Community Education covers wide variety of health and wellness topics geared to older adults
By Alison Stanton
A typical Sun Health Community Education program features a local health expert sharing the latest information on a health-related topic and answering questions in front of a live audience.
It might seem like a quaint method of learning compared with the nearly instantaneous information available through a simple Google search.
“There’s a flood of information on the web about any and every health topic, but it’s not always trustworthy,” says Debbie Frankel, Sun Health’s Community Wellness Outreach Program manager. “Our speakers are experts in their field, and they present information that’s evidence-based.”
In her three years running the program, Debbie also has learned that most older adults still like face time with professionals. “They may not get that when they go to a doctor’s office where appointments tend to be very short. Here they can learn about the latest treatments, ask questions and get professional advice from a trusted source,” Debbie says. “An added benefit is that people learn they are not alone. The person next to them may have the same health challenges.”
Fran and Fred Zickert from Sun City West attend three to four presentations each month. “I grew up believing that you need to learn at least two new things every day, so Fred and I really enjoy the speakers and events,” Fran says.
The Zickerts were particularly excited about a recent talk titled “End of Life – A Physician’s Perspective,” which was presented by A. Collins Villamor, M.D. “We learned so much about end-of-life matters and how to prepare for those with advance directives, living wills and more,” Fran says. “Before this talk, we hadn’t done much to prepare. Now, we are getting things in order.”
An average of 25 Community Education presentations are held each month in a variety of West Valley locations. Most of those are a lecture format, but the program also includes fitness classes. According to Debbie, more than 9,500 people attended Sun Health’s Community Education classes in fiscal year 2018. Attendees are asked to fill out a survey after each presentation rating their experience. The survey also asks them to suggest future topics. “We take those suggestions seriously and I do my best to find speakers that are willing to talk about that topic,” Debbie says.
The programs, with a few exceptions, are provided at no cost to attendees. “It’s made possible by Sun Health Foundation donors and through partnerships with Banner Health and local organizations that host some of the talks, Debbie says. She adds that the speakers provide their time and expertise at no charge. “It truly is a community service.”
Leonard Lazoff, 89, regularly attends the talks held in Sun City. He doesn’t drive so he often walks to the events. “I mainly go to the talks that address my own health concerns,” he says.
Those concerns include pre-diabetes. “I want to make sure I’m not diagnosed with diabetes, so I appreciate any information that can help me avoid it,” Leonard says. “I’m not the best student in the world, especially with nutrition, but these classes help.”
Over time, Debbie has gotten to know many of the regulars like Fran, Fred and Leonard, and they’ve become like family to her.
“When I review the registration and see who has registered, I’m always happy when I see their names on the list.”