Seniors Are Living Their Best Lives
When it comes to the world of wellness, everyone–regardless of age–can benefit in more ways than one. The focus on holistic health—the belief that true health comes from focusing on the whole person: providing for your physical, mental, spiritual and social needs—has been more prevalent as of late, and more notably talked about through the COVID pandemic in the last few years.
Specifically, we’re finding out more and more just how valuable social connection and keeping active both mentally and physically is to the older population.
And it’s a good thing.
According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), by 2034 the population of people 65 and older will be greater than those under 18. It means more of a need for programming surrounding mental and emotional health for that age range especially. In the Fox Cities, there are many resources in place to help, including the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC).
“We are an informational resource where you can obtain accurate, unbiased information related to aging or living with a disability,” Amie Bastian, Division Manager of the Aging and Long Term Support Division under Health and Human Services at Outagamie County, explains. “We work hard to provide all the options for individuals residing in Outagamie County depending on the customer’s needs.”
The Thompson Center in Appleton, and the YMCA of the Fox Cities are two additional support systems providing avenues of holistic health for seniors.
“(The Thompson Center) is a Senior Rec Center for those over 50 to participate in a variety of activities that improve wellness, increase socialization and thrive on collaborations with other community organizations,” Courtney Osenroth, Program and Marketing Manager of the Thompson Center, says. “It really drives our mission and the importance of being here and continuing to grow and develop programs and resources.”
“ForeverWell is an ever-changing set of programs designed specifically for adults age 55+,” Kate Yates, ForeverWell Program Director at the YMCA of the Fox Cities, adds. “We make partnerships within the community specifically to program for this population… we exist slightly outside of the realm of fitness… a lot of our offerings will be social or educational.”
Social Connection and Wellness
Social connection can influence our minds, bodies, and behaviors—all of which influence our health and life expectancy. Research shows that social connectedness can lead to longer life, better health, and improved wellness. It’s in our relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and community members that have a major impact on our health and well-being. Conversely, being isolated and not participating in interaction with others affects health seriously.
“They’re (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) considering the idea of social isolation having large negative impacts,” Yates explains. “It increases the risk of premature death because it’s now outweighing smoking, obesity and physical inactivity… it’s associated with a 50% increased risk of dementia, it’s associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and 32% increased risk of stroke. And of course, as we know, it’s associated with larger percentages of depression, even suicide.”
The Thompson Center and the ForeverWell program at the YMCA of the Fox Cities offer a number of workshops and both mind-enriching, physically active groups in a comfortable, safe setting. “We have over 100 collaborations (and) about 200 classes every month,” Osenroth says of the Thompson Center. “Some might be pickleball where they’re doing it every day. Others range from crochet and knitting to card games, choirs… or collaborations where volunteers are coming in and teaching chair yoga and cardio drumming.
“We want our participants to have the classes and a variety of classes that will tackle the wellness, the socialization and education portion. We have something for everyone… you will meet friends here.”
There’s no fee to become a member (all over 50 are welcome!) at the Thompson Center, and many classes and activities are included. For others, Osenroth says it’s important to keep costs down, with the majority of workshops being about $2.
“We want everybody to have access to our center,” she says. “To me, it’s about seeing our participants have a safe, comfortable spot to be themselves, to make friends. People will lose a spouse or move here to come back to their family, and they come in and they’re like, ‘We don’t know what to do, we’re looking for something to do.’ We get them connected. It makes it all worth it.”
There’s a similar collaborative spirit at the ForeverWell program through the YMCA of the Fox Cities.
“We see people in all different walks of life coming to us with all different types of means. And it’s just so important. Everyone belongs here.” Yates says. “We can show you what can be next. There’s all different kinds of opportunities out there. All you need to do is walk through the door and will help with the rest.
“We’ve done biking and cycling trips, so people will meet at a trail and go out together with a representative from the Y… we’ve had guided kayak excursions. I think oftentimes people hear programs for 55 plus and they think bridge and bingo and luncheon. Not to say that that’s not also what we’re doing, but we recognize that 55 plus is a very large spectrum.”
Group classes at both centers encompass:
- Arts classes. Music, choir, painting, drawing, sewing, knitting, ceramics, and floral design.
- Fitness classes. Fitness classes range from easy to intense and can include activities such as water aerobics, yoga, or Pilates.
- Film classes. There are many classes that revolve around studying films from different time periods.
- Personal safety. Collaborations with local police departments on topics like scams, elder law, etc.
- Technology. Seniors stay up to date on ever-changing technology.
- Day trips + Overnight stays. Trips outside of the area to museums, theaters, etc.
While the class content is no doubt imperative for enjoyment, both Osenroth and Yates continually go back to social connection being a key player in the overall well-being of those 50+.
“This community has done amazing things because of how it’s rooted and because of its purpose,” Yates says.
The Health and Human Services division of Outagamie County offers many programs that span the life cycle, many of which cater to the aging population:
Supportive Home Care Program—provides house cleaning, laundry, errands to individuals who are low income over the age of 65 that display a need.
Aging Programs—Outagamie County contracts with various agencies with Older American Act dollars to provide services to individuals over the age of 60 to support their independence.
Nutrition Programs—offers Congregate and Home Delivered Meals to individuals over the age of 60 at no cost to the participant.
Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC)—offers support and resources to those who need it, specializing in those over the age of 60 and the disabled.
“The ADRC offers the general public a single source for information and assistance on issues affecting older people and people with disabilities regardless of income,” Amie Bastian, Division Manager of the Aging and Long Term Support Division under Health and Human Services at Outagamie County, explains. “We provide knowledge about services, programs and solutions for disability and long-term care issues such as living arrangements, health, housing, health and wellness programs, nutrition, Social Security, publicly funded programs, employment and training for people with disabilities, respite care, support groups, and transportation (just to name a few!).”
Specialized Transportation—transportation services to our senior and disabled population at a reduced cost.