Beyond the Card: Helping Seniors Find Health and Self-Confidence

Senior citizens are often limited by fear. A fear of going of the doctor, of being so active that they potentially injure themselves, and of testing their limits, even in positive ways. The Detroit Area Agency on Aging (DAAA) aims to help seniors break down these boundaries by taking matters of their health into their own hands. As a part of its programming, the DAAA has received funding from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund (MHEF), supported by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, that opened opportunities for additional information sharing on diabetes disease management and fall prevention. The group’s Matter of Balance fall prevention course and Diabetes PATH self-management course allow seniors to be more knowledgeable and self-sufficient, as well as healthier holistically all adding up to a healthier way of life.

If you read one of our last Beyond the Card stories on the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, you know what an impact the MHEF’s support has had on the community.  It strives to improve the health and well-being of Michigan residents while reducing the costs of care via community programming and specific grants. One of such grants, for 2014 through 2016, has gone to the DAAA.

Specifically, the DAAA’s workshop Matter of Balance focuses on falling and is designed to help people who have fallen, or those at risk of falling, to improve their balance and reduce their risk of injury. According to Anita Kanakaris, Health and Wellness Manager at the Detroit Area Agency on Aging, many seniors “are afraid to go out because of the fall risk associated with moving around.” Seniors’ past experiences dictate what they do in the future. The DAAA works to empower seniors through support and resources that build their understanding of their body.

Matter of Balance also helps guide locals into exercise gradually. Class attendees “see that they can achieve their goals safely and are then not as afraid to accomplish everyday tasks such as walking around and going to the doctor,” said Kanakaris. The class is a commitment (two classes per week for four weeks) facilitated, in part, by MHEF monetary support.

In addition to the Matter of Balance workshop, the DAA hosts Diabetes PATH, a six-week self-management program that meets for a few hours, once per week. Health experts advise diabetes patients including providing simple tips like how to monitor insulin levels, healthy diet information, what to do if your blood sugar rises or falls too fast, and the best ways to communicate with your doctor.

Diabetes PATH participants are shown how to make slow, but effective, changes to improve their health. “We show them the ropes and, in the end, they’re able to feel self-sufficient and primarily manage the disease on their own,” said Kanakaris

Combined, Matter of Balance and Diabetes PATH programs have helped over 350 local seniors improve their balance and manage their diabetes. Participants have said they are “grateful for the chance to make healthy improvements to their lifestyle,” and “thought that the sessions would be harder, but were surprisingly enjoyable and easy to achieve success.”

Although the main part of MHEF funding for the DAAA goes toward the classes mentioned above, it is also spread more broadly across the organization. Transportation allocations allow seniors to connect with rides that will take them to sites offering A Matter of Balance and Diabetes PATH workshops, in addition to grocery stores, senior centers and other locales. Funding also provides incentives for seniors who complete classes, most commonly in the form of a Meijer gift card.

Kanakaris said that the DAAA’s upcoming goals for the program are to “go outside of our walls and reach out to seniors more openly, as well as fund opportunities for counseling and entrepreneurship in the senior community.”

To learn more about the DAAA’s various programming and their involvement with the Health Endowment Fund, visit detroitseniorsolution.com.

If you’re interested in more on keeping communities healthy, you may also want to read these #BeyondtheCard posts:

Photo credit: Nazareth College


This post is part of a storytelling series we call, “Beyond the Card.” These stories will feature Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan members, employees, and communities who are making meaningful differences throughout our state.

We invite you to follow Beyond the Card stories here at MIBluesPerspectives.com and through the hashtag, #BeyondtheCard on our social channels. If you have a story you would like to share, please feel free to contact us at stories@bcbsm.com.

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