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Broward County Partners with Health Foundation to Promote Healthy Aging

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The Broward County Commission recently approved a $171,495 agreement with Health Foundation of South Florida to implement evidence-based health programming with at least 900 older adults beginning in January 2010. Specifically, the County's Elderly and Veterans Services Division will be implementing the Living Healthy, EnhanceFitness and Healthy IDEAS programs.

Living Healthy, developed by Stanford University, is a six-week program which offers workshops geared toward enabling older adults to build self-confidence and assume a major role in maintaining their health and managing chronic health conditions.

The workshops, taught by specially trained leaders, some with health conditions themselves, cover weekly topics such as pain, fatigue, medication, nutrition and exercise; providing opportunities for interaction and group problem solving. The program is particularly helpful to participants with arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and anxiety.

EnhanceFitness is a fun and dynamic exercise program for older adults that focuses on stretching, flexibility, balance, low impact aerobics, cardiovascular and strength training. The program, which is provided by certified instructors, is offered three times a week. Elders engaged in EnhanceFitness typically grow stronger, become more limber, boost activity levels and elevate mood.

Healthy IDEAS is a low-cost national model for addressing depression among older adults. This program, which is integrated into existing senior case management services, assists community providers in identifying depression and empowering elders to participate in activities that decrease depressive symptoms. Healthy IDEAS also expands the capacity to address depression in older adults through provider training and collaboration.

Gabriel Ochoa, the Division's coordinator responsible for the Living Healthy and EnhanceFitness initiatives, said, "These programs were developed and proven through a research process to effectively improve health outcomes within the senior population. We have already heard directly from elders that these interventions have increased their activity levels as well as enhanced their sense of self-determination and wellness."

Luis Nicola Aguilar, the Division's Healthy IDEAS Coordinator, said, "Having the opportunity to partner with the Health Foundation and provide an intervention that increases seniors' awareness and promotes their engagement in healthy behaviors and activities is invaluable and, at the same time, these initiatives are professionally developing our agency's case managers."

These programs are part of Health Foundation's Healthy Aging Regional Collaborative of South Florida. This Collaborative brings together a Leadership Council comprised of local, state and national community leaders, policy makers and aging experts in an effort to ensure health promotion among older adults in South Florida. The Healthy Aging Regional Collaborative seeks to raise regional awareness of the importance of healthy aging, recommend and facilitate community partnerships and advocate for relevant public policies.

Broward County Commissioner Lois Wexler serves on the Leadership Council as does Elderly and Veterans Services Division Director Stephen Ferrante.

"This program is vital to our elderly population and promotes the concept of aging gracefully in place," said Commissioner Wexler. "There are many benefits to personal health management and exercise, but few programs are developed specifically for senior citizens. This will help our residents live healthier, more productive and happier lives."

"We are proud to partner with Broward County's Elderly and Veterans Services Division in providing programs to improve the health of older adults," said Health Foundation President and CEO Steven E. Marcus, Ed.D.

Health Foundation of South Florida, a non-profit organization, is dedicated to improving health in Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. By funding providers and supporting programs to promote health and prevent disease, the Foundation makes a measurable and sustainable impact in the health of individuals and families. For its nationally recognized Healthy Aging Regional Collaborative, the Foundation has allocated $7.5 million over five years to community partners for programs designed to improve the health of older adults. Since 1993, the Foundation has awarded more than $84 million in grants and program supports.

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