Living Well Workshops help seniors take control of their health

Facilitator Dave Hughes leads the Living Well Workshop.Lynda McDaniel and other residents at The Pearl on Oyster Bay, located in Bremerton, Washington, have taken advantage of a free six-week workshop series called Living Well, which helps seniors learn how to better manage their own health.

McDaniel, who took the workshop in July of 2015 titled, “Living Well with Chronic Disease,” says the classes helped her and other participants to review and recall the basics—the things that we supposedly already knew, but forgot to put into practice.  

"We covered things such as what is good nutrition and how can I effectively and comfortably do exercises, while still moving slowly,” McDaniel says. 

A key takeaway for McDaniel was learning how to manage and take control of stress.

During her younger career years, McDaniel worked as a registered nurse, always running from one thing to another, putting the needs of others first. As she got older, this hadn’t changed much. In fact, McDaniel signed up for the six-week workshop after waking up on her bathroom floor and discovering that her heart rate had plummeted due to an arrhythmia.

“After taking the Living Well workshop, I changed my schedule and learned to say no to things,” says McDaniel. She now also has a framed reminder on the wall of her apartment that reads: Pace Yourself.

“Whether it’s learning to cope better with stress or managing chronic conditions, such as pain or diabetes, the Living Well workshops help empower seniors and provide them with the tools to take better care of themselves,” says Wendy Falivena, service coordinator at The Pearl.

Falivena learned about the Living Well workshops and its organizer, Dave Hughes, who holds a doctorate in health behavior and a degree in gerontology, through a contact at a nearby rehabilitation center. Beyond Hughes’ background and the fact the workshops were developed and grounded in research by Stanford University, Falivena also was drawn to how the workshops emphasize taking initiative to manage one’s own health, which can maintain a resident’s independence.

Hughes also informed her that he arranges for his own funding, which means there is no cost to participants and no one is turned away. Falivena adds, “The interesting topics plus the no-charge aspect made us realize that we wanted to offer Living Well workshops at The Pearl not only to our residents, but also to other senior communities within the area.”

Last year, two other Living Well workshops focused on “Managing Chronic Disease” and “Chronic Pain Self-Management,” attracting about a dozen participants each. This fall, Living Well at The Pearl on Oyster Bay is focusing on how to manage and prevent diabetes. The fall series covers a broad range of topics, including creating healthy food plans; monitoring blood sugar and preventing low blood sugar; preventing complications of diabetes; and practicing safe physical activity, stress management and relaxation techniques.

Falivena says that Hughes’ Living Well workshops are a perfect fit for The Pearl, a community that provides seniors with independence as well as support, including transportation options; mobility devices; educational programs, such as art classes and music outreach; and social activities. The community also stresses the concept of “aging in place” to help residents maintain a high degree of independence and self-sufficiency.

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