Diabetes. Healthy eating. Stress reduction. Fall prevention. These issues all effect older adults yet many do not know where to turn for resources to help them address these challenges effectively. Enter the Healthy Aging Program at Mystic Valley Elder Services (MVES), a comprehensive program of classes designed specifically for seniors wanting to remain healthy and independent in their own homes.
“Open to any older adult from the 11 communities served by MVES, our classes provide the perfect platform for learning and sharing,” says Donna Covelle, Healthy Aging Program coordinator for MVES. “In addition, our classes are made available at no cost, making them accessible to any older adult wanting to participate.”
MVES Healthy Aging Program offerings include a chronic disease self-management class, diabetes self-management class, healthy eating for successful living class, fall prevention class, and tai chi classes. Classes are held in series ranging from 6-8 weeks. Each class typically has between eight and 12 participants.
Prior to the onset of the pandemic last March, classes were made available in person at a number of area venues. Covelle points out that MVES was able to quickly pivot and shift some of the classes to Zoom starting last spring. More virtual classes will be unrolled this spring, all offering technical support for operating Zoom.
“Apart from providing a wealth of helpful information for local seniors, our Healthy Aging Program classes offer a way for seniors to socialize with others facing similar challenges,” says Covelle. “We have seen many friendships blossom from our programs.”
To make the Healthy Aging Program classes come to fruition in the past, Covelle partnered with local senior centers, housing authorities and libraries. Susan Tilton, outreach coordinator for the Edith O’Leary Senior Center in North Reading, says, “It’s been great that MVES has been offering the Healthy Aging Program for North Reading seniors. They have learned to take more control of their health, live safely and more independently. Because of the programs you have offered over Zoom, you have reached more homebound seniors and opened them up socially.”
“I enjoyed every minute,” says Marie Cantone of Malden, who recently took the Healthy Eating series over Zoom. “The instructors did a great job introducing all of us to healthy options and helped us to set and reach goals. If I were to sum up what I am leaving these classes with, it would be the confidence to say ‘I can do it!’ – an amazing result that I am sure is shared by all participants.”
Medford resident Anna Jones explains, “My mother and grandmother passed away at early ages, so I did not have elderly role models to know what to expect now that I am 70 years old. The virtual Healthy Aging Program classes were a huge help to me because they taught me about aging, illness and prevention and how to care for myself.”
Jones continues, “The instructors who taught the classes were compassionate, understanding and knowledgeable. The virtual option was great because I didn’t have to worry about traveling. Please keep them coming!”
Covelle concludes that while MVES looks forward to reintroducing in-person classes in the future when it is safe to do so, the virtual offerings have proven to be a tremendous success. “Participant feedback is so important to us and we are delighted to hear from so many elders that these classes have served them well,” she says.