Managers, Directors and Center
Senior Center Best Practices
Senior Center/Nutrition Program/Organization Name
Friendship Circle Senior Center
1515 Lansdowne Road, Darby, Pa
Christine Helmandollar, Center Director
Passport to Health
“Passport to Health” is a
customized, collaborative, evidence-based program that has encouraged older
adults in our Delaware County, Pennsylvania community to increase their daily
activity, gain valuable knowledge about nutrition and live a healthier
lifestyle. Since 2007, Senior Community Services (SCS) has partnered with
neighboring Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital and the Area Agency on Aging, County
Office of Services for the Aging (COSA) to bring this innovate program to SCS’
Friendship Circle Senior Center. This is both a participatory as well as an
educational program that promotes physical activity and wellness education. This
evidence-based health promotion program couples informative lectures with
opportunities for physical activity and uses a creative template to generate
interest. Springboarding from the “passport” theme, during the 13- week
semester-long program, participants take an imaginary trip to historical sites
across the United States. Along the way these older adults “earn miles” that can
be redeemed for prizes as they attend health education lectures (fuel stops) or
engage in physical activities (tune ups).
Long term participant goals include increasing wellness knowledge and interest
in fitness thereby improving quality of life - specifically, reducing
limitations in daily living activities and the likelihood of depression.
Short-term outcome measurements are also tracked. Client assessment data is
collected pre and post the 13- week sessions to include basic physiological
indicators such as weight and blood pressure (BP), specific health knowledge and
questions from a functional assessment and/or quality of life instrument.
Every week, health professionals such as physicians, physical therapists,
nurses, and pharmacists from Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital come to the senior center
to facilitate a workshop on a particular health topic. Attending a lecture,
means adding “miles” to a participant’s “Passport to Health!” Here is a snap
shot of some of the “fuel stops” participants took during the fall of 2007:
Interactive Workshops from Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital~
• Eating Healthy as We Age
• Putting Your Best Foot Forward with Diabetes
• Your Heart Health
• Managing Your Hypertension
• Living Life to the fullest after Stroke
• The ABC of Diabetic Medications
• Weight Management
Participants have many options for getting their passport miles at “tune ups”
for engagement in fitness activities. They can become a member of Friendship
Circle’s Walking Club, where each Wednesday a group convenes to walk a mile or
two on a designated route. Another option is to attend one of SCS’s Center for
Lifelong Learning classes.
Friendship Circle Fitness Classes~
• Line Dancing once a week
• Tai Chi once a week over 8 sessions
• Fitness Over 50 Exercise class twice a week
• Tap Dancing once a week
• Healthy Living Nutrition Education Class offered by Penn State Cooperative
Extension twice a month
Gently promoting a completive sprit, a tracking grid is displaced on a wall in
the Center, noting participants’ status in the program. Names are listed along
with the “miles” they have accumulated each week.
Time and Manpower
The Center Manager and Program Coordinator spend time each week during the
13 weeks on coordination of speakers and "check-ins" of partcipants.
Together, Friendship Circle and Mercy have developed and marketed brochures,
posters and a detailed fact sheet for each lecture.
The actual "Passport" booklet is very extensive and does cost a lot for
duplicating. It does need to be reproduced every time a new program begins
because the "destination" is different each time.
Please contact the Center Director for samples of the materials. We have done
"trips" around Philadelphia; up to New England; to Las Vegas, etc. and would be
happy to share out "Passports".
Equal participations from Caucasian and African American Seniors with low to
Local hospital and Area Agency on Aging
From a budget standpoint, this program cost approximately $2,000 to
start-up. Mercy-Fitzgerald provides many of the services of evaluating,
instructing, organizing, graphic design, etc. in-kind. The majority of the grant
funding was allocated to marketing and promotion as well as incentive gifts for
Passport to Health is easy to replicate especially in an environment where
fitness classes are offered and a neighborhood health center is willing to
collaborate. For years, Friendship Circle Senior Center has offered exercise
classes twice a week with a dance class offered on a third day. SCS suggests
anyone interested in replicating this program to recognize the importance
“choice” plays in exercise. It is imperative to offer options – as Friendship
Circle has learned offering participants a variety of exercise classes as well
as lecture topics.
Partnering with a health care facility such as Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital has
been abundant and truly a win-win experience. It not only adds visibility and
credibility to our center’s programming but it is rewarding for hospital staff
to provide stimulating lectures to a genuinely interested audience.
Impact On Center
Many success stories have been generated by participants on their weight
loss, increased ease of walking, decrease in high blood pressure, etc.
Hospital staff shared with gratitude what a learning experience this has been
for them. Many doctors have even offered to follow up with original
participants. Furthering this new collaboration, the hospital has included
Friendship Circle in additional hospital events such as their annual health and
community fair. It has been a win-win situation for both the Senior Center as
well as the neighboring Hospital.
Passport to Health also gave the Center a lot of exposure as in 2007. The
program placed first in a state-wide competition for the “Prescription for
Better Health & Wellness”, making it eligible for the national competition where
it received Honorable Mention.
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