UBC Okanagan’s widely popular Walk, ‘n Talk for your Life program — that creates exercise and safe social settings for local seniors — is branching out.

Assoc. Prof. Charlotte Jones, who teaches with UBC’s Southern Medical Program, initiated Walk ‘n Talk in 2014, is now looking for seniors who are living with hearing loss. In partnership with YMCA of Okanagan (Rutland Family YMCA), Jones is looking for people, aged 65 and older, to participate in Walk, Talk and Listen.

“Hearing loss is one of the most common chronic health problems in North America,” says Jones, noting that audiometry results from the 2012 and 2013 Canadian Health Measures Survey indicate that 47 per cent of adults aged 60 to 79 had a measured hearing loss.

“Our goal with Walk, Talk and Listen is to reduce the major downstream of negative psychosocial and functional physical limitations associated with hearing loss in older adults.”

Jones says studies have proven a connection between hearing loss and health-related quality of life. She notes hearing loss can also lead to social isolation, depression, incident dementia, and cognitive deterioration, and even a decline in functional fitness, increased falls, and hospitalizations.

“Hearing loss can be very stressful and cause people to avoid social situations, to feel embarrassed and in some cases to be less physically fit,” says Jones. “Basically, hearing loss can have a huge impact on a person’s overall health and wellness.”

The Walk, Talk n Listen study will begin in March and UBC is currently looking for reasonably healthy residents, 65-years or older, who do not use a cane, walker or wheelchair and have not taken part in an organized or regular exercise program in the last year to participate in the 12-week study.

Participants will meet at the Rutland YMCA twice a week, for a two-hour study group.

Along with supervised and graduated exercise, including structured balance, resistance and weight training, and a 30-minute walk, time will also be devoted to informal interactive socialization, laughter, and health education, in addition to special sessions on Auditory Rehabilitation which are aimed at helping people cope better with hearing loss.

Students in Medicine, Nursing, Psychology, Human Kinetics and Social Work will be working directly with the participants.

There is no fee and The Walk, Talk and Listen study will take place in a hearing-loss friendly environment.

“I really encourage people to join others with hearing loss and learn how to be more comfortable socializing, have fun, become more physically active and learn more about health and wellness,” adds Jones

To find out more, people are encouraged to contact Carolyn Roque at 250-807-9827 or carolyn.roque@ubc.ca.