In an effort to improve the lifestyle of seniors living with chronic health conditions, the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) is pushing its “Help Yourself to Health” initiative.
The Reed Street Presbyterian Apartments located on 1401 South 16th St. in South Philadelphia, is currently hosting the six-week workshop provided by PCA.
The residents and surrounding community members have filled the building each week to gain information on a healthier lifestyle.
PCA is a non-profit organization that aims to improve the quality of life for older Philadelphians and people with disabilities.
PCA program coordinator Marie Ethridge, connected with Paul Malfara, a service coordinator, to host the workshop at the Reed complex, an affordable residential building for seniors.
Ethridge was enthused by the support from the building and feels the residents and community are receptive and appreciative of the workshop.
“Philadelphia is a senior-friendly city,” she said. “It could have been a whole different situation had we not had the support.”
The workshop, led by two volunteer lay leaders who went through the workshop themselves, covers ways to deal with chronic conditions.
The purpose is not to cover specific chronic conditions and treatment, but rather ways to manage symptoms and to improve overall health.
Other topics include: appropriate use of medications; healthy eating; communicating with health professionals; self-confidence; and ways of dealing with pain and fatigue.
Participants of the workshop have a variety of conditions, so the class aims to discuss lifestyle improvement that everyone can relate to.
Felton Pray, a resident of the building, attended the first workshop not thinking he would now be a consistent participant.
“It’s changed my way of exercising,” he said. “I didn’t exercise at all, and now that we’re in the third class, I exercise automatically now.”
Similar to Pray, Mildred Thomas, a resident of the building, is also a participant and has found the workshop to be fun and informative.
“I think it’s a lot of fun, and I like that the leaders encourage us to make action plans,” she said. “My action plan was to try to eat breakfast — I’m always told it’s the most important meal of the day.”
Thomas appreciates that the leaders have gone through the workshop themselves. She thinks the relatable leaders and the interactive nature of the workshop, brings people to come back each week.
“Sometimes we are having so much fun talking and doing group activities — we don’t even want to take a break,” Thomas said.
Sharon Congleton, nurse and health promotion nurse supervisor for PCA, notes it is important to be aware of chronic conditions — particularly within the African-American community.
“The statistics definitely show that on average most older adults over the age of 60 suffer from more than one chronic conditions, with high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease ranking in the top three” she said. “Particularly with African Americans, hypertension is one of the leading causes of chronic conditions in our race.”
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), African-American adults are 1.9 times more likely than non-Hispanic whites to have a diagnosis of diabetes.
Congleton, a West Philadelphia native, explained hereditary, diet and inactivity are common causes for hypertension.
She noted programs such as “Help Yourself to Health” are extremely important for educating older adults on chronic conditions.
“They hopefully will take the information to heart and apply it to their life,” she said.
The program is an evidence-based program that was developed by Stanford University Patient Education Research Center. The workshop at the Reed complex, meets weekly for two-and-half hour sessions and will conclude next Wednesday, Feb. 22.
“I know a lot of elderly people that need a program like this,” Pray said. “It’s interesting and beneficial.”