Editor's Note: Judi Bjork is the vice president and general manager of the Enrichment Center at Renaissance on 9th and Jackie Godlewski is the center's activity director.
We don’t know what we don’t know. This has been a recurring thought in our minds since we had the privilege of facilitating the Aging Mastery Program® at the Enrichment Center at Renaissance On 9th in Bradenton. When we were presented the opportunity to offer this 10-week course from the National Council on Aging, which is supported in our region by The Patterson Foundation, we thought it would be a great opportunity to re-educate our volunteers and members about some key skills helpful for maintaining independence long into retirement. But now, as we reflect on our initial launch, we are amazed at how much we have all learned in the process.
Each week, the participants left the class armed with new information and skills they were challenged to incorporate into a daily practice. Daily practice is an important aspect of the course because knowledge without application is, well, just knowledge. The goal for our graduates was to be empowered to make and maintain small but impactful changes in their behaviors that promote health, financial fitness and social engagement.
Each week we brought in a guest speaker with expertise on the day’s topic. The speakers were instrumental to the learning experience. In-depth discussions and group exercises awaken and motivate the participants who left each week saying, “this was the best week yet!”
The results are already astounding. One participant overcame her challenge with tremors, realizing it was her own fears that were a key trigger for the tremors in the first place. Another participant, who has been hearing health tips from their spouse for years, is now discovering that there was some truth to those tips and is now paying much closer attention. We are hearing stories of newly discovered self-empowerment. One participant has found herself speaking up in social situations where she would have previously kept quiet. And one woman recently shared the eye-opening realization that retirement is not an event that passively happens. She now understands she has a very active role to play in how the rest of her life plays out.
On December 11, we celebrated the Aging Mastery Program® Graduation Ceremony with our participants. They expressed some valuable feedback with a positive ambiance and gratitude for the opportunity to encounter this class. In addition to an incredible learning experience, they felt close and lasting relationships developed among their fellow classmates.
Our next class, which launched this week is fully reserved, confirming the need for such a program. As we move into 2016, we are excited about the future of the Aging Mastery Program®. We are honored to be a part of such a life-impacting program, and we are anxious to bring this empowering course to our community in Bradenton and in Manatee County.
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