By Ginger Cruickshank, Evidence-Based Programs Coordinator

Stanley and Ginger during the A Matter of Balance session on Halloween.

I met Stanley when I was teaching WMEC’s A Matter of Balance course, one of our many Healthy Living Programs. Even at 99 years old, Stanley valued an active lifestyle. He would take his beloved 19-year-old dog for walks each day. Yet he wasn’t as stable on his feet as he used to be, and sometimes he was afraid of falling—a mishap that might end his dog walks forever.

In short, Stanley needed more confidence in his mobility, so he signed up for our falls prevention program called A Matter of Balance. When it comes to showing the power of our Healthy Living Programs, there’s no better story than Stanley’s. Despite signing up during a harsh New England winter, he came to every single session. He was an active and vocal participant in each class as he learned better ways to move and trust his body. And he found another surprising benefit: camaraderie. With his lively personality, he made friendships with instructors and fellow participants alike, all of whom became a new support network. These connections were precious, as he was a widower.

The last we talked to Stanley, he was still walking his dog every day—with newfound confidence. Whether you are an older adult or a caregiver, you too can benefit from our free programming. Learn more below.

 

About WMEC’s Healthy Living Programs

Simply put, our free Healthy Living Programs seek to improve quality of life. That might mean teaching mindful activity or health management skills to older adults. Or, alternatively, connecting caregivers with resources, tools, and peer support so they can more successfully help their loved ones – and help themselves. They are all based on published research from renowned institutions like Stanford University and Maine Health Hospital Center—so we know they work.

Each workshop is directed by two trained and certified teachers who collaborate to meet each attendee’s specific needs and create an individualized learning environment for all. Generally, the workshops instill valuable, immediately applicable skills and work with participants to implement them in their daily lives, leading to greater follow-through and success. By encouraging consumers and caregivers to take active roles in their health, our programs see great follow-through and results. It is incredibly inspiring to see people grow and overcome their challenges.

 

Offerings for Older Adults

Now held online via Zoom, our Healthy Living Programs are held once or twice per week for 4-8 weeks, usually for 1.5 hours per session. Workshops cover a variety of topics critical to overall health and wellness for older adults and people of all ages with disabilities, including:

  • Chronic Disease Self-Management: One of our newest programs is a fantastic primer for people looking to support their well-being. From communication and advocacy tips to dietary planning advice and ways to stay positive, these classes are tailored to fit each attendee’s needs. We help each individual design their best avenue for progress.
  • A Matter of Balance: As we saw from Stanley’s story, this workshop supports older adults at risk of falling whose fear has limited their activities. It starts by addressing the mental hurdles related to falling, like controlling fears, setting realistic goals, and recognizing environmental hazards. After creating a healthy mindset toward maintaining physical activity, participants learn strength and balance exercises they can easily incorporate into their daily lives. Participants even receive a helpful home assessment to ensure their living space is safe and comfortable.
  • Nutrition Workshops: Our nutrition programs do more than remind people to eat well. These workshops offer meal planning advice, food safety tips, and active cooking skills. Participants also learn how to shop safely, avoid contracting illnesses, and meet dietary needs while using Meals on Wheels.
  • Enhanced Wellness: The belief in self-efficacy is the core philosophy of Enhance Wellness. This individualized coaching program is participant-driven with a focus on increased physical and social activity and independence. The Enhance Wellness coach offers participants ongoing encouragement, feedback, and monitoring, as well as help with problem solving, and if indicated, referral to support groups and additional services.

 

Support for Caregivers

Caregivers deserve to be supported in all of their efforts – that’s why we have three programs designed specifically for issues they face on a daily basis:

  • The Savvy Caregiver: This six-week series addresses the unique challenges presented when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Caregivers learn how to better care for their loved ones, find time for themselves, manage daily stress, communicate effectively with family members and physicians, and set reasonable goals.
  • Cuidando con Respeto: This program covers the same lessons from The Savvy Caregiver but for a Spanish-speaking audience. WMEC is the only agency in Massachusetts currently hosting Cuidando. It has already been a great success, with a previous class having created their own member-run support group.
  • Powerful Tools for Caregivers: This program is designed to connect caregivers to more generalized support. In past events, we’ve had participants who were helping their parents, grandchildren, aging partners, or even a neighbor with cancer. Whatever your specific case may be, we can support you. This program bridges the gap between participants and their specific needs—everything from community resources and counseling to skills-building and action planning tips. We start by helping people meet small goals with specific criteria, timelines, and methods, and slowly ramp up from there until the caregivers are confident in their skills to meet their loved ones’ needs.

 

Taking Healthy Living Programs Online

Formerly held in person, we have adapted each program to a virtual environment due to COVID-19. Not only does this approach keep participants safe, but webinars also expand our ability to support people in need who are unable to attend in-person meetings.

When switching to online learning, we wanted to ensure that every attendee, regardless of age, skill, or technical knowledge, could attend our lessons confidently. Before the beginning of any Healthy Living Program, we offer a Zero Session to teach people to use their computer and Zoom. We also connect them with our IT professionals who can assist even further. If troubles arise during an event, our teachers can provide one-on-one support, and an IT staff member is available, as well.

 

Get Involved!

Looking to get involved with a ­WMEC-sponsored healthy living event? The easiest way is to visit our events page and sign up for a program that benefits you or your loved one.

 

Workshop Leaders Wanted

If you’d like to donate time to a good cause, we’re always looking for more leaders to teach our programs. We provide all of the resources and training needed to get properly certified. New volunteers must teach two classes in their first year, and subsequent years require only one class. Classes are taught with a partner and volunteers have the support of WMEC’s staff and entire community behind them. If you think you’d be a great fit for this or another position, you can email me at gcruickshank@wmeldercare.org or reach out to us through our Contact Page.

 

 

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