San Jacinto College Community Education offers tips for Healthy Aging Month

09.22.2017 | By Jeannie Peng Mansyur

PASADENA, Texas – Only one-half of U.S. adults meets the minimum guidelines for physical activity, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. September’s Healthy Aging Month aims to change that along with the San Jacinto College Community Education Center. Dr. Janice Sullivan, dean of community education, provides some tips on how easy it is to do so.

What are some important factors to healthy aging?

Sullivan: As we age, our bodies transform. For instance, our heart rate becomes slightly slower; our bones tend to shrink in size and density; digestive problems become more common; and memory might naturally become less efficient. We need to be aware of those changes to facilitate our overall well-being. According to the Mayo Clinic, these factors are critical to healthy aging: Physical activity, healthy diet, staying mentally active, participating socially, avoid smoking, manage stress and getting enough sleep. 

What are some important health screenings to consider later in life?

Sullivan: It is very important to get an annual comprehensive physical exam from your doctor. Blood work should be done to monitor for cholesterol, hormone levels, blood sugar, kidney function and liver enzymes. Colonoscopies and prostate exams should be scheduled. Women should receive well-woman examinations, which includes a breast exam, a pap smear and a pelvic exam. Men should receive well-man exams annually; this includes urinalysis, a prostate androgen blood test and a testicular exam. Getting your annual physical exam can detect health problems early on and increase your chances of overcoming them.

How important is "staying active" later in life?

Sullivan: Regular physical activity is essential to reduce the affliction of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It can prevent early death and help our muscles grow stronger. It also increases flexibility, which is crucial for movement and balance as we age. Regular physical activity will keep us doing our daily activities without becoming dependent on others.

Older adults need at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, along with weight training muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups.

Furthermore, social interaction helps ward off depression and stress, which can contribute to memory loss. Look for opportunities to get together with loved ones, friends and others. 

San Jacinto College offers events and classes to enrich people's lives. How can people use these to their benefit in healthy aging?

Sullivan: Leading a healthy lifestyle is important at any age. Reducing stress, eating right, and exercising are key to healthy aging. We have a variety of programs for people over 50 years of age that teach exercises and ways of movement that rejuvenate the body, lower stress and encourage a mindset of mindfulness in our physical lives. We also have free workshops that teach people about traditional Chinese medicines and techniques that can be used at home. We are constantly adding new courses and programs to serve our community.

What are some of our more popular classes geared toward healthy aging?

Sullivan: Some of our most popular classes include Pilates, Tai Chi, aromatherapy, ballroom dancing, therapeutic yoga and Reiki. These courses give community members a chance to learn new methods of physical and mental wellness in a relaxed, enjoyable environment. Spending leisure time doing what a person enjoys also increases one’s quality of life. Many individuals enjoy our motorcycling, retirement planning, cake decorating and beaded jewelry classes.

In addition, personal enrichment courses in foreign languages and technology help us maintain a sharp mind. We also offer several Spanish courses, which are always very popular, and many people benefit from our basic computer courses that teach popular software programs, email and the Internet. These courses help older adults stay in touch with modern technology and communicate with their younger family members.

What are some examples of events the College offers that focus on healthy aging?

Sullivan: We are proud to announce that the San Jacinto College Central and North Campuses each operate a Community Education Center. Every month, new and relevant workshops are offered at no cost to the community. Past special events have included healthy cooking demonstrations, Texas A&M University’s AgriLife Nutrition workshops and MD Anderson’s cancer prevention programs.

On a regular monthly and weekly basis, we also offer stretching and relaxation, our Healthy Aging Film Discussion Group and a computer workshop for seniors. Most recently, the centers featured helpful seminars to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

For a calendar of free events, please call 281.478.2786 or email CommunityEducation@sjcd.edu. Reservations to attend events are requested and recommended.

About San Jacinto College 

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, since 1961. As a fiscally sound institution, the College currently holds bond ratings of AA and Aa2 by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, respectively. San Jacinto College is a 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Rising Star Award recipient and an Achieving the Dream Leader College. Approximately 45,000 credit and non-credit students each semester benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success. The College offers eight areas of study that prepare a diverse body of students to transfer to four-year colleges or universities or enter the workforce with the skills needed to support the growing industries along the Texas Gulf Coast. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce. 

For more information about San Jacinto College call 281-998-6150, visit sanjac.edu or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.