Journeys is an incredible trek for senior adults

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By Carolyn Risner

Coming to work for the women who oversee the Journeys program at Nature Coast Regional Hospital is almost like taking a child to a candy store.

Broad smiles, gentle laughter and apparent delight fills the room as they set about to prepare for the senior adults who will soon spend half a day with them.

Nancy Dessy, the director of Journeys, a counseling center for older people, says her staff gets as much benefit from the group sessions as they clients themselves.

“The folks who come here really blossom,” Dessy said.

The purpose of the program, she said, is to instill in the clients a renewed sense of purpose and to ensure them though they may have age, health or family issues, they still have a lot to contribute.

The current age range for the clients is 60-90, Dessy said, and they come from all socio-economic and racial backgrounds to find common ground in the Journeys meeting area.

There individual participate in group activities, have well-being checks with Jennifer Aldridge, LPN; spent time with Julia Robbins, counselor; share feelings in group session and then enjoy a hot lunch provided by the program.

Through the group sessions, participants share their life experiences, often through humor, as they discuss the past, present and future.

“They appreciate one another,” Dessy said, “and they come to love and support each other.”

Through their lively discussions they learn how others have overcome the trials in their lives and find hope and inspiration on how to continue to contribute in their advancing years.

“And they teach us so much,” Dessy said.

If clients are concerned about health issues, Aldridge is on hand to monitor, discuss and research their concerns, while staying in contact with their families and physicians.

“We are not pulling them along,” Aldridge said. “They’re rising.”

Julia Robbins, the onsite counselor, said the team approaches their time with the seniors as a mind, body, spirit endeavor.

Journeys also provides free transportation to the sessions to clients in Alachua, Levy and Marion counties.

Two drivers, Maggi Campbell and Eunice Roberts, start off the day with the clients, many of whom are waiting outside for the van, due to the excitement they feel about attending the group.

Six months is the usual stay in the program, Dessy said, because by then the clients are feeling well and are energized to continue with their lives.

Journeys is paid for by Medicare Part B, Dessy said and recently, received a grant from the Florida Department of Elder Affairs through Elder Options in Gainesville that will bridge the gap for the balance.

Persistent mood changes such as anxiety, anger, memory changes and social isolation may indicate difficulty adjusting to rapidly occurring life events.

“Many patients report they had just been ‘waiting to die.’” Dessy said. “It is an amazing transformation to hear patients report they now look forward to each day.

“They support each other and learn how to manage multiple life stressors. The financial assistance from this grant may literally be a lifesaver.”

Anyone interested in joining Journeys should call 352-528-1460.