Aging Well: Workshop helps older adults take active role in managing their diabetes |

Aging Well: Workshop helps older adults take active role in managing their diabetes

Tamera Manzanares

Perhaps more than ever, advances in diabetes treatment and education are helping people with the disease to live longer, healthier and happier lives.

Many people, however, still experience serious complications that often can be delayed or prevented altogether with better practices.

Individuals with diabetes must make decisions every day to ensure their health. Because of this, experts are emphasizing diabetes programs that provide these individuals the tools and confidence to take more responsibility for their health.

Healthier Living Diabetes is a community-based program that empowers older adults to do this through specific self-management techniques, goal setting and peer support.

The Aging Well program of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association will be offering the free, six-week workshop in Oak Creek beginning Feb. 10. More workshops will follow in other parts of Routt and Moffat counties.


Diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic conditions among older adults — about 23 percent of adults 60 and older have the disease, according to the 2007 National Diabetes Fact Sheet by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health.

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The report estimates that people diagnosed with diabetes spend about twice as much on medical costs than individuals that do not have diabetes.

Diabetes is a condition in which the body does not make any or enough of the hormone insulin and/or does not effectively use insulin to change glucose derived from sugars, starches and other food, into energy. This results in blood glucose levels or blood sugar to be too high.

Type 2 diabetes, in which the body makes insulin but does not use it the right way, makes up the vast majority of new diabetes cases every year.

People can live with slightly elevated glucose levels for many years. Although sometimes mild or gradual, signs such as blurry vision, fatigue, hunger, thirst, weight loss, frequent urination and slow healing cuts or bruises, are signs of the disease. In time, diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, nerves, teeth and gums.

Individuals with pre-diabetes or higher than normal blood-glucose levels that aren't quite high enough to be considered diabetes, actually can prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes with healthy lifestyle changes.

Support among peers

Diabetes education programs, along with doctors, provide people with diabetes information and ongoing support to help them monitor their condition.

Healthier Living Diabetes, modeled after a program developed by Stanford University, is an ideal supplement to these resources because it provides support in a non-clinical setting among others coping with similar hurdles.

The workshop, which includes a workbook for reference, is driven by group discussion and participation.

Within this setting, participants learn about self-management practices such as exercise, meal planning, counting carbohydrates, monitoring blood glucose, communicating with doctors and family and how to implement those tools into their lives.

"It is quite an eye-opener discovering how many carbs are in the foods you are used to eating every day and how to amend those numbers as needed to accommodate your particular circumstances," said Kathy Shea, who will be leading the class with two other instructors.

She added that the workshop helps take the guesswork and anxiety out of planning meals and managing other aspects of diabetes.

A key component of the program is setting goals and following through with those goals with an action plan. Participants revisit their plans sharing successes and challenges with others in the class. Each person also has a "buddy" who checks in with them between classes to see how they are progressing.

Shea, who copes with rheumatoid arthritis and has participated in a Healthier Living workshop, has found the this aspect of the program particularly helpful.

"It's cathartic to be in a group of people with similar circumstances," she said. "The empathy that comes out after everyone is settled and comfortable is pretty significant."

In addition to individuals recently diagnosed with diabetes and those who have are looking to improve self-management, the workshop also can be helpful to people at risk for developing diabetes and others who want to support a family member or friend who has the condition.

For more information the Healthier Living Diabetes class in Oak Creek, or to sign up for future classes in other communities, call 871-7676.

— Tamera Manzanares writes for the Aging Well program and can be reached at Aging Well, a division of Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, is a community-based program of healthy aging for adults 50 and older. For more information, visit or call 871-7676.

Healthier Living Diabetes workshop

The free, six-week workshop provides adults 50 and older tools to better self-manage their diabetes. The workshop will be from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Feb. 10 through March 24 (no class March 3) at the Oak Creek Community Center (above the library). The location is handicap accessible.

Hot lunch, provided by the Routt County Council on Aging, is served from noon to 12:30 p.m. The workshop will include breaks and refreshments. For more information or to sign up, call 871-7676.

Healthier Living Diabetes instructor Jeanne Upbin will discuss the upcoming workshop at 12:30 p.m. today during South Routt Wellness Day at the Oak Creek Community Center. VNA nurses will be available to test blood glucose.