Upper Shore Aging Launches Diabetes Screening and Health Education Program

Upper Shore Aging recently received a $279,500 grant from the Thome Aging Well Program to launch its new Diabetes Screening and Health Education Program and use that screening and outreach as a catalyst for engaging and re-engaging seniors in its Senior Centers. The Thome Aging Well Program, funded by the Edward N. and Della L. Thome Memorial Foundation, awarded $6 million to 10 Maryland and 12 Michigan nonprofits to support aging-in-place initiatives. The programs focus on improving older adults’ physical, mental, and financial health, supporting their productive aging, emotional well-being, and social engagement, as well as improving the built environment that enhances their physical safety.

More than 100 applications were submitted for the grants, signifying the great demand for funding to enhance and expand proven programs in senior communities. Stephany De Scisciolo, VP, of Impact, Evaluation, and Population Health at Enterprise, commented, “There is a deep need for continued support of organizations that serve the growing population of older adults who want to age in their homes and communities.”

“For this round of grants, we built on our previous success and extended the grant opportunity to any organization providing home-based services, including those who help older adults modify their homes to make it easier for them to continue to age in place.”

Upper Shore Aging’s program is offered to seniors who reside in Caroline, Kent, or Talbot counties. Through a series of weekly health education offerings beginning in May 2024 at the Kent, Talbot, and Caroline senior centers, class participants can enjoy a fun setting with activities, challenges, and prizes – all with the focus of improving their health and their quality of life.

To kick off the program, Upper Shore Aging has hired Theresa Barker, MS, as its part-time Health Educator in implementing the program. Passionate about healthy lifestyles and disease prevention, Barker’s dedication and enthusiasm aim to empower individuals, foster community wellness, and build meaningful relationships in the communities served by Upper Shore Aging.

“Theresa is committed to enhancing the well-being of the seniors in our community. She possesses a unique blend of knowledge and compassion, essential for positive health outcomes. With contributions to health information services research at the NIH, blood and marrow cancer research at UM Medical Center, and support for palliative care patients and family members at Luminis Health, she brings a wealth of expertise applicable to human services organizations,” comments Andy Hollis, Executive Director of Upper Shore Aging.

“This is a unique opportunity for me to be on the front line implementing a program and serving as a resource to bring awareness and excitement in free community resources geared towards healthy lifestyles and ultimately increase our seniors’ quality of life,” comments Barker.

Barker completed a graduate degree in healthcare administration from the University of Maryland University College in 2013. She recently enrolled in a graduate certificate program in industrial and organizational psychology at Grand Canyon University.  She also holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Maryland College Park.

“I understand how to connect with and motivate people of all ages.  My hope is to empower our seniors to utilize the resources and also build connections with their peers, which many of this population are missing,” Barker comments.

“Seniors deserve to have social interaction with those who are there for them to support and enjoy in this journey that they’re on in this part of their lives. I believe it takes an individualistic approach to building relationships with seniors to get them excited about participating in a program like this. A major part of my outreach will be going to senior living communities to spread the word about our program and Upper Shore Aging’s senior centers, as well as figuring out what we need to offer to re-engage seniors in the community,” she adds.

The program will initially focus on participants of the Meals on Wheels program with a free screening for diabetes, but will not be limited to them. It will reach out to individuals who may not have returned to their activities after COVID to re-engage them in classes and activities.   Meals on Wheels participants will also have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

“If we address the risk factors, we can help prevent diabetes and the associated comorbidities such as heart disease, kidney disease, and eye disease in this senior age group. It’s a preventative program for seniors who are at risk because of their diet and lack of exercise. We plan to offer exercise and nutrition classes, as well as integrate seniors into existing exercise and nutrition programs and fun activities at the senior centers,” Barker adds.

For further information, contact Theresa Barker at tbarker@uppershoreaging.org or call 410-778-6000.

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