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Healthy Living in Community

Workshops for a growing population of people with chronic illnesses right here your town

Marcus and AndiAndi Waisman (right), the Healthy Living Program manager, with a rich professional history developing and coordinating programs in public health, loves how the simple curriculum lays out a buffet of options for the participant to choose from, while challenging them to find the one or two that might work. She is committed to the underlying message in all our curricula that there is hope for all of us to live fulfilling lives while we age and that most things are easier with the help of others supporting us. Marcus Chiaretto (left), the Healthy Living Program coordinator, with a background in human services and community organizing, and loved by his students, is most committed to supporting people to take control. He believes that we are not trying to force people to do anything, but providing some basic tools and resources that people need to change their own behaviors. He acts on the assumption that people can be self-managers and we are there to provide support and guidance on the way.LifePath has been providing evidence-based self-management workshops for people living with chronic disease since 2011. We are part of a 20-year-old national movement, started at Stanford University developed to help patients with chronic illnesses manage their symptoms and make needed lifestyle changes.

Our workshops are for people who have arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, balance challenges, COPD, chronic mental health conditions or any other chronic condition and who:

  • struggle with fatigue, pain, fatigue, difficult emotions
  • sometimes feel alone in the challenges they face
  • need to change their eating habits
  • need more exercise
  • feel overwhelmed with taking care of their own health along with all their other responsibilities
  • know they need to make changes but aren’t quite sure how

Here is how some local folks felt before attending a Healthy Living workshop:

“I knew I needed to change my lifestyle,” says Gary Reagan, who attended a Healthy Eating workshop. “I was overweight and a borderline diabetic. I have had a stint put in and my doctor was really concerned.”

"I used to want to be in bed almost the whole day, wanting to lie there and not really participate,” says Elayna Haase, who joined a Chronic Pain workshop this past spring.

Research says that if these people take a self-management workshop, they and their physicians report better physical and emotional health, greater energy/reduced fatigue, more exercise, improvement in medical compliance and communication with their provider, and have fewer visits to their doctor’s office or to the emergency room.

What makes these workshops work is that they provide helpful information about exercises, healthy eating and the skills of relaxation, problem solving, and reading food labels. The workshop provides non-judgmental support for your goals; each person develops an action plan and is accountable to their peers.

Here is how our people who’ve taken the workshops describe their gains:

“The course changed me by giving the motivation to exercise and watch what I ate and informed me about what I should be eating and how much. I noticed a physical change,” says Mike, who completed a Healthy Eating workshop.

Others add:

“This year when I am not able to go out and be as physically involved I used to be, it was especially helpful to develop a network of peers.”

“[There] are still days where the pain is overwhelming. But it is a lot less overwhelming than it has ever been. I feel like I can function a lot better. I can’t believe the difference. My body is never gonna be pain free; I haven’t been in the wheelchair since the group.”

We in the Healthy Living Program have our work cut out for us. Over the past ten years, the national population 65 and over increased by 30% and is projected to more than double in 2060; 90.7% of those people live with one or more chronic diseases and 73.1% live with two or more. Our hope is to reach as many of this population as possible with a message of hope and empowerment.

The Healthy Living Program is funded in part by a grant from Baystate Franklin Medical Center as well as other sources; this generosity enables us to offer our workshops free of charge to community participants.

Contact Healthy Living at LifePath.