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Managing chronic health conditions Pamela B. Smith | Sat, Feb 05 2011 12:00 PM

As the first baby boomers turn 65 this year, four out of five will have long-term health problems, some of them having three or more chronic conditions at the same time. Nationwide, 14 million boomers will be living with diabetes while almost half of boomers will have arthritis. Other chronic health concerns include osteoporosis, heart disease, asthma, lung disease and depression.

Just knowing that you have an illness that will be with you the rest of your life can weigh you down ... if you let it.

Stanford University has designed and tested a program shown to improve the quality of life for participants with chronic illness. Participants have reported gaining confidence in managing their condition, exercising more and eating better, while reducing their pain and fatigue.

Within the next two months, the County of San Diego Aging & Independence Services will begin offering the program, referred to locally as Healthier Living: Managing Ongoing Health Conditions.

Healthier Living will be a workshop offered for two and a half hours, once a week for six weeks, in community settings such as senior centers, community centers and libraries. People with different chronic health problems attend together. Workshops are facilitated by two trained leaders, who may not be health professionals, but have chronic diseases themselves.

Topic areas include techniques to deal with frustration, fatigue, pain and isolation; exercises for maintaining and improving strength, flexibility and endurance; appropriate use of medications; communicating effectively with health professionals, family and friends about your needs; nutrition and how to evaluate new treatments.

The leaders will encourage active participation, sharing their own situations and building an environment of mutual support and success among attendees, helping them reduce their anxiety about managing their symptoms. Participants will set their own achievable weekly goals, such as going from walking five minutes a day to 15 minutes a day and building from there.

The county is looking for sites in different regions to offer the program. A selected site would need to be able to recruit at least 16 participants and have the available meeting space for six consecutive weeks.

Lay leaders with chronic health conditions are also being recruited to teach the classes. Accepted applicants will attend a four-day training Jan. 20, 21, 27 and 28. Once trained, these peer educators will be assigned in pairs to lead workshops with between 16 to 25 participants at various community sites. Peer educators will receive modest financial compensation.

To learn more about becoming a site or peer educator, contact Charlotte Tenney at (858) 495-5230 or email her at charlotte.tenney@sdcounty.ca.gov.

To find a class near you, leave a message including your name, phone number and your geographical location at (858) 495-5500, ext. 3.


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