Helping Seniors Thrive

Marshall McCorkle considered herself to be fairly healthy. Since retiring as a school reading specialist in 2010, McCorkle has regularly participated in classes at the Primeplus Senior Center in Norfolk, where she now teaches tai chi. Two hip replacements have helped her stay active despite osteoarthritis.

So McCorkle, 81, was caught off guard last fall when her doctor diagnosed her as prediabetic.

Determined to do everything she could to avoid developing Type 2 diabetes, McCorkle signed up for the new, free PreventT2 Program at Primeplus. A two-year, $100,000 grant from the Hampton Roads Community Foundation funded PreventT2, which recently started with 17 seniors who will meet regularly for a year to support each other as they learn about nutrition, exercise, and stress management. Another cohort is in the works.

McCorkle soon found that lifestyle changes the program encourages — such as walking regularly, tracking what she eats, and drinking enough water — gave her more energy and lifted her overall mood. She also dropped six pounds within a few weeks.

“It’s a whole new opening of my eyes to see what I do and what I’m capable of doing,” said McCorkle, a member of the Primeplus board.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of three American adults has prediabetes. Their blood sugar is higher than normal, raising their risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Many don’t know they are prediabetic.

Primeplus wanted to offer a diabetes lifestyle change program in response “to some sad data we were starting to see among seniors during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Bob Batcher, the nonprofit’s executive director. Diabetes testing plummeted during the pandemic because seniors were not going to the doctor as much. As seniors resumed doctor visits, Batcher said, a “sky-high” problem with prediabetes became apparent.

The grant from the community foundation helped Primeplus prepare the program and promote it to local residents — primarily through doctors’ offices, senior services, and churches — as a structured program using an approach proven to prevent or delay diabetes.

“The key is, you’re not alone,” Batcher said. “It’s better to do things in an accountable. community.”

Based on national research, adults who lose five to seven percent of their weight can cut their risk of developing diabetes by 71 percent among adults over 60 — an age category that includes many taking part in PreventT2. Participants maintain activity logs and action plans to stay on track, and the program creates a supportive environment.

“I love teaching people that the things they think they can’t accomplish, they can,” said Brittany Acevedo, Primeplus wellness coordinator who leads the program. Acevedo transitioned from working part-time to full-time because of the grant.

“Health doesn’t have to be this big scary monster,” she said. “You can take it in bite-size pieces and make a lifestyle change.”

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