Wellness Communities for Senior Lifestyles
A Connected Experience
Routine exams and preventive care visits are common at every age. But as women reach 50, regular screenings and conversations with health care providers are crucial for staying active and independent and lowering the risk of future complications, according to Dr. Mark Thompson, president of Wisconsin Medical Groups for SSM Health.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends a number of routine screenings for women age 50 and older to detect breast cancer, cervical and colorectal cancer, high blood pressure, bone density, osteoporosis, abnormal blood glucose levels and type 2 diabetes. (The frequency of these screenings varies; consult your health care provider for more details.)
These visits are also an opportunity to talk about overall wellness, no matter where patients are in their health journey. As women age, they may encounter limited mobility or joint issues, for example. Thompson says it’s important for women to work with their physician or advanced practice provider so they can keep moving and doing the things they enjoy.
“We have many wonderful physicians who work with women throughout their life,” Thompson says. “It’s great for women to have a long-standing relationship with someone who knows their history and can help them overcome any limitations and achieve their health goals.”
Thompson says that over his career, he’s seen a shift to more patient-focused care, building services around women and their unique health needs. “We’ve worked to be more compassionate and caring, and deliver a better overall care experience,” he says. “How can we eliminate barriers to health care? How do we design women’s care centers so they’re more welcoming and more comfortable?”
This mission is supported by the unique structure of the SSM Health organization, made up of physicians, clinics, a hospital and a health plan working together to improve delivery of, and access to, health care. “Our goal is to provide a connected and exceptional experience for all our patients.”
AgeBetter with Sharing Active Independent Lives (SAIL)
The most recent “Profile on Older Americans,” prepared by the Administration on Aging, reports that 34% of women over the age of 65 live alone. Among women over 75, the number rises to 44%. And yet community and socialization remain strong contributors to quality of life and good health as people age.
SAIL, a program of the nonprofit AgeBetter Inc., is a vibrant membership association of people 55 and older in Dane County. Members are invited to access benefits, including a vetted vendor list, educational and social events, volunteer opportunities, tech support and other services to make one’s life easier, safer and healthier. Over 70% of SAIL members are women aged 59 to 99, and most are single. “Overall wellness is greatly impacted by how we live our lives — how we nurture our cognitive, physical, emotional and spiritual needs,” said Program Director Nicole Schaefer.
Thanks to the inspiration and engagement of members and local experts, the SAIL community addresses these key components of wellness. Throughout the year, a variety of educational programs focus on how to manage some of the natural changes that occur with age. Knowledge is powerful when it comes to prevention — learning how to avoid falls, adverse drug events, cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes, etc. Members can tap into myriad resources aimed at healthy aging: medication reviews and health coaching, discounts to local fitness classes, home safety assessments and adaptation, handyman services, professional organizers, geriatric care providers, personal assistants and more.
Members live throughout Dane County, and one of the most appreciated benefits of SAIL is connecting with others and building friendships. Small group gatherings, helping one another with light chores or transportation, leading a class for fellow members, calling or doing a virtual visit with one another or simply staying in touch by sending a note or email are just some of he ways SAIL members stay connected and engaged.
At the end of the day, SAIL is proof that “it takes a village” to age well! If you’d like more information, call SAIL at 608-230-4321 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. SAIL’s website: www.sailtoday.org
Based on the “Village” model, SAIL is a charter member of the Village to Village Network (www.vtvnetwork.org), a growing movement of similar organizations throughout the nation. To date there are over 250 “villages” and over 100 in development.
SAIL is a program of the nonprofit organization AgeBetter, Inc.