An annual program called Personal Actions To Health, or PATH, begins March 24. The program is for Douglas County residents age 55 and older. Experts teach participants how to lead healthier lives through exercise and nutrition.
The class meets from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays from March 24 through April 28 at the East Lawrence Recreation Center, 1245 E. 15th St. The cost is $20, which pays for food sampling and a handbook. Participants must have a doctor’s consent to enroll in the program. There is a pre-assessment between 8 a.m. and noon March 23 at the recreation center.
To enroll, call the South Park Recreation Center at 832-7930. The deadline to register is March 17.
For more information about the program, call Jessie Kwatamdia, of Douglas County Senior Services, at 842-0543.
There’s a six-week program that helps pave the way for Douglas County seniors to live a healthier life.
It’s called Personal Actions To Health or PATH, and it teaches residents ages 55 and older, about the importance of exercise and nutrition.
“It’s probably the most important thing that they can do in their lives,” said Wayne Osness, 75, KU emeritus professor of health, sport and exercise science. “This helps them take self responsibility to improve the quality of their health and particularly at a time when over half of the illnesses — particularly for older individuals are the result of poor lifestyle choices.”
The program begins March 24 with classes running from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays until April 28 at the East Lawrence Recreation Center.
But first, Osness evaluates each participant’s level of endurance, flexibility, strength and coordination.
“They are simple, little tests that have been validated using clinical tests,” Osness said.
The data is then put into a computer program that compares their data with others of the same age and sex. So, they know how they are doing comparatively. After the class is over, they do another assessment. Osness said the differences can be remarkable.
“I think that after the people are involved in the program, they realize they feel differently. They might have lost a pound or two, and they just realize that it is, in fact, a factor in the way they feel and the status of their health,” Osness said.
Not only do participants exercise, but they learn why it can help prevent chronic illnesses.
According to the Center for Disease Control, chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. Chronic diseases account for 70 percent of all deaths in the U.S., which is 1.7 million each year. Although chronic diseases are among the most common and costly health problems, they are also among the most preventable.
“We are trying to help them make better decisions in their lifestyle, so that they can reduce that percentage,” Osness said.
Lawrence resident Marian Brown, 79, participated in the PATH program about one year after her husband died in 2001. She said it motivated her to get moving again.
“It was a wonderful asset for me because you can become sedentary so easily when you are grieving from a loved one,” she said.
Not only did she lose about 30 pounds because of the program, but it also taught her about nutrition.
“It really helps you to change your lifestyle — dieting is for the birds. It just changes your eating habits,” Brown said.
She learned how to read nutrition labels and cook quick, healthy meals. Brown still whips up a breakfast that she gleaned from the program. It’s a whole wheat tortilla filled with two egg whites and one egg yolk. She adds a little cheese and uses salsa on the side.
“That’s kind of a good, filling breakfast,” she said.
The nutrition portion of the program is taught by Cass Ryan, Lawrence Memorial Hospital clinical dietitian; Susan Krumm, Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County; and Nancy O’Connor, education and outreach coordinator from The Community Mercantile. The topics include: fruits and vegetables, protein, calcium, fats, sugar, whole grains and alternative proteins. They offer nutritious ideas for households of one or two people, who are living on a fixed income.
“What I teach them are some very simple ideas that make sense on lots of levels,” O’Connor said.
The volunteers enjoy teaching the PATH classes because the participates seem eager to learn.
“You are more motivated, perhaps, to take care of your body because maybe with the aging process you are not as resilient when you get sick or if you stay up too late or you eat poorly. It impacts you more because your body isn’t as young,” O’Connor said.
For $20, Brown said it’s the best deal in town. She learned about exercise, nutrition and made new friends who she continued to exercise with.
“Not only did I move about a lot, but I met beautiful people.”
Once seniors “graduate” from the program, they can join other PATH graduates in an ongoing exercise program that meets twice a week for free. Harold Jones, 84, leads one of the programs that meets at First Baptist Church.
“I never thought I would be exercising at this age, let alone leading the class, but it’s a lot of fun. Everybody gets along really well and keeps track of each other.”