NCOA Empowers Older Adults to Master Aging

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Vanessa Sink

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Fun and engaging program prepares boomers and seniors for unprecedented longevity

Arlington, VA – Today’s boomers and older adults will live nearly a decade longer than their parents, with twice as many years in good health past age 65. This incredible gift of longevity comes with both opportunities and challenges, including how to make the most of these bonus years.

“Growing up, we learn the skills necessary to carry us through adulthood—how to get a job, keep a home, and support our family and community,” said James Firman, president and CEO of the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and creator of the Aging Mastery Program® (AMP). “However, few of us learn how to make the most of our bonus years and how to prepare for the complex health and financial challenges facing us as we age.”

NCOA developed AMP to engage boomers and older adults in this new phase of their lives. The program addresses three societal trends—increased longevity, rising health care costs, and a population of older adults with unprecedented free time. The program combines three key elements:

  • Classes: The program is anchored in a 10-week core curriculum that covers topics such as exercise, sleep, healthy eating, financial planning, healthy relationships, and advance planning. The classes combine evidence-informed materials with knowledge sharing, goal-setting, feedback routines, and daily practices. Classes are led by expert speakers and are held at a variety of community sites.
  • Peer Support: Classes bring 20-25 older adults together for shared learning and encouragement. Participants take the AMP journey with one another and support each other along the way.
  • Merit Achievements and Rewards: AMP encourages and recognizes mastery—helping older adults develop sustainable behaviors across many dimensions. AMP also uses token rewards to incentivize small actions that can lead to big rewards.

AMP started in 2013 as a pilot in five sites. It has grown rapidly as boomers and older adults enthusiastically embrace it. Today, the program is offered at 120 sites across the country, serving more than 2,000 participants. Plans for 2016 include expanding the program to additional cities and developing an online program to reach even more older adults.

“Our research results show that a majority of participants have made positive quality of life changes after completing AMP,” said Emily Dessem, Director of Aging Mastery Program Community Partnerships. “With a graduation rate exceeding 90% and demand at pilot sites growing exponentially, we’re looking at innovative ways to scale the program.”

Initial pilot tests with 500 participants in 14 senior centers showed statistically significant improvements in:

  • Advance care planning: 54% of participants took action
  • Healthy eating habits: 53% took action
  • Medication adherence: 53% took action
  • Communication with health care providers: 42% took action
  • Participation in evidence-based programs: 57% took action

“Even more importantly, participants are almost universally telling us that they’re having fun,” said Dessem. “For many of the graduates, AMP is life-changing and inspiring.”

“I’m a boomer and when my generation was young, we thought we could change the world, but we found that we didn’t have the knowledge or influence necessary,” said Firman. “Now, we have a lifetime of experience and the time to do so much more for ourselves and others. AMP is designed to equip people with new skills and insights, so that they can make the most of their bonus years and do more for themselves and others—while staying healthy, financially secure, and focused for years to come.”

To learn more and see a map of Aging Mastery Program® locations visit www.ncoa.org/AMP.

About NCOA

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a respected national leader and trusted partner to help people aged 60+ meet the challenges of aging. Our mission is to improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are struggling. Through innovative community programs and services, online help, and advocacy, NCOA is partnering with nonprofit organizations, government, and business to improve the health and economic security of 10 million older adults by 2020. Learn more at ncoa.org and @NCOAging.