Changing Behaviors and Attitudes One Older Adult at a Time

By Matt Saviello, CPRP, CYSA | Posted on May 12, 2017

May Arthritis Blog

May is Arthritis Awareness and Older Americans Month. Parks and Recreation play a major role in helping to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis (and other chronic diseases) among older adults in their communities. Here is one example of how the City of Tualatin, Oregon is doing just that.

The City of Tualatin, Oregon was looking for the Holy Grail of older adult programming, specifically, a program that would engage a group of older adults, who up until recently, had been reluctant to participate in health and wellness programs. In fact, the only time most of them visited the center was for the occasional meal program or for a Bingo game night. The Active Living Every Day (ALED) program being promoted by NRPA as part of their national effort to expand the dissemination of evidence-based programs for older adults was just the program we were looking for! There was some speculation in the center that it might be easier to find Jimmy Hoffa’s location than to get our group of older adults more active, but with that in mind, we didn’t have much to lose.

The ALED program is a 12-week evidence-based behavior-change program, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that helps sedentary older adults become and stay physically active. Over the course of the 12 weeks, participants learn skills to BECOME and STAY physically active, overcome barriers, set goals, build confidence, and stay motivated. Evidence-based programs like ALED, offer proven ways to promote health and prevent diseases among our growing older adult population. We also believe that these types of programs offer opportunities to distinguish us from other recreation providers in our community.

After being awarded an instructor training grant from NRPA to offer the ALED program, the City of Tualatin partnered with our meal provider, Meals on Wheels People, and worked with them to market the program. Many older adults came to the center for the Meals on Wheels People food service, many of which we thought could benefit significantly from the ALED program. We advertised the program with table top fliers in our lunch room, posters throughout our center, newspaper articles, and eblasts. Our newly trained ALED instructor stopped in for lunch during the meal program service hours at least once a week and participated in our bingo program to help build relationships and market the program.

To our surprise, 15 older adults signed up for the program, which we launched on April 15. We started our first session in April with 15 sedentary participants, meeting once a week at the conclusion of the lunch time hour.

The feedback thus far has been extremely encouraging and positive from both participants and staff. I recently sat through a session and was amazed by the verbal interaction and enthusiasm. ALED participants were actively engaged, excited (even about their home assignments) and indicated their commitment to making healthier choices in their lives.

“This program’s social engagement has heightened the learning experience for me.” – Candice, ALED participant

“The thing that has surprised me the most is the numerous benefits and positive impact that walking on a regular schedule could have on my life.” – Connie, ALED participant

“I have always led a sedentary lifestyle and the Active Living Every Day program is providing me with the tools that I hope to use even after the 12 week program ends, which will help me to lead a healthier lifestyle.” – Linda, ALED participant

“One of the things I like most about the ALED program is that it breaks down core components of becoming more active into “bite size” pieces that allows participants to follow and track in a positive, encouraging and interactive atmosphere.” – Barb, ALED Instructor

The Juanita Pohl Center, “Tualatin’s Active Aging Center”, provides programs and services to older adults during the daytime hours and adults of all ages during evenings and weekends. The ALED program has not only changed the attitudes of the participants in the class, but staff as well. We are constantly looking for new and innovative programs that engage Boomers along with other groups that historically have not participated in the center’s programs or services. The future of evidence-based programs for Tualatin’s older adult population is now brighter than ever. We believe in the ALED program and encourage our park and recreation colleagues across the country to consider implementing evidence-based programs like ALED in your communities today!

Matt Saviello, CPRP, CYSA is the City of Tualatin, Oregon’s Center Supervisor for the Community Services Department.