This blog post was originally written by Elizabeth Hartig on the American Planning Association Plan4Health website.
The Plan4Health project is working to create a healthier environment through Live Well Kingston. Live Well Kingston (LWK) strives to increase opportunities for healthy eating and active living through focus teams. The work of the The Age Well focus team helps to make the coalition’s vision a reality.
Marge Gagnon, RN, MS, CNS, is a member of the LWK leadership team, and works with the Age Well focus team to ensure that the voices of seniors are heard in the work to support healthy, active lives. A Clinical Nurse Specialist and a nonprofit professional, Marge approaches the Age Well focus team with a passion for improving health and a commitment to prevention.
“I believe the driver for health outcomes are the social determinants of health. Yes, we are thinking in terms of nutrition and physical activity for Plan4Health, but health is much broader and impacts every aspect of our lives.” As part of the Plan4Health initiative, Marge conducted community assessments, gauging the needs of seniors in Kingston.
The focus groups provided a chance for me to connect with seniors who are often overlooked. It’s great to chat with seniors who are active, but I wanted to we hear from other voices, too. The focus groups confirmed that the gap between seniors and the rest of the world is widening. Technology is a great tool for connecting. But if you’re not connected, technology is very isolating. I used the words “Google it” at a focus group and was met with blank stares; most in attendance had never heard the term. Most had no link with technology: no cell phones, no computers. It’s frustrating when technology is so far removed from this population, and yet it is a primary tool for communication. The focus groups also confirmed that seniors have much to offer our communities! Life experience is important and powerful. We need to make sure the senior perspective is at the table.
What does “age well” mean to you?
Focusing on how to age well is an opportunity to impact the lives of seniors in Kingston. It is an opportunity to make it easier for them to have healthy lives, social lives, and physical activity. Aging well is about recognizing the complexity of the aging process. Aging is especially challenging if you live on a limited income and we need to remember that it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Aging well is also about changing the way we think about aging. I like the phrases “active aging” and “maturity re-imagined.” I think that gets at what Plan4Health is about.
How do we rethink our daily lives, our typical experiences, to make space for healthier options? Biking to work doesn’t seem like a revolutionary act, but it’s the same type of thing. Biking to work means that streets are safe for bicycles and I’m incorporating a healthy activity into my routine. Aging well will be a series of small steps that add up to a different way to live our lives.
Why are you so passionate about this work?
I’m passionate about activating people, especially seniors. Our Kingston seniors have ideas, requests, demands, and I want to let them know that we are listening!
Please contact Marge Gagnon if you are interested in getting involved with the Age Well Focus Team, at 845-691-7984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.