Ever wondered what senior citizens are dealing with on a daily basis? Staff members and representatives from numerous government offices had an opportunity to become “senior citizens for the day" thanks to a unique interactive training program developed and conducted by SCAN Health Plan. This marked the first time that the  “Trading Ages” senior-sensitivity training has been held in Washington, D.C.

Trading Ages is an interactive workshop that allows participants to experience firsthand a series of age-related conditions, such as hearing loss, vision changes and loss of dexterity. The training also utilizes tools to accelerate aging and help participants understand how seniors struggle with everyday activities as well as the challenges they face as they maneuver through the healthcare system.

“For government staff, participating in this program will allow them to better understand the challenges faced by their older constituents,” said Peter Begans, senior vice president of public and government affairs for SCAN. “With society aging and healthcare reform so directly impacting the lives of seniors, there is no better time than now to bring this program to our nation’s capital.”

Participants in the Washington, D.C., training included staff from representatives in Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota and Utah plus various other individuals. According to Begans, many of those partaking in the training were surprised by how they reacted to certain physical limitations that were mimicked during the training and many commented on what an eye-opening experience it was.

For example, to simulate the difficulties of living with arthritis, program participants were asked to don heavy, clumsy gloves and then button their shirts or open medication bottles and handle small pills. Participants also put popcorn in their shoes and walked around to simulate the feeling of painful joints. Others strapped their arm to their side to see how limiting it can be to deal with the effects of a stroke.

Depriving participants of the level of hearing and sight that most people enjoy their entire lives is also a critical part of the program. Ear plugs were used followed by a hearing test to demonstrate how isolating hearing loss can be. Perhaps most difficult for many participants was when they were asked to wear special glasses that severely limited their vision and approximated many of the vision challenges and disorders that accompany aging.

SCAN initially created the Trading Ages program as a way for its own employees and board members to better understand the needs and mindset of its health plan members. While the program continues to be mandatory for all SCAN employees, in recent years the health plan has taken it “on the road” and has been making it available, free of charge, to physician groups, community agencies, school children and other groups interested in enhancing their sensitivity in interacting with older adults.

Visit scanhealthplan.com for more information.

(Source: Press Release)