Aging is something that we all hope to master, but are you aware of available support to help you age well?
The National Council On Aging (NCOA) created the Aging Mastery Program to help people learn how to create their own path for aging well. Piloted first in 2013, the goal was to help individuals set personal goals and take small steps toward positive behavioral changes. A study done by Temple University just three years later found that: “Among participants, approximately 75.6% of participants attended sufficient classes to be considered completers (seven out of ten sessions).” Showing that not only were people signing up for the course, but most of them were completing it!
The program lasts 10 weeks and each week covers a different topic including:
- Navigating Longer Lives: The Basics of Aging Mastery,
- Exercise and You,
- Healthy Eating and Hydration,
- Financial Fitness,
- Advance Planning,
- Healthy Relationships,
- Medication Management,
- Community Engagement, and
- Falls Prevention.
Dr. Susan Stiles, one of the team members who helped design the program, shared a bit more about the program with us. She joined NCOA six and a half years ago with a background in design thinking and management consulting. She and her colleagues incorporated elements of behavioral economics into the program in order to incentivize people to look at their lives a bit differently.
“The program is a starting point — it’s very much about looking inward and also sharing knowledge with others,” according to Dr. Stiles.
Wellness programs can often be prescriptive and lay out a complete plan for individuals to follow. The goal of the Aging Mastery Program is to assure that participants develop their own personal goals, are grounded in the new world of longevity, and are actively looking at longevity from a perspective of gratitude.
“We believe that every person can build their own playbook for aging well and be motivated to take positive actions in their lives. Motivation needs to come from within each person in order for healthy habits to form,” said Dr. Stiles.
The Aging Mastery Program started with 5 pilot sites and has since grown to 650 sites nationwide with about 25,000 people who have gone through the classes. Classes are supported by grants and foundation funding, bought by area aging departments, or sponsored by different corporations and healthcare organizations.
Dr. Stiles said, “The overall objective is to deliver the program for free for as many people as possible.”
For those who don’t have the program in an area near them, there is also an Aging Mastery Starter Kit, a self-serve version of the program that can be bought independently and covers the same material. This Starter Kit is a good choice for homebound individuals and caregivers who can’t make it to in-person classes.
Virtual classes and social discussion hours like GetSetUp are also helping to reach those who can’t leave their homes and are in search of learning and socialization activities geared toward older adults. The success of programs tailored to older adults shows that these services are necessary and only increasing in popularity.