Memories of working with the elderly in a health and wellness promotional event: an Elder Walk.
Pic: by Silka Miesnieks
With all the excitement and great participation that has been seen lately in Zumba exercise programs for seniors, it made me reminisce about what we did in the formative days of health promotion for that population: an Elder Walk.
In 1992, I was working at St. Tammany Parish Hospital STPH in Covington through the Senior Care Elder Membership program, so we were marketing to the 50 + folks to get them to use the hospital for their needs and offered health promotional programs to entice them to improve their health status.
How can I forget the times when a senior would bring in to our office a big shoe box of stacked letters from hospitals or other providers of care with either bills or those famous “EOBs” (Explanation of Benefits); the latter would simply be statements noting billing processing for what some seniors would unfortunately pay diligently for when in actuality, they were not obligated to pay for yet as MediCARE or a Secondary Insurance was still handling the case.
Back then, Covington and the Mandeville area were still growing “sleeping communities” for commuters taking the then longest bridge in the world (23.83 miles -38.35 km.- long), Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, composed of two parallel bridges, to and from New Orleans. It was great for me, since I was commuting against traffic, starting from the Uptown/Carrollton area.
Phyllis, my Assistant, and I worked with the STPH Auxiliary “Pink Ladies (and Men)” volunteers to coordinate health promotional senior activities, so we got on the bandwagon of the what was more practical for elders from the jogging craze era – a walk.
How can I forget running in the 1st Crescent City Classic in 1979, starting in the French Quarter at Jackson Square and meandering down Prytania Street with an end run through the front part of Audubon Park and closing the race behind the Zoo near to the “Butterfly” concession stand next to the Mississippi River? I don't know how I did that 10K in 38:53? I used to love to read about Jim Ryun (not pun intended!) and his marathons!
So we got with the leaders of the Auxiliary and planned for an Elder Walk in May, a mile-long promenade in the scenic Bogue Falaya Park near to STPH. We scheduled it during Older Americans Month to highlight the connection to health and wellness for seniors. It was fun getting the course laid out and and inviting senior organizations, EMS and other community service programs to participate in the event.
Back then, after having gotten a graduate social work school specialty in gerontology (study of aging) and having worked in senior services for years per a Council on Aging (COA) and other services and a hospital, I used to keep a pulse on positive promotions for seniors.
Earlier, while Social Services Director at the New Orleans COA, it was neat to send in the names of Centenarians (a person who lives to or beyond the age of 100 years) to the Governor's Office of Elderly Affairs, so the individual would be mailed a recognition for that achievement from the Governor!
So before commuting to work, I would love watching the NBS Morning News Show with Bryant Gumble, Jane Pauley and Willard Scott; the latter, a Weatherman, would daily announce recognitions to Centenarians from around the country. It was fun also to note whether Willard would wear his toupee or not, as he had to have one of the best tops I've ever seen, and he would randomly use it or not!
So I decided to mail Willard Scott a T-Shirt that we had made for our STPH Elder Walk, not really thinking he would use it. Well lo and behold, on the day before our event, Willard gleefully held out our T-Shirt and gave us a great plug!
The weather turned out wonderful that day for our promenade, and a great time was had by all. I still have that VHS copy of the taped Willard Scott promotion of our STPH Elder Walk from back then! Since Willard is now in his own seasoned age, I'm sure he's Zumba-ing on himself!
Keith Horcasitas, LCSW, MHA, 1133 Knollhaven Drive, BRLA 70810, khorcasitas.yahoo.com, November 24, 2013.