Western, Pardee Hospital honored for geriatric “best practices” program

CULLOWHEE – A series of collaborative programs offered by Western Carolina University and Pardee Hospital to help the growing population of senior citizens in Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina enjoy longer, healthier lives has been recognized as among the best geriatric practices in the Southeast.

WCUPardeeaward04Called the Initiative for Integrative Aging, the partnership between Western Carolina and Pardee was recognized by the South Carolina Geriatric Best Practices Initiative at a recent conference in Charleston, S.C.

Funded by the Duke Endowment in collaboration with the South Carolina Hospital Association and managed by the Sage Institute in Spartanburg, S.C., the best practices initiative examined more than 300 service programs for senior citizens in North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida to arrive at 16 exemplary programs showcased at the conference.

The Western-Pardee Initiative for Integrative Aging was named a “best practice” based on the quality, sustainability and impact of its programs and capacity to replicate programs to other communities, reviewers said.

The partnership between the university and hospital is part of an on-going effort to ensure that the region’s aging population will experience a high quality of life with increased independence, extended longevity and continuing contributions to society, said Western Chancellor John Bardo.

“There is no doubt that our population is aging, and the trend is especially evident in the Southeast. How we manage the aging trend will make an enormous difference for our region,” Bardo said. “If we can keep seniors healthy and active longer through such approaches as the Initiative for Integrative Aging, community life and our economy will be the richer for it. Failing to do so will have enormous social and economic consequences.”

The Initiative for Integrative Aging includes several programs designed to help seniors lead productive and independent lives and increase longevity:

* The Care-Giver Series, which provides a curriculum for certified nursing assistants and registered nurses. Offered in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and residential retirement communities, the program offers specialized training to health care staffers who work directly with the elderly.

* The Great Life Series, which includes workshops, retreats and excursions designed to help persons age 60 and older remain independent and healthy and to promote community engagement. Topics include nutrition, exercise, memory retention, life planning, reducing injuries, care-giving, essential legal issues, managing medications and maintaining driving skills.

* Western’s certification program in gerontology, offered on both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Designed for adults who work full time, the curriculum addresses an assets-based model of aging that emphasizes the role of lifestyle in extending independence and longevity. Western will offer an undergraduate certification program this fall in cooperation with Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock.

* “It’s About Life,” a weekly 30-minute radio program on successful aging on WHKP-AM in Hendersonville, featuring retirees who exemplify positive aging, area professionals who offer advice on aging well, and children who share “Great Life Essays” about older adults. The program is sponsored by the Pardee Foundation.

Western and Pardee also sponsored “An Evening with Art Linkletter” in spring 2002 and last October’s “Aging With Grace,” a conference on aging with Alzheimer researcher and author David Snowdon. The events were supported by grants from the Community Foundation of Henderson County, Pardee Foundation, Kanuga Conference Center and Salomon Smith Barney.

“It is an honor to be recognized for the innovative programming and effective collaborations that are dedicated to the care of our community members, and to be able to share our successes with our colleagues in other communities,” said Sandy Smith, senior vice president of operations at Pardee Hospital. “Both Pardee and Western Carolina have always been at the cutting edge of the best of care for the older adult.”

For information on the programs in the Initiative for Integrative Aging, contact Marcia Caserio, Western’s regional director of educational outreach, at (828) 694-1829, toll-free (800) 928-4968, or via e-mail mcaserio@wcu.edu (link no longer active).