The Plan4Health project in Kingston, New York, is working to create a healthier environment for all through Live Well Kingston (LWK), a city-endorsed coalition of organizations, businesses, and individuals.
LWK is more than a coalition working for the community. LWK is the community, striving to increase opportunities for healthy eating and active living through focus teams.
The Age Well, Travel Well, Eat Well, Play Well and the soon-to-be-added Heal Well teams help make the coalition’s vision a reality. The policy, systems, and environment changes identified by the focus teams align to develop a shared agenda for the coalition as a whole.
Marge Gagnon, RN, MS, CNS, is a member of the LWK leadership team, working with the Age Well focus team to ensure the voices of seniors are part of the work to support healthy, active lives.
As a Clinical Nurse Specialist and a nonprofit professional, Marge approaches the Age Well focus team with a passion for improving health and a commitment to prevention:
“I believe the driver for health outcomes are the social determinants of health. Yes, we are thinking in terms of nutrition and physical activity for Plan4Health, but health is much broader and impacts every aspect of our lives.”
As part of the Plan4Health initiative, Marge has worked to conduct community assessments, gauging the needs of seniors in Kingston, listening and learning from their experiences. She shared a few of her thoughts with the Plan4Health team.
What was one thing you learned from Age Well focus groups?
The focus groups provided me a chance to connect with seniors that are often overlooked. It’s great to chat with seniors who are already participating in activities or who are active, but I wanted to make sure that we heard from other voices, too.
I already knew this, but the focus groups confirmed it: the gap between seniors and the rest of the world is widening. Technology is a great tool for connecting. But if you’re not connected already, technology is very isolating.
I used the phrase “Google it” when conducting a focus group and was met with blank stares — most in attendance had never heard the term. Most had no link with technology: no cell phones, no computers. It’s frustrating when technology is so far removed from this segment of our population, and yet it is the system’s primary tool for communication.
The focus groups also confirmed that seniors have so much to offer our communities! Life experience is important and powerful — and we need to make sure the senior perspective is at the table.
What does “age well” mean to you?
For me, the Age Well focus team is an opportunity to impact the lives of seniors in Kingston, to make it easier to have healthy lives — social lives as well as physical activity — and it’s about recognizing the complexity of the aging process. Aging is especially challenging if you are living on a limited income and we need to remember that it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Aging well is also about changing the way we think about aging. I like the phrases “active aging” and “maturity reimagined.” I think that gets at what Plan4Health is about, too. How do we rethink our daily lives, our typical experiences to make space for healthier options? Biking to work doesn’t seem like a revolutionary act, but it’s the same type of thing. Biking to work means that streets are safe for bicycles and I’m incorporating a healthy activity into my routine. Aging well will be a series of small steps that add up to a different way to live our lives.
Why are you so passionate about this work?
I’m passionate about activating people, especially seniors. Our Kingston seniors have ideas, requests, demands — and I want to let them know that we are listening!
To learn more about all of the LWK focus teams as well as the impact of the Plan4Health project, check out this podcast from New York Metro Chapter President James Rausse:
Images from Live Well Kingston (livewellkingston.org).