Why Senior Centers Should Care about Chronic Health Conditions
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Why Senior Centers Should Care about Chronic Health Conditions

November 9, 2012

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Nearly three quarters of today’s seniors are coping with at least two chronic conditions.

How can senior centers help?

One way is to offer evidence-based programs that empower seniors to improve their health and quality of life.

The facts on chronic disease

More than 77 million baby boomers are turning 65 at a rate of 10,000 per day, and 91% of them—over 281 million—have at least one chronic condition.

Nearly three quarters of seniors have at least two chronic conditions, which means they have even more challenges, such as limited functional status, unnecessary hospitalizations, adverse drug events, and conflicting medical advice—all of which lead to higher health costs for programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

Today, four chronic conditions—heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes—cause almost two thirds of all deaths each year. In 2009 direct health care expenditures for chronic conditions in the U.S. totaled more than $262 billion.

Why these seniors need senior centers

People living with chronic conditions spend about 1% of their time interacting with health professionals. The traditional medical model of caring for people with chronic conditions—which focuses more on the illness than on the patient—is expensive and ineffective. Addressing chronic conditions requires new strategies to help seniors delay health deterioration, improve function, and address the problems they confront in their day-to-day lives.

Senior centers can offer effective programs that improve older adults’ health, so they can maintain their independence and remain in their own homes and communities. Programs like the Stanford Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP) can make a big difference for seniors.

This low-cost program helps individuals learn how to manage and improve their own health, while reducing health care costs. The program focuses on common problems like pain management, nutrition, exercise, medication use, emotions, and communicating with doctors.

Programs like CDSMP can help seniors manage their conditions, improve their health status, and reduce their need for more costly medical care. Participants develop skills and coping strategies to manage their symptoms through action planning, interactive learning, behavior modeling, problem-solving, decision-making, and social support.

What your center can do

By offering an evidence-based program for seniors with chronic conditions, you can:

  • Help seniors take action for better health and improved quality of life.
  • Help people with diverse medical needs such as diabetes, arthritis, and hypertension develop the skills and coping strategies they need to manage their symptoms.
  • Reach hard-to-reach individuals because many of the programs are available in Spanish, and CDSMP is available in 21 different languages and online.

What seniors are saying about the CDSMP workshop

  • “I was tired. My pain was my boss. It was telling me what I could and couldn’t do. This workshop put me back in charge.”
  • “Now I have the energy to do the things that matter. I am more confident about my health and I got relief from my pain.”
  • “I put life back in my life.”
  • “I learned we’re all in the same boat, but the boat is not sinking!”


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