Volunteers needed to teach health class


Published: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 2:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 2:37 p.m.

Last year, Ronald Jones decided to get some help maintaining his health.

Facts

TRAINING

* What: Elder Options training for Living Health With Chronic Condition volunteer session leaders

* When: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. July 14-15 and July 21-22

* Where: Gainesville Technology Entrepreneurship Center (GTEC), 2153 Hawthorne Road

* Information: Call 352-378-6649.

WORKSHOP

* What: Elder Options Living Health with Chronic Conditions chronic disease self management workshop

* When: 9:30 a.m.-noon Aug. 4, 11, 18 and 25, and Sept. 8 and 15

* Where: Elder Options, 100 SW 75th St., Suite 301

* Information: Call 352-378-6649.

Jones, 62, was grappling with high blood pressure and was concerned that without some lifestyle changes he'd develop diabetes, a disease that runs in his family.

Instead of relying solely on the medical advice of a doctor, he wanted to learn from the experiences of others who'd faced similar health issues.

So, Jones signed up for a free program offered locally by Elder Options, a nonprofit agency that administers state and federally grant-funded initiatives and provides services to seniors in Alachua, Bradford, Citrus, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Lafayette, Lake, Levy, Marion, Putnam, Sumter, Suwannee and Union counties.

In that Living Healthy With Chronic Conditions program, trained volunteers with longtime health issues such as arthritis, stroke, lung or heart disease or diabetes shared their advice and personal experiences on how to manage medical problems.

"It's one thing to hear it from a doctor, but it's easier to swallow hearing it from people who have been through the same thing as myself," Jones said.

"It was a support group, but it was also an inspirational group. It was let's encourage one another. If you want to do it, it can be done because there are other people who have gone through it."

After Jones went through the program, he decided to put his work experience as a consultant and facilitator to use by signing up as a volunteer session leader.

He has since run several sessions.

Now, Elder Options staff is looking for more people to follow his lead, either as program participants or volunteer leaders. On Monday at the Tower Road Library, a new six-week program on managing diabetes was scheduled to start.

The workshop on managing diabetes comes shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report stating that more than 29 million people in the United States, about 9 percent of the country's population, have diabetes. That was an increase of 3 million from 2010. Another 86 million people have pre-diabetes, or elevated blood sugar levels that put them at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Earlier last week, a diabetes expert at the University of Florida described the report's conclusions as alarming.

"It's a crisis and this certainly is a call to action," said Dr. Desmond Schatz, the medical director of the UF Health Diabetes Institute and vice president of the American Diabetes Association. "This tells us that there is an ongoing crisis and we need to enhance our actions to treat and prevent this disease."

Betty Flagg, an administrator with Elder Options Division of Community Outreach and Healthy Aging, said Elder Options began offering the federally funded chronic disease management program in 2010. It was initially funded through the Affordable Care Act and is now funded through the Department of Elder Affairs under the Older Americans Act, she said.

Christopher Curry is a Gainesville Sun staff writer.

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