MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

June 5, 2013

Classes offer those with chronic conditions hope to improve lives

By Lisa Wade Raasch
Get Healthy Muskogee

— One diagnosis can change the way you look at your life.  And, it may also change the way you are encouraged to live your life.

Through free, six-week “Living Longer, Living Stronger with Chronic Conditions” classes, area residents age 60 and older can get proven advice, smart strategies and peer support to improve their health and quality of life.

“I have witnessed class participants have more confidence in their ability to live a fuller, more positive life, even with a chronic disease,” said Martha Alford, health educator with the Muskogee County Health Department and an instructor of the course. “It is awe inspiring.”

Two “Living Longer, Living Stronger” classes will be offered this summer, on Tuesdays beginning June 18 from 5 – 7:30 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Center and on Wednesdays beginning July 17 from 1 – 3:30 p.m. at the Muskogee Swim and Fitness Center.  Each series of six classes will meet weekly, is limited to 16 participants and requires pre-registration.  

In Muskogee County about 70 percent of the top five conditions that lead to premature death may be avoidable through nutritious diet, regular exercise and not using tobacco.  

A chronic condition is any health challenge that is persistent or lasts three months or longer.  According to the World Health Organization, chronic health conditions cause about 70 percent of deaths in the US and that approximately 90 percent of seniors face one chronic disease, while 77 percent face two or more.

Even with a diagnosis of a chronic disease like diabetes, arthritis, asthma, heart or lung disease, depression or even cancer, many people still have a hard time committing to the long-term habits that can help them control their condition and live a longer, stronger, higher-quality life.  

Smart strategies, personal responsibility and moral support can go a long way to make lifestyle changes possible, and even enjoyable. Since 2011, the “Living Longer, Living Stronger with Chronic Conditions” class has offered skills to nearly 100 Muskogee area residents to proactively manage their chronic conditions.  

This evidence-based program developed by Stanford University is geared toward people aged 60 and older who have been diagnosed with one or more chronic condition.   Participants investigate topics that include understanding and managing common symptoms, healthy eating, exercising with chronic illnesses, relaxation techniques, breathing, communicating with health professionals and others, managing medicines, decision-making and sleep.

“Participation in the ‘Living Longer, Living Stronger’ classes can and has changed the lives of those who attend,” Martha said.  “The class is full of positive information regarding reducing stress, how to create an action plan and get small goals accomplished, leading to larger goal setting success, she said.  

A recent class participant, Maxine, said, “I was recently in one of your Living Longer Living Stronger Workshops in Muskogee and wanted to let you know how it has changed my life. As a 67-year-old widow with severe arthritis and a bad heart, I don’t feel like getting out much anymore. But since I took the workshop, I am back in church and attending the senior lunches three times a week and walking more than I have in years. Thanks guys, you have made a real difference in my life.”

Jim, another Muskogee class participant said, “The class has been a life changer for me because it has forced me to take a look at myself and pushed me into a pattern of regular exercise.”

If you are a senior with a chronic condition, give the free, six-week class a try.  You will learn new information, techniques and support that could put more years in your life and more life in your years.

Lisa Wade Raasch coordinates the city of Muskogee Wellness Initiative, the Muskogee Difference Healthcare Scholarship and the EOK Health Care Coalition.  Connect online at www.MuskogeeWellness.org.