Texas A&M initiative promotes healthy aging

By Marcia G. Ory
Oct. 30, 2017 at 9 p.m.
Updated Oct. 31, 2017 at 1 a.m.

Dr. Marcia Ory

Dr. Marcia Ory   Contributed Photo for The Victoria Advocate

Who comes to mind when you think of an older person? Probably someone with a chronic disease or two - or even three.

Maybe someone who has trouble managing their health and medications, isn't very physically active and is concerned about falling.

Or maybe someone who needs family care or is providing care for another older person.

Some people may have negative views about older adults, such as, "They're sick and frail," "They're stubborn and stuck in their ways" or "They're unable to change their behaviors."

These negative perceptions can actually be detrimental to an older adult's mental and physical health.

This does not need to be so. While there is no magic cure-all, healthy aging is possible. Healthy aging can be achieved through a proactive community response that supports and encourages individuals and their families to engage in healthy behaviors and lifestyles.

Fortunately, Texas A&M's Healthy South Texas initiative fosters successful aging through programs for people of all ages, from well-baby care to programs for older adults with multiple chronic conditions such as diabetes.

The Healthy South Texas initiative is a combined effort by the Texas A&M Health Science Center and AgriLife Extension to help South Texas residents more effectively manage chronic and infectious diseases that carry a heavy personal toll and societal cost.

Healthy South Texas programs are successful because they promote small, everyday steps older adults can take to improve their health and well-being that can result in big population impacts.

The Healthy South Texas office in Victoria offers free diabetes education classes and information about how to get assistance paying for medication. It has also teamed up with the Victoria County Public Health Department, offering a community garden and benches on premises for resting between walking or being physically active.

"Healthy South Texas supports healthy living for people of all ages," said Starr Flores, director of the Texas A&M Coastal Bend Health Education Center, a component of the Health Science Center. "We recognize the need for older Texans to have access to education about diabetes management and medication assistance. Healthy South Texas also offers programs that promote good nutrition and physical activity."

As the baby boomer generation ages, the number of older adults in America is increasing dramatically and is likely to double by 2060, when nearly one in four Americans are projected to be 65 or older. In Texas alone, there are already more than 3 million people over the age of 65.

Texas is growing older. For example, about 10 percent of households in Victoria County include someone 65 years old or older.

The different programs offered by the program can help Victorians participate in more physical activities, prepare healthy meals, learn the skills to manage chronic illnesses and know where to obtain medication assistance - all factors that lead to healthy aging.

The projected population surge of older Americans has prompted Texas A&M University to establish a Center for Population Health and Aging, which brings together efforts from across the university, including Healthy South Texas, and multiple partner organizations. The center coordinates research and community programs to promote healthy aging.

For information on services offered by the Healthy South Texas office in Victoria, call 361-703-5441 or toll-free, 1-866-524-1408.

Marcia G. Ory, PhD, MPH, is the regents and distinguished professor in the Texas A&M Health Sciences Center School of Public Health and the founding director of the Texas A&M Center for Population Health and Aging.



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