Tag Archives: program

Knit with Heart

Vantage Point: Seniors Knit with Love to Help Others

Before I met with Aїda Bound—a social worker and fierce fighter for civil rights, social justice, the aged, and the underserved—I hoped to impress her with the yarn I was going to donate to the greater Wenatchee Area Hat Project. But as Aїda talked about collecting, sorting, storing, and delivering the hats and the difference the program makes to the (mostly) seniors who make the hats and the children in need who receive them, I was the one who was dazzled.

Health Alliance Medicare employees get the chance to help members every day by giving them great customer service and healthcare benefits. Having a local presence means we can also be involved in North Central Washington communities. Helping others is the principle behind the Hat Project, too. Seniors can join in, even if they are homebound with poor health. Yarn is donated, and hat makers get to choose the design, color, and pattern of each hat and can knit, crochet, or use a loom.

The hat makers know their time and talents are helping others, and it gives them a chance to be creative and social while having fun. One 98-year-old member said it gave her a reason to live. Aїda helped a woman who had dementia and couldn’t remember the pattern keep participating by having her tie knots for quilts made by another member. That way the woman could still benefit from the social support the program provides.

Aїda said, “Love is knitted into each hat and is what makes the difference to the children.” For some kids, choosing a handmade hat may be the first time they have ever been able to pick out something brand-new for themselves.

To donate to the Wenatchee Area Hat Project, please drop off yarn at Wenatchee and East Wenatchee Washington Trust Banks. (They welcome gas card donations, too.)

As someone who donated yarn, it was fun to choose the colors and imagine a senior making something so beautiful for a child in need. If you think a Hat Project could benefit your community, Aїda is willing to help. Call her at 509-888-1953, or email her at gutsgranny@nwi.net.

Active Aging

Long View: Active Aging Week Encourages Health into Golden Years

As I get older, I have noticed the changes that come with it. I think the one I notice the most lately is inertia. You find yourself sitting down to open the mail and not getting up for the rest of the evening. OK, it happens to all of us once in a while. My concern is inertia may become my hobby unless I take action.

The International Council on Active Aging sponsors an annual event called Active Aging Week. Its website explains, “Led by the International Council on Active Aging® (ICAA), Active Aging Week is an annual health promotion event held each year during the last week of September. The weeklong observance celebrates adults ages 50 and older as fully participating members of society and promotes the benefits of leading an active, healthier lifestyle. It also highlights the ability of older adults to live well, regardless of age or health conditions.”

It got me thinking which of my family members had the best quality of life as they aged. The dividing line was very clear. The active (some would say hyperactive) ones who kept a healthy weight were the ones who made the most of their mature years. The sofa-sitters aged well into their 80s, but didn’t get the same enjoyment from their golden years. The prospect of that fate was enough to get me up and moving again.

And now the disclaimer: As with any type of exercise, it’s important to talk to your doctor to make sure you choose an activity safe for you. I started with a 15-minute walk in the morning and another 15-minute walk in the evening after work.  It’s no marathon, but it’s doable and even enjoyable in good weather. I miss my walks when our Central Illinois climate doesn’t cooperate. Plus, I am seeing results and notice I feel better overall.

Health Alliance Medicare is working with Clark-Lindsey (a continuing care retirement community in Urbana) to sponsor an Active Aging Week from September 21-27. As the hosts, we can craft a program of activities that suits our own community (and weather). Maybe you would consider doing something similar in your area.

If you have any questions, I would be happy to help. Or visit Clark-Lindsey’s website and click on “news and events” for more information. It’s time to get moving!

Who Can You Call? 2-1-1

Long View: Who You Gonna Call? Think Three Little Numbers

I have a good friend at Carle who seems to have all the answers. Let’s call her Sue. Sue is a great resource for me any time I have a question about Carle. She knows the department heads, where the various offices are and how things really work. She is a seasoned and respected contact for me (and many others, I am sure). It makes me wonder where average Joes can turn when they need information and resources.

It turns out there is a place to call – 2-1-1.

The program in Central Illinois is run by PATH, Inc. (Providing Access to Help), which provides services for seniors, people who are homeless and people in need of all ages. Their offices are located in beautiful Bloomington. The PATH website describes the 2-1-1 system this way: “United Way 2-1-1 is for times of crisis, as well as for everyday needs. 2-1-1 call specialists are available 24/7 to help individuals locate health and human services in their area—from mortgage, rent, and utility assistance to food, clothing, emergency shelter, counseling, and much more.”

I spoke to Jennifer Nettleton at PATH. She is the 2-1-1/Crisis Services program manager. Many times when we need help, we need it fast.

Nettleton told me, “2-1-1 helps stop the run-around between social service agencies. Rather than calling every agency in the phone book to find out if they have the services you need, you can now call one place to help get you that information.”

Funding for the program is provided in part by United Way organizations around the state. Our local service area covers 12 counties and one city with another 20 in the pipeline. Many other states have this program in place, so Illinois is making up for lost time.

Find out more about the program. I think many people in need, perhaps some of them Health Alliance Medicare members, will be comforted to know a resource is available 24/7. Of course I could just give Sue’s phone number to everyone, but I fear she might not be my friend anymore.

The Right Kind of Falling in the Winter

Long View: Don’t Let Falling Lead You Down a Slippery Slope

Our central Illinois weather definitely challenged us this winter. Slippery conditions are my least favorite. I took a tumble in a local grocery store parking lot and “fortunately” there were plenty of spectators to help me up. I am guessing it was on camera, too.

For some of our older friends and family members, the potential for falling is not based on the weather, but a year-round concern. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Every 15 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 29 minutes, an older adult dies following a fall.”

Sobering statistics, to say the least.

This year, Health Alliance Medicare, with Catholic Charities of Decatur, St. Mary’s Hospital, and the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging (ECIAAA), is supporting a program called A Matter of Balance. This evidence-based program helps people learn to avoid falls and teaches them how to increase strength and enhance balance.

Mike O’Donnell, ECIAAA executive director, reviewed the training materials and told me, “Older adults at risk of falling often fear injury, a broken hip and having to be in a nursing home. This program encourages us to reduce the risk of falling by using sensible safeguards. We can all choose not to allow fear of falling to take over our lives by using good judgment and common sense. The fear of falling can often lead to isolation and feeling out of touch.”

Specially trained volunteer coaches lead the eight, 2-hour classes that make up the program. The classes involve group discussion, problem solving, skill building, video tapes, and exercise training. A physical therapist attends one of the classes to answer questions and discuss safety issues.

Now that I think about it, this kind of training wouldn’t hurt any of us. As usual, prevention is the best course.

The program is open to anyone, whether you’d like to learn for yourself or to better help others.

If this seems like a good idea, please contact Nicole Kirlin at Catholic Charities of Decatur at 217-428-0013, or by email at Kirlin_dec@cc.dio.org. She would be happy to talk with you and let you know if A Matter of Balance is available in your area.

I had every intention of signing up myself. I guess it must have slipped my mind. I won’t make that mistake again!