By offering the Aging Mastery Program, Manatee and Sarasota soon will help individuals over 50 embrace growing older.
As she watches men and women kick up their boots during a line dance routine at the Senior Enrichment Center of Meals on Wheels PLUS, Jackie Godlewski believes she’s helping make a difference.
The enrichment center offers a spectrum of classes, such as lunch club and game time, for individuals ages 50 and older.
“It’s so important to keep adults engaged socially and to embrace a positive attitude, even as they grow older,” said Godlewski, the center’s activity director. “We’re all about creating healthy and lasting relationships.”
In October, the facility will add another resource to its lineup of services when it introduces the Aging Mastery Program, the brainchild of National Council on Aging. Meals on Wheels PLUS’ launch is invite-only and will serve as a precursor to its formal January launch of the program.
Friendship Centers, in Sarasota, and Aging in Paradise Resource Center, on Longboat Key, also will implement the program around the same time.
The goal of the nationwide Aging Mastery is to provide tools to help participants embrace getting older. The 10-week sessions introduce participants to topics aligned with aging, such as fall prevention, medication management, community engagement, age-appropriate exercises, healthier eating habits and planning for end-of-life decisions. The cost is $100.
“As kids, someone is always telling us what to do,” said Debra Jacobs, president and CEO of the Patterson Foundation, a partner on the project. “They say, ‘Go to school,’ ‘Do your homework,’ or, ‘Learn to drive.’ But as adults, no one tells you what to do. Sometimes we need that help, though, on the next chapter of our lives as we age.”
Judi Bjork, general manager of Renaissance on 9th, which houses the Enrichment Center, said the class will teach individuals how to master good habits. Employees and volunteers are utilizing a point system with prizes for participants who excel in class.
“This will be more than just a ‘sit down and listen’ kind of class,” she said. “Every topic involves an exercise or activity that the participant can go home and immediately put into practice the same day.”
This is the first time the program will be rolled out in Florida. South Carolina, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and other states already offer it. The National Council on Aging hopes to reach more than 5 million individuals by 2020, its website states.
“Part of the reason this course is so interesting is because life expectancy has increased over the last 50 years,” said Peg Palmer, spokeswoman for Friendship Centers. “People are living longer.”
Jacobs also hopes the course will show participants that their lives still have meaning, even after retirement, she said.
“If you’ve got a pulse, you have a purpose,” Jacobs said.