Older Adult Educator Becky Franklin recently shared information with participants in the Riverside Lunch and Learn program.

Members of a Riverside senior lunch program recently talked about staying active and enjoying life with a few simple steps.

Becky Franklin, older adult educator for Tri-County Mental Health Services, presented information on “Engage as You Age” to nearly 20 area residents at the Riverside Community Center Aug. 23.

Franklin, who speaks on older adult issues to groups throughout Clay, Platte and Ray counties, noted the knowledge is increasingly important because of the huge number of Americans who are reaching older adulthood. “Over the next 25 years, Baby Boomers will be turning 65 at a rate of 8,000 each day,” she explained. “For too many, it’s easy to fall into a deficit perspective – to concentrate on what’s been lost, rather than what they’ve gained and what they still have.”

She suggested several solutions that all involve “engagement,” being physically and mentally involved. Franklin also emphasized “preventative medicine,” although the most important element may not involve medication at all.

“We go to the doctor and want a miracle drug,” she said. “Exercise is probably the closest thing we have to a miracle drug because of all the things it does.” Exercise helps with everything from lowering blood pressure to helping with sleep and weight control.

Social engagement also has surprising benefits. “There are actually physical benefits to being engaged socially,” she noted. “Studies indicate it can reduce Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and more. I have lots of people who raise an eyebrow at that, but when you look at the research, it starts to make sense.”

Franklin’s Riverside visit is the first of several in a new partnership between the Community Center and Tri-County. She noted that all of her work involves mental health, although many may not realize it. “One of my messages is that help is available,” she stressed. “You just have to know it’s there.”

One woman in the group agreed. “They really helped me,” she said. “Tri-County saved my life.”

For more information, contact Tri-County (816) 468-0400 or visit www.tri-countymhs.org. Franklin can be reached at (816) 678-3036 or beckyf@tri-countymhs.org.