Healthy and happy old age

Dr. Jodi Friedman.

Dr. Jodi Friedman.

People no longer experience life as a succession of roles which shift like clockwork purely on the basis on their age. What it means to be 40, 50 and 60 has changed. People are living longer than ever before, and as the first wave of baby boomers enters retirement the process of aging is evolving, beset by unique challenges as well as opportunities.

Many new types of facilities are sprouting up that not only treat seniors medically, but also help them maintain quality of life in extreme old age. The Center for Healthy Aging, a facility on the grounds of Northern Dutchess Hospital, in Rhinebeck, is an example. It offers geriatric assessments and works collaboratively with patients, caregivers and primary-care providers to deliver inpatient, outpatient, and transitional care to people age 65 and older.

The center opened in 2011 with a full-time medical director, Dr. Jodi Friedman. A year later she was joined by part-time social worker Allison Gould. The center caters to seniors in several counties, providing assistance in developing a customized, comprehensive wellness plan.

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Friedman treats “mostly the oldest and most complicated medically patients,” usually referrals from other doctors. Gould sees younger seniors as well — people in their mid-seventies — who are dealing with emotional issues related to aging, such as bereavement or fears about dementia.

To further reach out to the growing community of retirees, the center has begun partnering with Rhinebeck@home, a not-for-profit networking organization that’s located in the same building and dedicated to helping its 56 members stay at home and maintain their independence.

The center, which accepts private insurance and Medicare, can refer its clients to community services such as Rhinebeck@home. It can come up with a program of therapy, including alternative modalities such as massage and acupuncture. It offers use of a medically based fitness center and educational programs. In the fall and spring, it hosts a lecture series, in which past topics have included financial wellness, relaxation and meditation workshops, and aging gracefully.

Isn’t “healthy aging” a bit of an oxymoron? “There’s more chronic illnesses, and people are on a lot of medications,” said Friedman, who has a background in family practice. “We try to look at their medications in the context of different medical problems. Part of being a healthy older person is managing these multiple problems.”

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