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Janice Hall and Christine P. Boyd at the Macon County Celebrate and Educate Birthday Party for senior citizens.

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – At the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, everyone is welcome. Whether you are 9 or 99, Alabama Extension has something for you. A great example of this is found in Macon County Extension’s “Let’s Celebrate and Educate: Preparing for the Future” program. This program takes a new approach to educating senior citizens.

The program celebrates Macon County seniors ages 55 and up with a birthday party. The event is complete with traditional party items such as cake, gifts and games. Now in its second year, the program holds three parties each year. Participants attend the program date that coincides with the month they were born. In addition to the celebration, seniors also learn more about many topics that affect those living in their golden years.

According to Janice Hall, the Extension coordinator for Macon County, there are a lot of seniors that do not know about the resources that are available to them. A key part of the Let’s Celebrate and Educate program is the educational presentations and activities that highlight some of these resources.

“When I talk to seniors, sometimes they are at home and have nowhere to go, especially after they retire,” Hall said. “This party is a great opportunity for them to get out of the house, have some fun and also learn more about all of the resources that are available to them.”

Party Activities

Through the different parties, Hall has invited several medical and legal professionals to present. Some of the topics that have been covered include Medicaid, Medicare, wills, power of attorney, advanced health directives and more. Hall said one of the activities that the seniors do is create a notebook that can house important medical records. To make the notebook complete, each senior has a birthday photo of themselves taken and printed at the event to insert in the front cover.

“The notebook has templates for various doctors, medical history, important letters and other medical information,” Hall said. “It is a great tool for family members to use in the event that they have to speak on their senior’s behalf.”

After each party, Hall looks for ways to enhance the next program by incorporating more resources that the seniors can benefit from. One of the newest additions is the free health screenings conducted by the Tuskegee University and Auburn University colleges of nursing.

“For some of the seniors, it might have been a couple of months since they had their blood pressure or glucose checked,” Hall said. “This is an opportunity for them to see what their current readings are. Having these screenings at the party may help uncover some things that need to be addressed with a doctor.”

No Strings Attached

For Hall, getting to serve her community is one of the things she loves most about working for Extension. She sees Extension as an ideal outreach tool for providing resources that address the needs of a community.

“My heart is to serve people with no strings attached,” Hall said. “I don’t want anything from you. I want something for you. At these parties, people tend to see how much they can get out of it. They often leave asking when the next one is or what else Extension does. So, this program is a great opportunity for people to see what else Extension has that they can connect with.”

Laura Downey, Alabama Extension’s assistant director for human sciences programming, said this program is a great example of how Extension brings people together to improve individual and community well-being.

“Current evidence suggests that there are healing effects of social connection and community,” Downey said. “The Celebrate and Educate program is a community-centered investment that Extension makes to foster social connection and well-being for senior citizens in Macon County.”

Alabama Extension’s Impact Statewide

This Macon County program is just one example of how Alabama Extension is making a difference for Alabama’s senior citizens. Downey said the educational programs and resources that Extension offers help individuals and families improve their quality of life across the lifespan.

“Extension is a trusted source of information in communities across Alabama,” Downey said. “As a trusted source, we can help senior citizens make better decisions and develop skills to improve their physical, mental and financial health and well-being.”

Some of the topics covered through Extension’s statewide outreach efforts include diabetes self-care, financial literacy, identity theft protection, independent living and more.

  • Through the Successful Aging Initiative, Alabama Extension is helping seniors live more independently. The program’s resources include topics such as fall prevention and recovery, basic estate planning, fraud/scams and healthy aging.
  • The Diabetes Empowerment Education Program helps people with prediabetes and diabetes better understand how to manage the disease. Through this program, people better understand topics such as glucose self-monitoring, management of A1C levels and healthy meal planning.
  • The Virginia Caples Lifelong Learning Institute looks to create stimulating and educational environments for seniors. Housed on the campus of Alabama A&M University, the institute provides a series of activities, courses and workshops in the spring and fall each year.

For more information on these programs and resources, visit the Alabama Extension website at www.aces.edu.