News and articles from the Ohio Department of Aging.
By Beverley Laubert, Interim Director, Ohio Department of Aging
The Ohio Department of Aging works every day to provide resources for individuals and communities to help our elders live as independently as possible, for as long as possible, in the settings they prefer. As we age, many of us will develop chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease or arthritis, and with the right supports, we can continue to thrive.
Four out of five older Ohioans have at least one chronic condition, and nearly half have two or more, according to the 2015 Ohio Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. April is National Minority Health Month, and all month long, agencies around the nation have been raising awareness that there are differences in life expectancy by race, ethnicity, gender, geography, and income. For example, The Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity found that, in Franklin County, there is a nearly twenty-year difference in life expectancy for older adults depending on the neighborhood where they live.
Other studies have shown that more than two-thirds of all health care costs go toward treating chronic diseases, and 95 percent of health care costs for older adults can be attributed to chronic diseases. Unfortunately, many Ohioans, particularly racial and ethnic minorities, are less likely to get preventive care and tend to have less access to quality health care when they are sick or injured. As a result, some minority groups have higher rates of preventable disease and associated disability than the overall population. We continue to assess needs in communities and plan services and programs, taking steps to reduce disparities.
Many factors predict how healthy we are as we age, from genetics to where we live, to activity levels, to what we eat, to how often we see the doctor. There are many things we can do to prevent or delay the onset of chronic conditions, but even when conditions can’t be avoided, how we live with and manage the symptoms of those conditions can determine the quality of life we can have.
Working with Ohio’s aging network, the Ohio Department of Aging offers healthy lifestyle programs throughout the state that can help all adults, but particularly minority seniors, take control of their life and health, and assume an active role in their health care and managing their chronic conditions. HEALTHY U Ohio is a self-management program that has been shown to produce significant and measurable improvements in the health and quality of life for people of all backgrounds.
HEALTHY U consists of a series of interactive workshops held over a few weeks and we have had positive feedback about the experience. Participants gain confidence in their ability to manage symptoms, understand how their health problems affect their lives, and communicate with their doctors and other health care professionals. People who complete HEALTHY U report better health and better quality of life. They are less likely to experience fatigue, shortness of breath, pain and sleep problems. Further, they report fewer days when they feel depressed or just don’t feel well. Researchers estimate that individuals who complete the HEALTHY U workshops save $714 per year in emergency room visits and hospitalizations. We are listening to learn about barriers to participation in wellness programs such as HEALTHY U. Some senior centers or other community organizations may offer transportation to assist older adults to attend.
To find a HEALTHY U Ohio workshop where you live, contact your area agency on aging. Call 1-866-243-5678 to be connected to the agency serving your community. You can also learn more about HEALTHY U and find many tips and resources on our website.
My father taught me at a young age to do a lot of walking; many times it was more important than medicine, as well as deep breathing. Along with army training, my health has been very good; now 94 years old.
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