Social and Community Context

102 - Social and Community Context: Benefits of Community Engagement and Social Interaction

Monday, July 16
1:15 PM - 2:30 PM
Location: Palladian Room-Lobby Level

Cassandra Barragan, MSW, PhD-Fitness, Social Interaction, & Belonging: Conversations about Social Connection with Participants of Senior Fit
Cassandra Barragan, MSW, PhD--The Importance of Opportunity to Build Social Networks for Older Adults: Understanding Motivation for to Participation in the Senior Fit Program and Differences Between Rural and Urban Areas
Janice Tyler, BA-Bringing the Community together to become “Age-Friendly”: Orange County, North Carolina
Liz Woodward, BA, MA-Walk Maryland: A State-Wide Health Promotion Initiative

Concurrent Session I B. Social and Community Context: Benefits of Community Engagement and Social Interaction.
Community engagement for healthy aging has many benefits for both the individual and the community. This session presents initiatives developed at the community, county and state levels to improve healthy living for older adults (OAs) and the community at large. Senior Fit, a hospital sponsored exercise program for community-dwelling OAs, has reached over 850 OAs at 21 locations in both urban and rural areas. Social isolation has been identified as a significant contributor to increased Medicare expenditures, and opportunities to reduce social isolation are limited for OAs, especially in rural areas. Survey results suggested OAs in rural areas were more likely to join Senior Fit with an intentional purpose to make new friends. Focus groups further suggested that Senior Fit gave participants a sense of purpose, provided opportunity for friendship and support, and improved personal outlook. Participants collectively felt part of a community and perceived the social benefit as at least equal to the physical benefit of the program. Orange County, NC has developed five-year “Master Aging Plans” (MAPs) since 2000 to guide policy and programs impacting older adult residents. These Plans have brought together representatives from local government, healthcare, community-service organizations and community residents to determine the greatest needs and identify ways to address them. The AARP/WHO Age-Friendly Communities framework was used to organize efforts for 2017-2022. Six Work Groups addressing 8 livability domains were created. Work groups determined goals, objectives, strategies and outcome indicators which were incorporated into the comprehensive Age-Friendly Communities plan. Over 200 individuals were involved, including 27 public agencies, 10 non-profit groups, 4 healthcare systems, and at least 40 private individuals. Walk Maryland is a statewide initiative aimed at increasing physical activity through the promotion of Maryland’s state exercise: walking. The program is an annual collaboration between state agencies and local partners including the Maryland Department of Health, the Maryland Department of Aging and the University of Maryland Extension. The presentation will review the history and development of the statewide Walk Maryland Day program and discuss the Maryland Department of Aging’s 2016 Older Marylanders Walk a Million Miles and 2017 Senior Centers Walk Maryland campaigns. Details on collaborative processes, methodology, and results will be discussed, along with specific examples of how walking was promoted at both the state and local level as a healthy way to increase physical activity.

Presented by AARP Foundation

Learning Objectives:

Cassandra Barragan, MSW, PhD

Assistant Professor
Eastern Michigan University

Dr. Barragan worked as a social worker in health care settings for over 20 years with a majority of that time spent in long-term care. She has an extensive working knowledge of both state and federal policies that specifically impact the aging population. She works closely with agencies in the community to learn about challenges faced by older adults and how to make connections that students, faculty, and community members. It is through this work that she has developed relationships leading to work with St. Joseph Mercy Hospital and the evaluation of their Senior Fit fitness program. This is an extension of Dr. Barragan’s research to learn more about the impact of social support on well-being following stressful life events.


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Janice I. Tyler, BA

Orange County Department on Aging

Janice Tyler is the Director of the Orange County Department on Aging and the past President of the N.C. Association on Aging. She is currently the Vice-President of the NC Coalition on Aging. She served two terms as the Chair of the N.C. Senior Center Alliance and remains an ex-officio member of the the steering committee. She is also a member of the Southern Gerontological Society, the American Society on Aging, the National Council on Aging and the National Institute of Senior Centers. Prior to being appointed the Director of the Orange County Department on Aging in 2011 she worked 24 years as the Senior Centers Administrator. In March 2018 she will celebrate 31 years of service with Orange County Government. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, has completed advanced study in aging and is a graduate of the N.C. Division of Aging’s Ann Johnson Senior Center Institute.


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Liz Woodward, BA, MA

Food & Wellness Programs Coordinator
Maryland Department of Aging

In her current role as the Food & Wellness Programs Coordinator at the Maryland Department of Aging Liz is responsible for managing health promotion programming and initiatives across the state in partnership with area agencies on aging, senior centers, and other aging services providers. Her work also includes the management of food programs for low income older Marylanders. Liz has a background in grant and program management in aging and disabilities services and holds a BA in Sociology from DePaul University and an MA in International Physical Activity and Health from Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg.


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Sharon L. Ricks, MA

Regional Health Administrator, Region 4
HHS, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health

Sharon Ricks, MA, is the Regional Health Administrator for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She is the senior federal public health official focused on improving health outcomes for 65 million Americans in the 8 southeastern states and 6 tribal nations. She has 32 years of federal experience and 23 years at HHS. Mrs. Ricks began her federal career in 1986 at the U.S. Agency for International Development. In 1995, she joined HHS where she supported public affairs activities at three of the National Institutes of Health. In 2001, she joined the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health where she has worked to promote women’s health, reduce infant mortality, and end human trafficking. She has also been a strong advocate for environmental justice, health equity, and the justice-involved. She received her BS in Journalism from the University of Maryland University College in 1990 and her MA in Journalism from Regent University in 2004.


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102 - Social and Community Context: Benefits of Community Engagement and Social Interaction

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