Minds, Bodies and Spirits Aging Gracefully

As New Hampshire’s population grows older – and is expected to keep following that trend – the older residents, their families and friends, and the community as a whole seek ways to help them manage their lives in a variety of ways. Fortunately, the Upper Valley hosts no shortage of services and programs to assist in this effort. The state’s largest hospital and employer, of course, is involved in supporting the region in a big way.

The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Aging Resource Center is committed to improving the minds, bodies, and spirits of older adults in the Upper Valley, helping them to become more active, connected, and supported. At the center’s main office at Centerra Parkway, and in the annex at the Upper Valley Senior Center, they offer educational classes; exercise and balance programs; opportunities to explore creativity through art and writing; support groups; assistance to complete Advance Care Plans; and support and education for people with dementia, their families, and caregivers. Event registration is available on the center’s website or by phone, email, or walk-in. Upper Valley residents do not need to be patients at the hospital in order to join events or use any of the Center’s services; the Center is open to all.

Program Leader Lori Fortini, MEd, herself a Lebanon resident, has been working at DHMC since 2001 and moved from the Office of Care Management to the Aging Resource Center in January 2016. “It has been the perfect fit bringing together my love of working with people, my appreciation of the experience and wisdom of our elders, and all of my training and skills,” she says. “The Aging Resource Center is a very special place.  Every day is a joy to work with the dedicated and talented staff here.  And of course, the people who come to our Centers are so appreciative for our help.  We learn so much from them and we receive much more than we give.”

Gladys Gerendler from Lebanon participates in the Aging Resource Center’s Gentle Yoga for Older Adults class which meets at the ARC Annex. Despite being billed as ‘gentle,’ Gladys says the class is still challenging, but she feels much better after joining. Gladys originally started with a more basic beginner class called A Matter of Balance, and she has now moved up to a more advanced program called Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance.  She says that the combination of falls-prevention programs and Tai Ji Quan worked. She is happier and more confident now, saying, “I am no longer the person that you knew. I am different!” She notes that her health and balance have improved noticeably as a result of the programs.

For people diagnosed with or caring for someone with dementia, dealing with the disease can often be overwhelming and exhausting. The Aging Resource Center has caregiver support and engagement programs that teach coping strategies, and provide a bit of respite from the daily routines of older residents. One Saturday per month, the center sponsors the Upper Valley Memory Café at the Howe Library in Hanover, which provides breakfast, music, exercise, activities, and a chance to socialize in a safe, stress-free space with students from Dartmouth College, Geisel Medical School, and local high schools. Lori mentions the program enthusiastically, saying, “It is a time to just be yourself and know you are among friends with no judgement or expectations.”

Liz Downs, also from Lebanon, participates in many of the Center’s programs, and is grateful for the support she received from the bereavement support group, facilitated by their chaplain, after losing her husband. When asked about the Aging Resource Center, Liz stated: “Where do I start?  It feels like my second home. Every time there is a need, you meet it.”

For more information about the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Aging Resource Center, you can visit their website at www.dhaging.org, call them at 603-653-3460, or send an email to agingcenter@hitchcock.org.