Project Healthy Living: Participants in Motion

By: Char Brooks, JD

One of the joys of facilitating Project Healthy Living classes is watching my participants change their eating and exercise habits, sometimes within the first couple weeks of class.  Just coming to class and being willing to consider making a lifestyle change is a big deal in my eyes.  

I cannot tell you how many people come to my class with dietary restrictions based on medical conditions such as diabetes, intestinal issues, or other limitations. Others come to class using wheelchairs, walkers, and braces.  Many people come to class with lifelong habits of not exercising or poor eating habits too.

There are also people who come to class with great exercise habits, but are not so excited about eating fruits and vegetables, as well as the other way around.

No matter what my participants needs are, everyone is always welcome to join class at any time.  Michigan Nutrition Network supplies excellent information for me to share, and there’s plenty of lively conversation, good questions and a generous dose of humor which keeps things interesting.  Project Healthy Living is alive and growing in Mid Michigan!I

I also want to acknowledge the dedicated Senior Coordinators for allowing me to announce the classes ahead of time to their residents or members.  They do the heavy lifting in terms of considering when it is likely that their residents or members are most likely to attend, as well as arranging the facility so that everyone can be comfortable. Kudos to all the Service Coordinators I’ve had the opportunity to work with.  

Here are a couple amazing stories straight from my experiences with my participants.

One participant was following three different diets due to several medical issues.  She couldn’t handle the idea of one more detail to follow in terms of food.  She began the class with her arms folded, feeling frustrated and discouraged.  By the end of class, she had gone back to her healthcare providers to get more details on her food restrictions.  She was able to enjoy zucchini, tomatoes, and onions using her bridge card as well as the Project Fresh program in Genesee County.

Another participant was in an electric wheelchair.  Though movement was fairly difficult for him, he was able to do some of the exercises provided by Michigan Nutrition Network in their Session logs.  At the last class, as we were reviewing the exercises provided from earlier sessions, he was doing some leg kicks in his wheelchair with a big smile on his face.  What an exciting moment for him, and for all of us who were there.

One participant became very interested in trying new fruits and vegetables during the class sessions. She introduced our class to starfruit and was always sharing the latest sales.   She volunteered to make a Pineapple Tree Centerpiece for a church function which included cantaloupe, watermelon, blueberries, kiwi, and grapes.  She was even making a monkey out of a mango using small bananas to make the monkeys arms.  

Regardless of whether a participant is eating and exercising well or not, any senior can benefit from the gentle reminders and exercises that I teach in Project Healthy Living.  As I tell my participants, “I’m just a giant post-it note of good reminders of some things you may have forgotten!”  

If you are a Service Coordinator interested in hosting a Project Healthy Living class, please contact Char Brooks at 517-853-5187 or email  If you are a senior interested in attending a Project Healthy Living class, ask your local senior center or your service coordinator to contact me for more information.

5144274Char Brooks is a Project Healthy Living Coach and attorney at Elder Law of Michigan. She has been a member of the Elder Law team since mid 2013. Char holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Michigan State University, and graduated with her Juris Doctor from Thomas M. Cooley Law School over 30 years ago. As a Project Healthy Living Coach at Elder Law, Char facilitates classes for seniors and offers one on one coaching sessions to Michigan seniors to help them improve the quality of their lives.

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