More than 27% (31 million) of older adults 50 years and older are physically inactive and this number further increases among older adults with multiple chronic diseases. Here in the state of California, between 20-25% of our older adults are inactive. At the Senior Center in Santa Clara, CA, we offer a wide range of health and wellness programs for older adults to stay active but recognized that we needed to fill a gap in our programming for sedentary older adults with a motivational and engaging program that addresses specific barriers to physical activity.
The first class of the Active Living Every Day program was a big hit with our older adult participants! Led by two certified instructors, the Active Living Every Day participants met for one hour, once a week for twelve weeks, and learned how to overcome challenges to being physically active, gain confidence, and fit in physical activity throughout their day routines. Demonstrations of stretches and exercises shown in the Active Living Every Day workbook were incorporated into the class, and outcomes of weekly life assignments (aka “physical activity homework") were discussed by the group in the class. All of the program participants were able to meet at least one goal they set for themselves, and some folks found new motivation to return to activities they had previously enjoyed. Participants also reported improvement in their health conditions, as well as mood and physical stamina.
While one of the main goals of the program was to help people increase their overall activity, the course also served to reduce feelings of social isolation among our class participants. Several participants had experienced major losses in their lives, and found the course not only helped them improve their physical fitness and motivation, but also their emotional health. The supportive and positive atmosphere created through this course helped participants socialize and set new activity goals. One participant, Myrna, reported significant improvements in her high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression. At the final class, Myrna said, "I used to be so unhealthy, and I had no idea how to get better. This class has made such a big difference in knowing how to take care of myself, and I feel a lot better about my life."
We have been fortunate to offer this course free of charge due to the training grant received from the National Recreation and Park Association’s Health Aging in Parks Initiative, a very generous donation through the Santa Clara Women's League, a non-profit group, and overall support of our program by the City of Santa Clara. With this new-found motivation to be active, our participants go on to utilize the Santa Clara Senior Center fitness center and swimming pools, as well as utilize other Health & Wellness Program services following the course to help them maintain their active and healthy lifestyles.
The Active Living Every Day course has been a welcome addition to our program offerings and we look forward to our future sessions.
Wendy Talbert is a RN Care Manager with the Health and Wellness Program at the City of Santa Clara Senior Center.