GSSS seeking volunteers to help teach seniors how to stay healthyAug. 22, 2011
By Lori Szepelak
SPRINGFIELD Catherine Banks is a firm believer in lifelong learning, which serves her well in her latest role as a volunteer coach for Greater Springfield Senior Services (GSSS).
Banks is a lead presenter for a new program titled “Healthy Eating for Successful Living,” which recently wrapped up at the Mason Square Senior Center.
The “Healthy Eating” program is one of three educational courses being offered by GSSS, thanks to grant funding provided by the federal Administration on Aging.
Volunteers are currently being sought to help older adults learn how to manage their own healthcare and stay healthy.
“This is a great way to learn something new, keep active, and help others benefit from making healthy lifestyle changes,” Mary Jenewin-Caplin, GSSS director, said. “Experience in the subject matter isn’t necessary. We are just looking for people with good communication skills, enthusiasm, dependability and a willingness to lead small groups of older adults.”
The three courses that need volunteer coaches are:
- “A Matter of Balance” Reduces the fear of falling as well as prevents falls, and touts exercises to increase core strength and balance.
- “Healthy Eating for Successful Living” Teaches participants about nutrition and how lifestyle changes can promote better health.
- “My Life My Health” Provides tools for dealing with pain, fatigue, and improving communication with physicians and family members.
Banks, a retired associate dean of students at Springfield College, met weekly for six weeks with 14 seniors at Mason Square to discuss the importance of eating a balanced diet.
“We need to eat a variety of foods and we need to pay attention to portion size,” Banks said.
Banks said her presentations also focused on the importance of reading nutrition labels.
“If we are dealing with high blood pressure, we need to look at the sodium levels in the item, if we are experiencing high cholesterol, we need to look at the fat content, if diabetic, we need to look at the number of grams of sugar,” she said.
Banks also stressed the importance of incorporating regular activity into one’s daily schedule.
“The overall goal of the healthy eating program is to improve nutrition and activity among participants, focusing on heart healthy and bone healthy food choices and supportive physical activities,” she added.
Banks encourages area residents who enjoy volunteering their time with older adults to consider being a volunteer coach.
“I really enjoyed my experience with Greater Springfield Senior Services and in particular, working with this wonderful group of seniors,” Banks said. “I would encourage anyone considering it to volunteer. It is an opportunity to continue learning yourself, to assist others with their interest in learning, and to make many new friends.”
Volunteers who are enthusiastic, dependable, and reliable are encouraged to be a course coach, according to Jenewin-Caplin. Classes are conducted in a variety of venues throughout the region, ranging from senior centers, libraries and colleges to medical offices.
“The healthy aging courses are evidence based,” Jenewin-Caplin said, adding, “They offer education in a supportive group setting that has been proven effective to support positive life changes.”
For more information about volunteering for any of the programs, call 781-8800 ext. 148.
GSSS serves Agawam, Brimfield, East Longmeadow, Hampden, Holland, Longmeadow, Monson, Palmer, Springfield, Wales, West Springfield and Wilbraham.