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Opportunities for seniors abound through local education programs

This spring, seniors in Farmington and Rosemount will have several opportunities to educate themselves on topics of special interest to aging adults. Both cities are promoting programs that will allow seniors to meet their neighbors and improve themselves in the process.

TRIAD Lunch and Learn

TRIAD is a national program launched by AARP and the National Sheriffs Association in 1988, though Dakota County did not join Minnesota's chapter until about a year and a half ago. The program connects seniors to local law enforcement officials and community resources in order to reduce crime that targets senior citizens and reduce their fear.

TRIAD will host a free Lunch and Learn from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. May 2 at the Apple Valley Senior Center, 14601 Hayes Road. Attendees will enjoy lunch as they listen to a speaker from the Dakota County Sheriff's Office. Both the lunch and educational presentation are free.

Commander John Grant of the Dakota County Sheriff's Office said he made 21 presentations in Dakota County last year, speaking to groups as small as six people and as large as 225. Scams targeting senior citizens were the hot topic last year, he said.

"So many seniors are losing so much of their retirement due to these darn things," he said. "We just come out and try to give these seniors some education."

Grant said crimes against senior citizens are particularly difficult to track since many of them go unreported.

"Some seniors are willing to share what happened to them, but a lot of these seniors won't even tell their own kids out of sheer embarrassment," he said.

In addition to discussing ways to avoid becoming a scam victim, Grant covers other personal safety issues unique to older adults, such as social media, winter driving and exercise. He has even brought in a paramedic to address such questions as, "If I call an ambulance, who pays for it?" He said the Sheriff's Office has received many compliments and the program has been well received.

"People are living longer nowadays. I'm fortunate to have both my parents still alive, and why wouldn't you want to sit and try to protect our parents and grandparents and seniors, especially from fraud crimes like this?" he said. "People work so hard in their lives, and then with one or two phone calls they can lose half their retirement. It makes me sick to my stomach."

Stephanie Baumann, recreation coordinator for Rosemount Parks and Recreation, said the program is a great way for seniors to educate themselves.

"It's just a good opportunity to talk about some issues that are kind of scary to talk about and in a safe setting," she said. "A fringe benefit is you also get to meet people in your neighboring communities, so it's fun."

To register for the May 2 Lunch and Learn at the Apple Valley Senior Center, call 952-707-4120. Spots are limited.

Aging Mastery Program

Thanks to a grant from the National Council on Aging, the Rambling River Center, in conjunction with Rosemount Parks and Recreation, will host the 10-week Aging Mastery Program for the second year in a row.

The program encourages seniors to improve their well-being by developing sustainable behaviors over time. The philosophy behind the program is that modest lifestyle changes can produce big results and participants can be empowered to make decisions that will improve their health, give them stronger financial security, and increase overall well-being.

Each week will highlight a different topic or activity. Topics include: navigating longer lives, exercise, sleep, healthy eating and hydration, fall prevention, medication management, financial fitness, advanced planning, healthy relationships and community engagement.

The course encourages participants to support one another, become more involved in their community, and encourage their peers.

Rambling River Center recreation supervisor Missie Kohlbeck said the program was so popular when it launched in Farmington last year that some participants signed up to take it twice.

"There was so much information, they felt like they could still learn from taking it again," she said.

Kohlbeck said the program is not targeted toward a specific age and anyone can benefit from it. She likes that it covers a wide variety of topics and encourages people to engage in meaningful conversations.

"One of the most common things we heard was that people wish they had taken a class like this 10 years ago," Kohlbeck said. "We saw kind of a bond that was formed between the people that took the class, so it's really a neat program in that sense as well."

The Rosemount Aging Mastery Program will run from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, March 28 through May 30 in Room 200 of the Rosemount Steeple Center. The $30 fee includes lunch at each session. Participants must register by Tuesday, March 21.

The Farmington Aging Mastery Program will run from 6-7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, March 29 through May 3 at the Rambling River Center. The cost is $30 for members and $40 for non-members. Weekly refreshments are included in the cost.

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