In Its Prime for 15 Years

Mary Greeley's Prime Time Alive program celebrates 15 years of helping seniors live better and smarter.

The old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is proving true with the continuing success of the Prime Time Alive program

In an effort to assist those "ages 50 and better" to take charge of their own health and wellness, this innovative program helps members "live well and age well," says Vickie Newell, manager of the program. 

The core of the program is informational presentations, usually by Mary Greeley Medical Center staff. Mall walking, social gatherings and day and overnight trips also are offered.

Recent programs have included a one-day driver safety program; a presentation on the effects of diabetes on the heart; and a program about advances in cancer care.

Other activities include a healthy holiday cooking demonstration at Cook's Emporium in downtown Ames; a group holiday event at Gateway Hotel; and regular gatherings of mall walkers with short programs on home safety, flu and pneumonia and developing emotional resiliency in life.

"Older people have different health concerns than younger people," says Phyllis Crouse, the now-retired creator of the program. "The program took off a lot faster than we thought it would." Membership today is 1,400 strong, "and I'm surprised to see the wide variety of people involved," Crouse says.

Topics and Travel

One of those members is Billie Watertor, of Ames. Billie and her husband, Bill, regularly attend the programs because she finds it an easy way to learn about health and wellness issues from experts.

"When you read it in a book, you understand it some. But when you have someone making a presentation, and you can ask questions, it's much better," she says.

Billie and Bill also appreciate having access to programs on topics that might be embarrassing to discuss one-on-one with a doctor, even if they insisted on making the time to do so.

She recounts Dr. Leo Milleman, a Mary Greeley urologist, giving a program on urinary problems. "He said he didn't think that many people were interested, but so many people showed up that we had to move from one auditorium to a larger one," she recalls with a chuckle. "Topics like that can be kind of embarrassing, but when you see that many people interested in it, too, it makes you not so embarrassed about it, especially when you know that you don't have to pipe up."

The Watertors also have gone on some of the trips, which cost an additional fee. A trip to view fall colors along the Mississippi River from a boat was a favorite.

"We really don't drive anymore, but they come to our doorway and take care of our baggage," she says. "My son turns 50 soon and I'm going to ask him if he'd like to go on one of them with us!"

Healthy Discussion

Dr. Michael Kitchell, a board-certified neurologist, has given presentations to the group several times, and finds it
well worth his while, he says. He's spoken on Parkinson's disease, preventing and dealing with strokes, rehabilitation
programs and other topics.

"I think it's very important that the people have enough information about disease and other issues in health care so that they can make better decisions and know better how to proceed with their doctor," Kitchell says.

Increasingly, "the emphasis has to be on shared decisionmaking" between medical staff and patients.

Crouse says the program from its outset has worked hard to complement other programs in the community, rather than duplicate them, and to give seniors a wide range of activities and programs to choose from.

Newell says Mary Greeley Medical Center feels a commitment to help older adults in this way "because we have the resources to provide them, and the physicians and the staff and the medical center. Giving people the tools to live healthy lives is the right thing to do."