Ornelas Activity Center provides place for Center for Healthy Aging outreach

Monday, September 26, 2005

It’s no secret that East Texas is drawing people in their 50s and 60s who see the piney woods as a beautiful haven for their golden years. People 65 and older are now the fastest growing segment of the population in this region.

In 1965, just 1 percent of the U.S. population was over 65 years of age. In only five years, people 65 years old and older will make up 15 percent of the population. The roughly 71 million seniors alive then will account for one out of every five Americans. Many of these seniors will have chronic health conditions, and a significant number will have several, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Fortunately, in this region they will be able to turn to the Center for Healthy Aging at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler. The Center for Healthy Aging is a comprehensive approach to wellness that brings together physicians, programs, and services dedicated to patients’ continuing health, as well as the health of mature adults throughout East Texas.

"UTHSCT has 70,000 patient encounters each year with seniors. Caring for seniors is part of our strategic plan. We are continuing to build an excellent program focused on the medical needs and issues of the older person," said Dr. Kent Davis, director of the Center.

One aspect of the Center for Healthy Aging is the Ornelas Activity Center, located across the street from The University of Texas at Tyler. The Ornelas Activity Center is a 23,000 square-foot facility at 3402 Old Omen Road in Tyler. The facility, located on 22.5 acres of land, has a large auditorium with a stage, as well as numerous smaller meeting rooms. UTHSCT has operated the Ornelas Activity Center since a partnership was formed between the Tyler Area Senior Citizens Association (TASCA) and UTHSCT in October 2004

"The partnership with UTHSCT really rounds out the mission of TASCA by adding the education and medical component. And the TASCA connection adds the senior citizen’s face to the Center for Healthy Aging," Ornelas Activity Center Director Kathey Comer said.

"A population of healthy, active seniors is vital to the future of our area, our state, and our country. It is a very important resource in which the Health Center has chosen to focus its efforts and dollars. The addition of the Ornelas Activity Center allows us to reach out to a new area of Tyler," she said.

One outreach program is a series of free monthly Town Hall Meetings. These are held at 10 a.m. on the second Tuesday of each month. In September and October, the topic was the new Medicare prescription drug plan. For information about the Ornelas Activity Center or the Town Hall Meetings, please call (903) 565-4445.

Dr. Davis said, "One of our goals is to partner with the seniors of East Texas to help maintain and improve their health and function and to help them live healthy and active lives for as long as possible." Dr. Davis is board certified in internal medicine and has an added qualification in geriatric medicine.

Current or planned components of the Center for Healthy Aging include: (1) the Senior Assessment Clinic, a centralized, team approach to assess seniors’ health-care needs with a focus on improving the health of the frail elderly; it opened in January 2004; (2) the Geriatric Fellowship Program, which will offer physicians advanced training in geriatrics; (3) the Red and Kim Little Healthy Aging Outreach Endowment, an annual program for seniors given by a nationally known speaker, plus (4) public-health education events; and (5) biomedical research into diseases that affect the aging process.

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