Jennie Lane residents learn to manage health issues
At age 91, Alice Schultz is chasing down cancer, and has trouble walking. She had to stop playing golf, a favorite activity, six years ago.
But at Springfield Housing Authority’s Jennie Lane Apartments, she is finding camaraderie and support in a program called ‘Healthy Living,’ where professionals help elderly and disabled people manage illnesses and conditions and get to know each other.
At Jennie Lane, six residents gathered recently to begin working with Neyda Garcia, an outreach worker from the Commonwealth Care Alliance, and Roz Forti, a social worker. The program is sponsored by Greater Springfield Senior Services.
Schultz said she is an active participant in SHA’s Resident Services programs and looks forward to this one in particular.
“I listen to everything they tell me,” said Schultz, who has lived at Jennie Lane for 15 years.
“I try to keep a positive attitude. With this program, I’m going to figure out what I need to do to make my life easier and handle my health issues,” she said.
Forti and Garcia hung posters show a self-management tool box, self-management tasks like ‘take care of health conditions’ and ‘manage emotional changes’, and brainstorming and guidelines.
“We help them identify their strengths, and give them a sense of hope,” Forti explained. “We work to improve the lines of communication between them and the health care professionals they deal with on a regular basis.”
Garcia said each participant will end up with a plan that will help them manage their health care issues. At the same time, they get to know each other and bond, forming ties that will strengthen what they learned in the program.
“We go above and beyond talking about their issues, to help them make real changes that will improve their lives,” Garcia said.
At the start of the first of what will be six weekly sessions, residents spoke one at a time, telling their health issues and the impact they have on daily life.
Conditions and illnesses included multiple sclerosis, congestive heart failure, arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and more. Some spoke of the depression and anxiety that comes with aging and dealing with health issues.
Jennie Lane Tenants Association President Jessica Quiñonez set up the program because she knew it would benefit residents, after hosting it in Spanish.
“I knew everyone would enjoy this and benefit from it,” said Quiñonez, who is also the resident representative on the SHA Board of Commissioners.
“It’s about how to manage your illnesses and issues, and trying to do better for yourself. They talk a little bit about everything,” she said.
Indeed, the two-hour session included a health snack, in this case a 100-calorie bag of salt-free popcorn.
Terry Miles of Wilbraham attends the sessions – they are free and open to anyone interested – to help manage his health issues, which leave him in a wheelchair.
“I’m here to get a new understanding of how to manage my illness,” he said.
Jennie Lane resident Janet Levierge said she always finds the programs help her. She said the friendships she has developed during her 15 years living there have also benefitted her quality of life.
“You learn so much in these programs, and you get to know your neighbors, which is great,” Lavierge said.
“I always learn something when I participate in these things.”
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