Between 2011 and 2031, about 10,000 Americans will turn 65 every day, doubling the population of older Americans to 72 million, according to the CDC. As we grow older, our needs change and often extend beyond clinical care. Providing the tools and resources to help a growing senior population maintain quality of life as they age is key to supporting thriving communities. Through extensive community programming, several nonprofit health plans are helping seniors foster social connections, explore new opportunities and stay active as they age.
Staying physically fit in the golden years is essential to maintaining quality of life. Balance and strength exercises not only improve overall health, but play a role in preventing falls. Each year, more than one-third of people age 65 or older fall. Even just the fear of falling can keep seniors from enjoying a healthy, active life.
For this reason, Wisconsin’s Security Health Plan partners with the Wisconsin Institute for Healthy Aging (WIHA) to offer Stepping On, a free, seven-week program for seniors that can help reduce falls by 50 percent. The classes are open to seniors across the state and are led by a health professional, peer leader and guest experts. Stepping On integrates balance and strength training with information on vision, medications, fall hazards and walking aids. Security also supports a free Tai Chi class, a low-impact physical activity proven to prevent falls by teaching balance, stability and flexibility. Read more here.
A sense of belonging is also a critical part of healthy aging. Connecting with family and friends can help seniors live longer and better manage health conditions. In fact, strong social connections can boost a person’s mortality by 50 percent, a similar health benefit as quitting smoking. And community-based, accessible programming can make a big impact.
A series of community centers located in primary care health facilities across the state of Maine offer social activities, educational programming and physical activities to all seniors in the community. For instance, the Scarborough Community Center hosts weekly lunches, social hours, bingo and exercise classes tailored to seniors’ needs. The room transforms into what one local senior says is “a place I can almost call home.” Read more about Martin’s Point Health Plan’s community centers and programs for seniors here.
In Southern Florida, a senior club fosters connections through new member receptions, cooking classes and movie screenings – as well as social and learning events such as gardening, volunteering and entertainment. Open to everyone in the community, the activities unite older adults with common interests and create a sense of belonging. Read more about AvMed’s programs here.
As we age, there are more barriers to staying healthy and often fewer resources. But getting older doesn’t have to mean sacrificing quality of life. Community programs are helping seniors across the country maintain physical fitness and wellbeing. Whether it’s offering social hours or Tai Chi classes, nonprofit, community plans are giving seniors the tools they need to thrive at any age.