing health needs, but these kinds of sessions help them understand there’s more material and different information than was pertinent in their younger years, said experts in the geriatric field.
Various studies support this kind of approach to help seniors understand their changing bodies and resolve issues more effectively rather than ignore symptoms or allow a chronic condition to persist without treatment.
According to the national Centers for Disease Control, approximately 10,000 Americans every day reach age 65 years old.
By 2030, Rhode Island state officials expect one in four persons in the state will be over 65 years-old. By 2030, one in five Americans, 72.7 million, will be aged 65 years or older. The number is projected to reach 83.7 million by 2050.
The fastest-growing age cohort nationally will be persons 85 years or older and they are projected to increase by 2030 to 8.9 million. Rhode Island, by comparison, at present has the highest share nationally of residents 85 years or older, according to state officials.
Healthy aging is not merely the absence of disease or disability,” the CDC wrote in its 2018 report “Promoting Well-Being and Independence in Older Adults,” but requires physical and mental health and ongoing social engagement.
“As the average U.S. life expectancy increases, recognition that public health (programs) can play a vital role in promoting healthy, successful aging, even in the face of increased prevalence of chronic diseases, including types of dementia,” the report said.
The National Council on Aging reports that threats to health among seniors include 73 percent age 65-74 report no regular physical activity, 81 percent age 75 and over report no regular physical activity, 61 percent have unhealthy weight, 33 percent fall each year, 15 to 20 percent have clinically significant depression, 35 percent have had no flu shot in past 12 months, 45 percent no pneumococcal vaccine, and 20 percent have been prescribed “unsuitable” medications.
NCOA’s Center for Healthy Aging making a number of recommendations to increase the quality and accessibility of health programming for older adults. These include promoting community organizations as essential agents for improving the health of older adults, and advocating or greater support for strong and effective community programs.
Both Obertello and Alexandra Morelli, the URI center’s project manager said, this program at the library and other programs the center offers follow in that approach for community organizations becoming agents to help seniors become aware of ways to improve their health.
For instance, they said, these issues may be discussed in doctors’ offices, but this program provides more depth because of limited time doctors may have as well as information sharing among other seniors involved.
“It reinforces information they might already know, but offers a group setting where they have brainstorming and problem-solving and learn from others,” said Morelli, noting that especially being among peers can make them more comfortable about learning and following through on pro-active decisions about their health.
Obertello said, “I thought this would be…valuable for the population that comes to my programs and something that just would help with their everyday lives.”
To register or find out more information about a class, visit ripin.org/events (community education program are listed in dark blue) or call the Community Health Network at (401) 432-7217.
The next “Tools for Healthy Living” workshop is planned for the Langworthy Public Library- 24 Spring St, Hope Valley. It will run every Tuesday from March 24 – April 28, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.