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Seniors get health advice at lunch

December 26, 2008|By MARIE GILBERT

Doctors might no longer be making house calls, but they'll meet you for lunch - as part of a program known as 55 Up that is sponsored by Washington County Hospital.

Interested in knowing more about diabetes or osteoporosis? Looking for ways to reduce stress or take better care of your heart?

Your questions can be answered while enjoying a meal with a physician.

As the name of the program implies, you have to be 55 years of age or older to attend.

"It's an informal way to discuss a wide range of health issues," said Cindy Earle, Community Health Education coordinator for the hospital. "It gives the public a chance to see the physician in a different light instead of just in a professional role. You see the doctor's personality and feel comfortable asking questions that might be on your mind."

The program has been around for more than 10 years and has always been very popular, Earle said.

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But about five years ago, some slight changes were made, including the program's name.

"We wanted folks to know exactly who the target audience was," Earle said.

It also had a change in venue and attendance.

"When I came on board about three years ago, it was held at the Village of Robinwood and was limited to 50 people," Earle said. "With a waiting list, we decided to move it to Robinwood Medical Center, where attendance grew to 125."

Today, 55 Up meets at Next Dimensions Dining & Catering on Old National Pike and draws an average of 150 people.

Earle said the luncheon is held once a month and almost always includes a physician as the guest speaker.

"Other organizations offer lunch and lectures," she said. "But this a little different. It always has to do with a health-related topic for senior citizens."

Earle said attendees have the ability to talk to a physician over lunch, followed by a more formal talk and questions.

"The core of it all is that we truly believe we can support senior health through knowledge," she said.

Earle said many of the program's participants have been attending the luncheons for years and havwe become a close-knit group.

"We really work on those relationships," she said. "We try to recognize birthdays and anniversaries. And, in December, we have a holiday celebration."

The group also has offered recommendations for future program topics.

"We want them to have ownership of this program and they do," Earle said. "We're always receiving feedback, and that's important."

Earle said the program has grown mostly through word of mouth. Organizers keep a mailing list of participants and send a letter out each month informing them of the next program.

Earle said she is pleased with the number of people who take time, once a month, to attend the luncheon. But she's not surprised.

"When we started, we knew attendance would multiply," she said. "It's a good program, and we all believe in it."

Earle said the luncheon affords older adults the opportunity to socialize.

"Senior citizens don't just struggle with physical challenges," she said. "They struggle with isolation and depression. This program serves many purposes."

Earle said the hospital has partnered with several sponsors to make the program possible, including Home Health Care, Hospice of Washington County and Loyalton.

She gives credit to the owners and staff of Next Dimensions, which hosts the luncheon, "for dedicating space and time for this program."

"They do cooking demonstrations, help us with skits and know many of our participants by their first names," Earle said.

Thanks to the sponsors, organizers have been able to keep the program's cost as low as possible. For $10, seniors receive lunch and an educational seminar, she said.

The next luncheon will be Jan. 27 and will feature Dr. Rhett Ecklund, a dentist, who will discuss oral health.

"It's a topic we've been interested in doing for some time," Earle said. "We want to educate seniors that good oral health affects their physical health."

To register or for more information, call 1-888-803-1518.

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