Community ministry 

Church leaders and public health officials team up for a health seminar for seniors.

click to enlarge Members of Community Alliance for Healthy Aging present Being Your Best at Any Age, the organization’s seventh health workshop for seniors, on May 31. - LAURA EASTES
  • Laura Eastes
  • Members of Community Alliance for Healthy Aging present Being Your Best at Any Age, the organization’s seventh health workshop for seniors, on May 31.

Several years ago, members of northeast Oklahoma City’s Redeemer Lutheran Church were polled about what ministries to pursue. They overwhelmingly supported community ministry. As a church limited in resources, leaders called upon other local churches to come together to partner. Trinity Presbyterian Church, located almost a mile north, answered the call. When members of both churches sat down, discussion centered on how to educate and raise awareness of issues affecting the health of older citizens, especially those who lived in the nearby African-American neighborhoods.

With help from New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church and CareLink of Oklahoma, the church members presented their first health workshop in spring 2012. Over the past six years, church members and public health officials have presented all-day workshops on diabetes, stroke, legal needs of the aging, emergency preparedness, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and sex. Beginning at 8:30 a.m. on May 31, the group, now called Community Alliance for Healthy Aging, presents its seventh workshop, Being Your Best at Any Age, at Oklahoma City-County Health Department’s Northeast Regional Health and Wellness Campus, 2600 NE 63rd St.

Financial exploitation

The upcoming workshop’s key session covers the financial exploitation of the elderly, which is a growing form of abuse of seniors and adults with disabilities. It can arise from misuse of powers of attorney, guardianships and estate and trust administrations as well as fraud and scams. It can also be as simple as a family member skimming money from their grandparent or a parent every now and then.

Kimethria Jackson, a student in the doctoral program at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center College of Nursing, who will lead the session, said financial exploitation of elders can be accompanied by other forms of elder mistreatment.

Jackson’s involvement in the Community Alliance for Healthy Aging workshops began years ago when she was asked to facilitate a panel discussion on financial exploitation of the elderly during the workshop focused on legal needs of seniors. Jackson, who wanted to explore the issue for her dissertation, selected the panel discussion and the participants’ reactions as a feasibility study to learn if people would even discuss this sensitive issue. The answer was yes.

This finding was crucial in Jackson’s community-based participatory research. It discredited other studies that suggested this type of abuse mostly involved white victims. From personal experience, Jackson already had a hunch that wasn’t exactly true.

“There is that piece of the research missing,” Jackson said. “I know this happens because it happened to my mother. If it happened to my mother, it has happened to other mothers.”

At the workshop, Jackson will invite participants to submit to follow-up contact for personal interviews about their experience with financial exploitation.

Community reach

Community Alliance for Healthy Aging members said the most popular workshops have centered on topics that could be viewed as controversial.

“We have learned that the topics we think people don’t want to talk about they will talk about if you make the environment safe, open and nonjudgmental,” said Dr. Patsy Smith, an OU nursing professor and member of Trinity Presbyterian Church.

Smith said when discussing topics like elderly sex or financial exploitation, presenters are clear in their explanations and educate participants on the topic. When it comes time for questions, participants are eager to ask for more information.

“We have learned that many haven’t had an opportunity to talk about these issues,” Smith said.

Dr. Janet Wilson, an OU nursing professor, said there is always “parking lot talk” once the sessions are over. Participants linger in the parking lot to discuss what they’ve just learned with friends.

Carol Reinke, a member of Redeemer Lutheran Church, said they see many repeat participants.

“On one of the evaluation sheets, a lady wrote, ‘I look forward to this,’” she said.

In addition to the session on financial exploitation, other topics discussed during the workshop include communicating with people suffering from dementia, effective communication with health care providers and physical activity.

“We try to put a mixture of topics together that will be of interest to older adults,” Smith said. “We always try to mix in a couple of exercise sessions. … We help them know that exercise can be done in bite-size pieces throughout the day rather than a trip to the mall for walking for an hour. As people manage chronic disease, we know that they might not have the energy for that much at one time. … They can fit exercise in with other activities around the house.”

The upcoming workshop comes after a hiatus. In recent years, the alliance has partnered with OUHSC College of Nursing to present health fairs. Now, the alliance is returning to its roots with workshops. Members are already in conversations about a fall workshop.

Register for the free workshop by emailing or calling 405-427-6863.

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