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Oct 132016
 October 13, 2016  Posted by  Health, Uncategorized

What does it mean to live a healthy life? Eating healthy? Being physically active? Living life to its fullest? On Senior Day at the recent Minnesota State Fair, more than 175 people participated in a survey about staying healthy as we age. Ninety-five percent ranged in age from 45 to 84 with the largest percentage (46%) aged 65 to 74. Participants represented counties throughout Minnesota; 78% were from the Twin Cities metro area.

Survey results provide a snapshot of how of older adults think about staying healthy:

  • Why is staying healthy important? Have more energy (84%); Live longer (74%); Avoid disease/injury (76%); Better mental health (74%); Keep medical costs down (74%)
  • What do you do to stay healthy? Don’t smoke (94%); Stay socially connected (78%); Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables (72%); Get two hours+ exercise weekly (68%)
  • What is your biggest challenge in staying healthy? Getting enough exercise (62%); Following a balanced diet (58%); Reducing the chance of falling (31%); Managing a chronic condition (27%)
  • Where would you attend programs that provide support in staying healthy? Community center (69%); Fitness center (54%); Church (37%); Clinic or hospital setting (24%)

Survey shows value of evidence based health promotion classes

Minnesota’s Area Agencies on Aging, through their Healthy Living as You Age initiative, are furthering many of the ideas raised in the survey results. The initiative develops a network to make evidence-based health workshops available to people across the state. The workshops help people manage chronic conditions, prevent falls and prevent and manage diabetes.

Participants in Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance classNora Slawik, Project Manager for the initiative, notes that “These workshops encourage seniors to engage in their own health. We envision a broad culture change that fosters self-managed health and well-being as we age.”

Read more about Healthy Living as You Age. To learn about upcoming classes, contact your regional Area Agency on Aging (AAA).

If you are interested in being trained to lead an evidence-based health workshop in your area, contact your regional AAA.

“I am 80 and have an artificial leg. This class has helped tremendously with my balance. It’s wonderful! I accidently dropped a coffee cup the other day and I was able to catch it before it hit the ground. I wouldn’t have had the reflexes to do that without this class.”
—Suzanne, Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance class participant

“The Living Well with Diabetes class was wonderful; we had 12 residents participate. One resident who actually reported weight loss because of following through on her action plan. I think it was beneficial for all who attended. It seemed [as if] many felt they were alone in their battle (cooking, eating right, exercising, understanding doctors, etc.). Now they have buddies they can relate to in our community.”
—Angie, activities coordinator for a housing with services community

Mar 212015
 March 21, 2015  Posted by  Aging in Place, Health

Toolkit for Working with Persons with Complex Needs and Older Adults

The goal of this toolkit is to offer resources and guidance to certified Health Care Home clinics caring for seniors and people with disabilities who have complex functional support needs in addition to their medical issues.

The toolkit was developed through the efforts of a formal workgroup of the Multi-Payer Advanced Primary Care Practice (MAPCP) Demonstration. Medicare conducted the demonstration in Minnesota and seven other states. Your clinic is able to bill Medicare monthly for your care coordination services for individuals participating in Traditional Medicare. January 2015.

Download the Health Care Home Care Coordination toolkit.

Jul 152014
 July 15, 2014  Posted by  Age-Friendly Communities, Aging in Place, Health

For the third year of The United States of Aging Survey, the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), the National Council on Aging, UnitedHealthcare and USA TODAY conducted a survey of 3,279 U.S. adults to examine seniors’ attitudes on a range of issues such as health, finances, and community support. The survey results provide insight on how U.S. seniors are preparing for their later years and what communities can do to better support an increasing, longer-living senior population.

Key Findings

  • More than one third of seniors (37 percent) say they exercise every day compared with 26 percent in 2013, and 39 percent say they rely on themselves for the motivation to live a healthy lifestyle.
  • For many seniors, high activity levels correspond to a positive perspective on life. Seniors who exercise daily are much more likely than those who never exercise to say the past year of their life has been better than normal rather than worse (28 percent compared with 15 percent).
  • Nearly 7 in 10 (69 percent) find it easy to pay monthly bills, compared with 66 percent in 2013 and 64 percent in 2012.
  • Younger seniors are the most concerned about community support as they age: Nearly 4 in 10 (39 percent) seniors ages 60-64 feel their communities are not doing enough to plan for the growing senior population.

Read more.

Apr 092014
 April 9, 2014  Posted by  Age-Friendly Communities, Health

ACT on Alzheimer'sTwelve new ACT on Alzheimer’s® action communities have been awarded grants of up to $8,000 to become dementia-friendly and succeed in creating a supportive environment for people with Alzheimer’s and their families. Funded organizations represent communities from all Minnesota regions; ten are geographic in nature and two are communities of shared interest. The grants are funded by Blue Plus (an HMO affiliate of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota), the Medica Foundation, and the Greater Twin Cities United Way. Grants will be administered by the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging.Continue Reading Twelve Communities Receive Grants to Become Dementia-Friendly

Mar 162014
 March 16, 2014  Posted by  Health

By Ann Daley

IMG_9421-webI first heard about the POLST (Provider Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) concept when I served on the Ethics Committee at North Country Hospital in Bemidji, Minnesota. I thought, “What a great idea. It’s about time someone came up with a plan for helping people deal with ‘end of life issues’.”

As a registered nurse, I had worked in the Patient Education Department at the hospital teaching patients how to participate in their own health care. A program that would allow terminally ill patients to have a voice in their own health care decisions sounded good to me.

It often takes a lot of time and footwork to get new programs off the ground and that was clearly going to be the case with introducing POLST at North Country. Patients, physicians and health care facilities would need plenty of education to understand how POLST would work. As I thought about all that time and effort, and me being over the age of 80, I realized that that this POLST business would never happen in my lifetime. So, since the committee was moving so slowly, I resigned. I prepared my own POLST document, brought it to my doctor to sign, and forgot about it, knowing my plan was in place.

I never gave it another thought until a few months ago when two of my friends were diagnosed with terminal cancer. When they asked me to help them with their health care directives, I felt I had to tell them about POLST. But what if nothing was happening in the development of the program?

For the answer, I called Pastor Mark Papke Larson, the expert on “end of life” matters. I was glad to hear that POLST was alive and well and making progress and, yes, Mark would be happy to meet with my friends to help them understand how POLST works.

They were sold on the POLST idea and Mark helped them complete their documents. Long story short although Vicky and Muriel knew they would not be getting well, they felt good about the fact that they now had choices and would be in charge of their own health care issues. You might say that from now on these ladies would be “calling the shots.”

In collaboration with the Land of the Dancing Sky Area Agency on Aging and with funding from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, through its Aging and Adult Services Division, POLST is active and growing in Beltrami and Northern Hubbard counties. For more information about the POLST in Minnesota visit the Minnesota Medical Association’s website.

Feb 052014
 February 5, 2014  Posted by  Aging in Place, Health
Bounleuth Gowing

Bounleuth Gowing,
Tai Chi leader

At the front of the small auditorium in north Minneapolis, Bounleuth Gowing flashes a brilliant smile as she coaxes participants to stretch, shift, align and move. Traditional Laotian music plays in the background as the 20 or so participants respond with graceful, synchronized movements using traditional Tai Chi forms.

The older adults are participating in Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance, an evidence-based program introduced to the Lao Advancement Organization of America and other metro organizations serving older adults by David Fink, program developer at the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging (MAAA). The goal of the program is to reduce falls by improving balance, strength, flexibility and physical performance in older adults. “We wanted to find an evidence-based fall prevention program that could be easily implemented by bilingual leaders for non-English speaking older adults, and Tai Chi: Moving For Better Balance has been excellent in meeting that need.”

Fuzhong Li, PhD, at the Oregon Research Institute, developed the community-based Tai Chi program and has offered three 2-day training sessions since 2012 sponsored by MAAA for prospective leaders in the metro area. Bounleuth and her co-leader, Danai Phongthani, and 44 other leaders have attended the training.

Boualay Inthavong

Boualay Inthavong,

“I was leading various type of classes before we started the Tai Chi program but it was hard to keep people involved or to see progress. The Tai Chi program provides a structure that people like and is easy for me to lead,” says Bounleuth. “We made some modifications to the program to fit our group and to keep it fresh and fun but we stick with the fundamentals of the program. Tai Chi is making a difference for our elders.”

Boualay Inthavong and Sy Inthachinda, participants in the Tai Chi program, came to America from Laos in the late 1970s and early 1980s as refugees after a Communist government came to power in Laos in 1975.

Sy Inthachinda

Sy Inthachinda,

Boualay and Sy praise the Tai Chi class. “It makes me feel better. I have learned to move in different ways and I enjoy socializing with others before and after the class,” says Boualay. According to Sy, “Before I started the class, I needed a cane to walk. Now I walk without a cane . . . and I walk fast!”

“Our elders like the class very much and don’t want to miss it,” says Bounleuth. “Many of them schedule their appointments around the class. If someone needs to miss a class, I usually get a call saying, ‘don’t take me off the list, I will be back for the next class.’”

You might think that the older adults in northwest Minnesota, predominately of Scandinavian and German descent, would be less likely to take to Tai Chi. Karen Lenius, Senior Programs/RSVP director for the Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership is quick to say that’s not true.

Her organization partners with the Land of the Dancing Sky Area Agency on Aging and Central Minnesota Council on Aging to offer Tai Chi in 13 sites in five counties across northwestern Minnesota. Dr. Li has offered two training sessions in the area, training 30 volunteers to lead the Tai Chi sessions. Karen estimates that 196 older adults participate regularly in the Tai Chi programs. “The program is so good for strengthening the core of the body,” says Karen. “After Tai Chi, people have a much better ability to move without over extending. They have improved balance and much less chance of falling.”

Participants in northwestern Minnesota

Participants in northwestern Minnesota

In addition to the programs mentioned above, the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging supports classes in English, Laotian, Somali, Oromo, Korean, Vietnamese, Hmong, Khmer and Spanish at various locations in the metropolitan area and plans to expand the program to additional English and non-English speaking groups in 2014. The Central Minnesota Council on Aging offers Tai Chi in partnership with two Saint Cloud partners: Catholic Charities and the Whitney Community Center.

Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance is funded with Title IIID Health Promotion federal funds as part of the Older Americans Act under contract with individual Minnesota Area Agencies on Aging.

For additional information, contact David Fink at or 651-917.4633 or Karen Lenius at or 218-847-1385.

Jan 062014
 January 6, 2014  Posted by  Aging in Place, Health

Matter of Balance classElsie was diagnosed with Macular Degeneration when she was 79. “I have been afraid of falling for years, but I am especially afraid now that I can’t see well,” says Elsie.

Fear is Risk Factor for Falls

The ‘fear of falling’ is a significant risk factor to falling. Just as many others who are afraid of a fall, Elsie had begun to limit her activity. Inactivity increases the risk of falling that much more. Inactivity leads to isolation, isolation leads to depression. So the downward cycle goes.

Elsie’s building manager suggested she take a class called A Matter of Balance: Managing Concerns About Falls. A Matter of Balance is an 8-week class that helps participants examine their attitudes and habits to reduce the fear that surrounds falling. Participants also evaluate their environments and find ways to increase their activities. The exercises in the class increase strength, flexibility, balance and endurance.

During visits to Matter of Balance (MOB) workshops, Debra Laine, MOB Master Trainer for the Arrowhead Area Agency on Aging (AAAA), noticed at least one if not more participants in each class were having trouble seeing workbooks, following class materials and doing exercises.

Matter of Balance exercises“It sent me on a quest to empower those with vision loss to fully access course materials and take advantage of the class,” says Laine. The AAAA applied for a Healthy Vision Community Award grant from the National Eye Institute. Upon receipt of the grant, the AAAA led a collaborative effort with the Duluth Lighthouse for the Blind and Maine Health Partnership to adapt the MOB materials for those with vision impairment.

Adaptations Provide Access for Those with Low Vision

When Elsie arrived at her Matter of Balance class, she told her coaches about her vision loss. They were able to give her a large-print edition of the Participant Workbook and a set of hand-held flip charts so she could easily see what was on the large group flip charts. The coaches also showed videos in smaller segments and used more detailed descriptions of exercises. They were better able to meet her needs because of the training they had gone through for working with participants with vision loss.

If you are interested in low-vision Matter of Balance, check with the Area Agency on Aging in your region. If you represent an agency that would like to use the low-vision adaptations, please visit the national MOB website for the training and to obtain the adapted materials.

For more information on Matter of Balance and the low vision adaptation, please visit one of the following these links:

Maine Health – What is A Matter of Balance?
VisionAware: Resources for Independent Living with Vision Loss

Article by Debra Laine, Special Programs Developer, Arrowhead Area Agency on Aging.

Nov 182013
 November 18, 2013  Posted by  Aging in Place, Health

First Contact Specialist processes pre-admission screeningsEffective November 1, First Contact specialists with the Senior LinkAge Line® are performing federally mandated pre-admission screenings (PAS) for individuals entering a Medical Assistance (MA) certified nursing facility.

The 2013 Minnesota Legislature eliminated a PAS exemption and redesigned how PAS activity is completed. The screening ensures that only individuals who meet the required level of care are admitted to a nursing facility. In addition, it ensures individuals with a mental illness or a developmental disability or who are under the age of 65 receive additional evaluation.

Options That Foster Return to Community

One of the goals of moving the PAS processing to the Senior LinkAge Line® is to engage individuals and their families in understanding long-term care options at an earlier point in the care process. The Senior LinkAge Line® specialist are experts in home and community-based services that can support successful transition back to community life.

The specialists will place follow-up calls to the individual and/or his or her caregivers after discharge from a nursing facility with information about services such as transportation, grocery delivery, personal care, household chores and more. Being connected to these services can make the difference between a successful return to community and a less satisfying outcome.

If you are a health care professional who would like to complete a referral, visit to access the online form.

Nov 182013
 November 18, 2013  Posted by  Aging in Place, Health

Return to community with the help of caregiverWhen an individual experiences a broken hip, major surgery or another medical event that requires a stay at a nursing facility, being able to return to his or her home and community is often of paramount importance. The individual’s reduced capacity can raise a sense of hopelessness or even resignation in both the individual and his or her loved ones.

The Return to Community initiative helps provide a happy ending to this potentially heartbreaking story. By connecting older adults and their families to free information and assistance, Community Living Specialists can help make the transition home safe and easy. They help find home and community-based services such as:

  • Transportation for running errands, going to appointments and staying connected to family and friends.
  • Grocery delivery and meal preparation.
  • Dressing, bathing and managing medications.
  • Household chores such as snow shoveling and housekeeping.
  • Home modifications
  • Support for caregivers

The Minnesota Area Agencies on Aging offer Return to Community services through the Senior LinkAge Line® (call 1-800-333-2433). The initiative is targeted to nursing home residents who express a desire to return to the community and/or have a support person to assist with their transition from the nursing home to the community. The evidence-based initiative reflects the findings in research conducted under contract to DHS by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and the Indiana University Center for Aging Research.

Jul 232012
 July 23, 2012  Posted by  Health

Counselor working with womanThe Bemidji Rural Palliative Care program works to help patients and families make end-of-life decisions. The project plans to use a POLST (Provider Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment) document to change how health care settings provide end-of-life care to patients and their families. The pilot project is a collaborative effort between the Land of the Dancing Sky Area Agency on Aging and the Bemidji Palliative Care Initiative, representing Sanford Bemidji Medical Center and Clinic, Chaplaincy and social services, Sanford Hospice and Home Care, Goldpine Assisted Living, Bemidji State University Nursing program and greater Northwest EMS.

To date, eight health care professionals from multiple health care settings have received advanced care planning training. Sanford Bemidji Medical Center and EMS have adopted a Bemidji POLST document as a regular part of their processes for delivering end-of-life care to chronically ill older adults.

Goldpine Assisted Living and Havenick nursing home initiated the pilot with a chart review to identify residents who would be appropriate for advanced care planning. Participating residents will complete a needs assessment at both the start and at the conclusion of the process. In the next phase, initiative leaders will educate the community and expand the program to encompass the entire Bemidji Sanford planning and service area.