Programs in U.S., Canada Win Mindalert Awards

Article excerpt

A program bringing elders and teens together in Cyberspace, another using the creative arts to activate older people with early-stage Alzheimer's, and a national model for helping people blooaa in late life through their guided autobiographies are winners of the 2003 MindAlert Awards. Established by the American Society on Aging (ASA) and the MetLife Foundation, the awards recognize innovations in mental-fitness programming for older adults.

According to Sandra Timmermann, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute, Westport, Conn., ''Based on research showing that cognitive decline is not inevitable in aging, these awards recognize programs, products or tools that promote cognitive fitness in later life.'' This year's awards were given in three categories: Normal Mental Fitness, Innovative Dementia Program.

CYBERSENIORS, CYBERTEENS

The CyberHealth project of CyberSeniors-CyberTeens is an unusual Internet-based, intergenerational consumer health-education programprovidingbasic hands-on computer training and health literacy traiaing,both specifically designedfor older adults. Not only is the program offered in English and Spanish, it also reaches many elders who are underinsured, underserved and live in rural areas.

More man simply training older individuals to become savvy about tapping into quality health information on the Net, CyberHealth used technology to evaluate how connectivity to the Internet's information and communication resources affects elders' health-seeking behaviors and outcomes.

CyberHealth was begun in 2001 as a two-year pilot project in two states by CyberSeniors.org, based in Portland, Maine, as part of its CyberSeniors-CyberTeens program. Currently being extended to more than 2,000 older adults in 14 states, CyberHealth is an intergenerational partnership with the AARP National Retired Teachers Association and the National 4-H Organization. In the program, retired teachers work beside technology-savvy 4-H youth, using CyberSeniors.org's curriculum to train people age 50 or older how to use Internet resources to achieve better health, prolong economic independence and find electronic avenues for continued learning.

The focus of CyberHealth, which is available at the website www.cyberse niors.org/cyberhealth, is "Successful Aging: What can one can expect? What can one do to promote it?" CyberHealth is a collaboration between CyberSe niors.org, the Maine Partnership for Healthy Aging, Harvard University's Geriatric Education Center, the National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine and other partners. In developing the program, CyberSeniors.org conducted extensive feasibility testing with multiple focus groups including elders, healthcare professionals, health educators, literacy experts, teachers and medical mentors.

In the hands-on CyberHealth workshops, which are teacher-facilitated, older adults learn how to retrieve credible online health information; how to drill down into a site to obtain information they need; how to weigh the accuracy, reliability and timeliness of content; how to use information culled from the Internet with their Healthcare providers; and how to use the Internet's communication resources to reach out to others who are dealing with the same health or wellness issues.

THE GIFT OF GAB

The techniques of guided autobiography pioneer James E. Birren of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), are at the heart of the Authobiographical Studies Program. Created jointly by the UCLA Center on Aging and the Education Division of UCLA Extension, the program won the 2003 MindAlert award for innovation in older-adult learning.

Courses in autobiographical studies Program aim to release the cognitive and motivational to potentials of pre- and post-retirees. By participating in the courses in autobiographical studies, individuals review where they have been in life, where they are and where they would like to be. …