For more than a decade, Mary Ann Johnson and Joan Fischer, professors of foods and nutrition with the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences, have been exploring the factors that put older adults at risk for obesity and designing and testing interventions to help them lead healthier lives. Working with the Athens Community Council on Aging and senior centers across the state, Johnson found that it is never too late for older adults to improve their health. In one study, a four-month series of classes that included chair exercises and encouraged participants to record their daily steps with a pedometer helped participants increase their physical activity by 26 percent.
As a result of the class, the number of participants reporting good physical function jumped from 17 percent to 25 percent. Another series of classes focused on healthy eating resulted in a 21 percent increase in the number of participants who consumed at least seven servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
Johnson says, “Older people are willing to change; they just need some help, guidance and support.”