Learning to Live Later Life
By Emily McDonald
NCOA Aging Mastery program provides training
Home is where the heart is, but as society ages it’s also where people look for health and economic security. More and more, the nation’s 76 million Boomers are seeking the solutions for aging well in this unprecedented gift of health and time they’ve received. And it’s not enough to recommend that people “exercise daily” or “save more.” They need specific, engaging opportunities that motivate and support them to take these actions.
In 2013, as National Council on Aging (NCOA) President and CEO, Jim Firman, entered his 60’s he realized even with his extensive knowledge of aging he did not have a good pathway to age well. Luckily, NCOA has a history of understanding, developing and implementing real-life solutions to address the challenges of aging, and have been making a difference in the lives of older adults for over 65 years. NCOA signature programs and services look at the whole person, understanding that health issues, economic security and social connectedness must all be addressed for individuals to live their lives to their fullest.
Using Jim’s idea, the organization’s more than 60 years of expertise and its network of community-based organizations and partners, NCOA created the Aging Mastery Program® (AMP) to develop new expectations, norms and pathways for people aged 50 to 100, to make the most of their gift of longevity. Importantly, AMP respects that aging well is a subjective term with various meanings. It’s not just about eating well and working out. AMP helps older adults and boomers build their own personal playbook for aging well. The program incorporates evidence-informed materials, expert speakers, group discussion, peer support and small rewards to give participants the skills and tools they need to achieve measurable improvements in managing their health, remaining economically secure and increased societal participation.
AMP guides individuals to create sustained changes in daily habits and behaviors. The advantage of changing habits is that once behaviors become automatic, participants no longer have to use energy or willpower to maintain positive decisions. AMP covers a range of behaviors that include nutrition and fitness, but also extend to sleep patterns, relationships, economic health, civic engagement, advance care planning and other topics vital for aging well.
The in-person, ten-part class is held at sites where older adults and Baby Boomers already gather in their communities, such as senior centers, churches and community centers. To become a licensed site to offer the program, organizations go through online training by NCOA and access the program materials through an online AMP Community–where it can also connect with fellow sites and ask questions and share best practices.
Research and evaluation have been a core part of AMP from the beginning. NCOA’s primary research partner is the Columbia Aging Center, out of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Preliminary results of over 7,000 participants in 200+ sites across the country show that AMP participants significantly increased their physical activity levels, healthy eating habits, use of advanced planning, social connectedness and participation in evidenced-based self-management programs after taking the core curriculum. A recent quasi-experimental study with SUNY Albany found significant differences in days walking, minutes walking, information planning and care planning actions for the intervention group as compared to the control group. These differences were sustained approximately three months later. The findings suggest AMP can help older adults build their self-management skills, consider critical issues to their current and future well-being and successfully maintain themselves where they would like to live.
NCOA searches for strong partnerships with organizations interested in presenting the program to their attendees or residents. To learn more about the Aging Mastery Program®, including costs to host the program, go to www.ncoa.org/AgingMastery. To explore AMP partnership opportunities, email AMP@ncoa.org.
View core curriculum pdf