Small Steps to Health and Wealth for Older Adults

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010, 12.9% of Americans was over age 65 (Vincent and Velkoff 2010). By 2030, 20% of Americans will be over age 65 (Vincent and Velkoff 2010). Diversity among older adults has also increased. This increase in the number and diversity of older adults has monumental implications for healthcare spending and retirement planning and management.  Today older adults carry greater responsibility for their financial and health care matters than ever before.

Behaviors including participation in physical activity, self-management of chronic diseases, or use of preventive health services can improve health outcomes of older adults (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2012). Additionally, older adults may experience unfamiliar stressors from not having enough money to live on, loneliness, having to depend on other people, family issues, and caregiving (Choi and Jun 2009). As the senior population increases, and seniors are living longer, the demand for information to cope with later life health and personal finance issues will likely increase.

The Small Steps to Health and WealthTM for Older Adults curriculum is the older adult component to the Small Steps to Health and Wealth TM (SSHW) program developed by Rutgers University. The older adults component of the SSHW program was developed by the University of Florida. The original SSHW program has demonstrated success. Program participants have reported positive health and financial behaviors changes. It is hoped that the older adults component will build on that success by motivating older adults to improve their lives through behavior change strategies (small steps) for both health and financial management. An Extension curriculum addressing both the health and financial management needs of older adults did not previously exist. The lessons were informed by focus group discussions with older adults about their health and financial challenges and a survey of Extension educators regarding county needs. The program article titled “Small Steps to Health and Wealth for Older Adults” in The Forum for Family and Consumer Issues http://ncsu.edu/ffci/publications/2014/v19-n1-2014-spring/gillen.phpprovides an overview of the program including a description of the lessons.

Written by: Dr. Martie Gillen