Even though the pandemic has shifted our plans, our Older Adult Cancer Coalition is still dancing, walking, and eating delicious meals while we prevent cancer in our community.
We are celebrating our fifth year of working to lower the risk of cancer in our community. In 2017 the Urban League of Portland received a grant from Oregon Health and Science University’s Knight Cancer Institute that allowed the Urban League to reach out to the community and provide information and activities on how community members could fight cancer. African Americans are at greater risk than other race/ethnicities of being diagnosed and dying of cancer. This and other health disparities facing African Americans meant that efforts needed to be made to circumvent such disparities. The Urban League of Portland formed the Older Adult Cancer Coalition and worked to educate our communities about Breast, Lung, Prostate and Colorectal cancers. The effort proved to be successful as community members not only showed a better understanding of the aforementioned cancers, but they also began taking more interest in improving their individual health by participating in healthy cooking classes.
The success of this program lead the Urban League secure another grant in 2019 to continue our efforts. This time around the Older Adult Cancer Coalition expanded the activities and educational sessions while focusing our efforts specifically on colorectal cancer. The healthy cooking classes would continue at the Urban League Senior Center to provide participants with nutritious and delicious recipes that contained cancer fighting ingredients. Movement based classes such as tai-chi, dancing, Zumba, and walking groups were incorporated to help community members make healthier life choices. Educational sessions were planned to educate community members so that they could be more informed and make good decisions in regard to their health.
Then… the pandemic hit.
Along much of the United States, COVID-19 shut down the Urban League of Portland’s offices and centers and operations had to be modified to adapt to this pandemic that had drastically changed so many lives. The Older Adult Cancer Coalition was faced with the daunting task of trying to accomplish the goals that had been set forth in this new situation that was full of uncertainty. Thus, alternative measures were taken.
To adhere to social distancing regulations, Zumba was done virtually. The cooking classes were done in homes instead of at our Senior Center. Recipes and ingredients were delivered to participants who would then send pictures of the results.
Tai-Chai and Dancing were held with a limit on the amount of how many could participate in each class and walking groups were held in malls during the cold weather. Each movement class was held outdoors when the weather allowed. Information about colorectal cancer was regularly provided to participants via The Urban Link, our paper newsletter delivered to our seniors.
While the challenges we experienced during this project was not what was expected, the Older Adult Cancer Coalition is proud of the effort to encourage and inspire community members to take charge of their personal health. Many of the participants continue to prepare healthy meals that contain cancer fighting ingredients and participants requested that many of the activities continue after the project was finished. The OACC team adapted well to the circumstances they were faced with and will continue to provide activities and information to community members in our campaign to conquer cancer.