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Several years ago a feisty senior named Yvonne Ford told her pastor at Normandale Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Edina, Minnesota, “All you do for seniors is give them a nice funeral.” Following that prod, many things have happened to give that church one of the most comprehensive arrays of programs for seniors in the metro area.

Options range from monthly seniors lunches to a broad range of programming from the Normandale Center for Healing and Wholeness. Large-print Sunday bulletins were even an off-shoot of the effort for seniors. Daytime services were added at Lent, for example. “We aim to have a once-a-month trip or educational program,” said Fred Arndt, outgoing chair of Normandale’s Senior Committee. One upcoming event is a trip to the Old Log Theater in Excelsior, Minnesota.

Normandale Lutheran Church's resource coordinator Candace Barrick (right) shows a client brochures that help her decipher health care information.

Within the healing and wholeness area are programs on topics such as the importance of good balance to seniors, living with chronic illness, dietary hints for heart-healthy holidays, and “Five Wishes” seminars on health care directives. The parish nurse has her office in the center. Blood pressure checks are offered Sundays and at the seniors’ luncheons, and there is an active foot-care clinic that recently expanded to two days each month.

Large-print Sunday bulletins were an off-shoot of the effort for seniors.

On the cutting edge is a developing “virtual community” called Partners in Care which utilizes the Internet to connect older residents with family members wherever they live and, in turn, direct them to resources to help seniors “age in place.” The University of Minnesota Institute for Health Informatics is helping with design and programming.

Programs to encourage health

Currently the Normandale Center for Healing and Wholeness is partnering with the Fairview Crosstown Clinic under a grant from the state of Minnesota to develop healthy aging and prevention programs. The program is open to 30 older people living in Edina or Bloomington, Minnesota, and 30+ of their family members. Family members do not need to live within the state of Minnesota. They are required to use the Partners in Care web-based resource tool to give feedback on its usefulness.

Seniors enrolled will participate in one of two evidence-based “healthy aging” programs: Either the “Matter of Balance” (exercise, balance, and falls prevention) or the “Living with Chronic Conditions” program (self-care capability and chronic disease self-management). They will receive assistance and support from the Normandale Center for at least one year.

The model of support includes a baseline assessment conducted in the older person’s home by parish nurse Kaye Wothe and at least one additional assessment each year for up to three years. There will also be discussion on interest in volunteer support as well as receiving information on resources available to older adults in the community, according to Deborah Paone, executive director of the Center, and Patti Hankes, project coordinator and office manager.

Other programs offered include diabetes screening, nutrition, vision loss, and adapting homes for aging, as well as a session on living wills. There are Tai Chi exercise classes and the church has opened its gym for walking in the winter. Paone commented, “Our goal is to walk with people in their life journey.”

The Normandale Center for Healing and Wholeness has five part-time employees and is housed in the education wing of the church at 6100 Normandale Blvd., Edina. Support for the program comes from Normandale Lutheran Church and its foundation, Fairview, The Colony senior housing facility in Eden Prairie, grants, and donations. While some programs are free of charge, for others there is a charge, usually just to cover materials.

Paone says she is not aware of another seniors program this extensive and operated by a single congregation in the Twin Cities area. She said there is a multi-congregation effort in Mankato, Minnesota, that does some programming similar to Normandale’s.

Persons interested in knowing more about the Normandale Center for Healing and Wholeness may contact Deborah Paone at 952/929-1697, ext. 45, or by e-mail at deborah@normluth.org. Sue Cell, senior ministry coordinator at Normandale Lutheran Church, may be reached by calling 952/929-1697 or by e-mail at suec@normluth.org.

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