Aging Mastery helps older adults to adjustments in life

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By Tim Wholf

Life expectancy has increased dramatically over the past 50 years, yet societal expectations of older adults have changed little. Also, people are generally unprepared for this increased longevity.

Aging brings many transitions with it. You may have to learn to live on a fixed income, manage your free time and deal with losing loved ones. Plus, you could be experiencing some of the physical health problems that are common with aging. It’s overwhelming when so many changes hit you all at once.

How do you adjust to all that aging brings with it? One possible solution is by participating in an Aging Mastery Program®. The National Council on Aging created AMP as a guide to building a playbook for aging well and making the most of the gift of longer life. All materials and resources of AMP align with the goal of helping people enjoy self-sufficient lives.

The AMP aims to help millions of baby boomers and older adults take key steps to improve their well-being, add stability to their lives and strengthen their ties to communities. The program encourages mastery – developing sustainable behaviors across many dimensions. The path to mastery is entirely individual. Individuals set their own goals and create their own pathways to these goals, opening the door to autonomy and purpose in the process.

The AMP core curriculum covers 10 topics, including Navigating Longer Lives: The Basics of Aging Mastery, Exercise and You, Sleep, Healthy Eating and Hydration, Financial Fitness, Advance Planning, Healthy Relationships, Medication Management, Falls Prevention and Community Engagement. These classes address topics such as patient/physician communication, memory, home safety, malnutrition and bucket lists.

The classroom experience is a mix of instructional and interactive learning with an emphasis on peer-to-peer interaction. Central to the AMP philosophy is the belief that modest lifestyle changes can produce big results and that people can be empowered to cultivate health and longevity. When they graduate from AMP, participants have set goals for positive actions in many aspects of their lives such as exercise, nutrition, finances, advance care planning, community engagement and healthy relationships.

AMP is a nationwide program that launched in 2013 with a presence in approximately 500 sites. More than 20,000 participants have completed the classroom program.

Results have shown that older adults in the program significantly increased their social connectedness, physical activity levels, healthy eating habits, use of advanced planning and participation in evidence-based programs.

Program graduation and satisfaction data report 80% of program participants graduate (take seven of 10 classes), 97% find the program fun, and 98% would recommend the program to a friend. In 2018, AMP met the criteria set by the U.S. Administration for Community Living to qualify as an evidence-based program under Title III-D of the Older Americans Act.

NCOA partners with statewide organizations as well as regional and local partners to promote community-wide adoption of the program. In Johnson County, the Park and Recreation District is leading the AMP. Each two-hour session is led by a trained facilitator who guides participants through activities and discussions. Time for questions and answers in every session provides further opportunity for participants to gain new insights.

JCPRD is hosting sessions from 9:30 to 1 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday from Feb. 27 to April 30 at the Matt Ross Community Center, 8101 Marty St., Overland Park. Cost for the program is $32 Johnson County resident/$35 nonresident.

The nation’s 76 million baby boomers and older adults have been given an unprecedented gift of time. Aging Mastery helps them address both the benefits and challenges of this new longevity bonus.

Tim Wholf is director of the Johnson County Department of Aging and Human Services.