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Grants Give Local Seniors a Leg Up on Healthy Living with Tai Chi, Yoga Classes

Original post made by Katherine Chouteau, another community, on Sep 4, 2007

Three recent grants are giving local older adults at Family Service Agency of San Mateo County's Fair Oaks Intergenerational Center a new leg up on healthy living. Two separate $30,000 and $12,000 grants from the Sequoia Healthcare District-along with an additional $13,000 grant from Sequoia Hospital-are providing $55,000 in funding for a Wellness Initiative at the Redwood City-based center. With funding from the grants already in place, Family Service's Wellness Initiative is expanding activities for low-income older adults that improve their health, well-being and quality of life.

At Fair Oaks, the threefold funding for the Wellness Initiative will be applied towards providing at-risk older adults with healthy breakfasts, as well as tai chi and yoga classes-building on work jumpstarted by a previous $20,000 grant from Kaiser Permanente for healthy breakfasts and yoga.

Family Service has identified that many low-income older adults often forgo buying groceries altogether to pay for utilities, medication, rent or other expenses. Thanks to the recent grants, Family Service has expanded the free healthy breakfasts Kaiser Permanente's grant funded at Fair Oaks-including fruit, yogurt and oatmeal-from two days to four days per week, which is critical to older adults' dietary needs and improved health. As a concurrent benefit, Family Service believes their expanded meal service will provide added incentive for clients to attend center programs on a consistent basis. This will allow Family Service to periodically evaluate older adults' health, provide further nutritional education, and encourage participation in the array of health and fitness opportunities available at Fair Oaks.

In relation to Fair Oaks' fitness initiatives, the recent funding has allowed Family Service to expand its existing partnership with the Sequoia Adult School to offer free tai chi and yoga classes two times per week each. Research has shown the impact of stress on physical, emotional and mental well-being. As such, Family Service hopes that the tai chi and yoga classes will help older adults overcome much of the depression and anxiety many feel as a result of isolation, loss and financial stability, and encourage their socialization. Led by instructors from the Sequoia Adult School, tai chi is offered at Fair Oaks on Mondays from 1:00-2:00 PM and Wednesdays from 11:00 AM-12:00 PM, while yoga is offered on Mondays from 8:45 AM-9:45 AM and Wednesdays from 9:00 AM-10:00 AM.

One Fair Oaks senior, 90-year-old Maria Christina Martinez, has been enjoying both the healthy breakfasts and tai chi classes. Aided by a Family Service translator, the Spanish-speaking Martinez commented, "I love coming to Fair Oaks. The food is wonderful and the tai chi has increased my ease-of-movement and flexibility. I feel energized after stretching."

Fair Oaks is one of many programs housed in the City of Redwood City's Fair Oaks Community Center. Family Service, operator of the senior program there, provides an array of vital services for older adults including nutritious meals, computer classes, life-enrichment activities, and more. The center serves over 1,500 older adults annually, 96% of whom have annual incomes under $25,000.

"Most of Fair Oaks' older adults have extremely limited incomes and are underinsured, so they don't receive regular health checks," commented Susan Houston, Family Service's director of senior services. "They also often can't afford gym memberships, live in unsafe neighborhoods where they can't take walks, and have difficulty accessing nutritious food on an ongoing basis." Added Houston, "Funding for Family Service's Wellness Initiative is integral because it enables us to provide comprehensive services that address the physical, emotional and mental needs of at-risk older adults, and in doing so, help improve and maintain their overall health and well-being."

Family Service will be conducting surveys of Fair Oaks older adults' to determine the impact of the Wellness Initiative. From the 50 or so participants expected to participate this year in multiple activities at Fair Oaks for more than three months, Family Service anticipates seeing increased reporting of physical activity, reduced levels of stress, anxiety and depression and increased intake of fruits and vegetables.

Fair Oaks welcomes older adults to visit their center to enjoy healthy meals and a wide variety of life-enriching activities, including exercise classes. The center is located at 2600 Middlefield Road, Redwood City, and can be reached via phone at 650-780-7525.

Located in San Mateo, CA, Family Service Agency of San Mateo County is a private non-profit organization that for 57 years has helped children, families and older adults build positive and productive lives through the provision of programs and services. For more information on Family Service, please call 650-403-4300 or visit www.familyserviceagency.org.

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