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Hope Levy — wellness educator with a special focus on seniors

Sat, 14 Jan 2017 19:43:00
Article by:
Laurie MacDougall
Hope Levy in her home office. Photo by Laurie MacDougall.
Hope Levy champions positive aging through lifelong learning and health education. Her particular passion is healthy brain functioning, and, as an educator, she spreads the gospel as wide as she can.
   
It’s a big task. But she loves the work: “I get as much out of my work as I give. It’s such a gift to get to do work that gives you joy and has meaning.”
   
Hope’s life is motivated by a voracious curiosity. As she explained it, “I stay current on cutting-edge research and developments in the fields of wellness, aging, training, education and career transition. In so doing, I continually find new, effective, creative and engaging ways to empower my clients and students to maintain and improve their cognitive vitality, productivity and well-being.”
   
As a teacher — or as she prefers  — a facilitator, Hope offers classes, workshops and training sessions to bring to as many people as possible the news about the latest scientific techniques and understandings about maintaining healthy brain functioning throughout life. Her signature class series is called “Brain Fitness,” and most of her classes are offered free through institutions that serve those who are 55 and older. However, Hope is quick to point out that everyone is welcome at these classes, and there are no age restrictions. Her classes are typically presented through nonprofit institutions — such as The San Francisco Public Library, Kaiser Permanente, San Francisco State University, and City College of San Francisco.
   
Hope’s classes are uniquely valuable in several ways. First, they are free, so they are accessible to anyone who needs them. Secondly, Hope’s approach as a “facilitator” further makes them elder-friendly. She considers herself a facilitator because — as she says — “I’m not the sage on the stage; I’m the guide on the side.” Hope accomplishes this by designing classes that deliver hard-core scientific findings in a soft wrapping of curiosity, play and fun. This kind of supportive learning atmosphere is what best supports behavioral change, which is Hope’s ultimate goal.
   
Hope has honed this approach over 20 years as an educator. As an example of how a class would go, the first part of a Brain Fitness class might be spent discussing a topic, such as“What factors influence your brain functioning at any time?”
   
According to Hope, “Research tells us the main contributors to brain functioning at any age are physical exercise, mental stimulation, social engagement, and nutrition.” Answers emerge from the group wrestling together with a question, and then the next question is the kicker: “Which of these do I have control over?” That is when things get interesting, as people realize that fully half of brain health is determined by environment rather than genetics.This prompts group reflection about strategies for their own unique situations.
   
Hope further stated, “As a facilitator, I bring out information they already have. They teach each other. This makes it an experiential learning experience.”The rest of class is playtime, using brain teasers and interactive puzzles conducive to a group setting, to animate social interactions and engagement among participants.
   
Hope clearly has a feel for energizing older adults. She explained, “I always gravitated to older people, because as the youngest child in the family, I was always around my mom.” As an adult, when she grew dissatisfied with her job training employees in a large corporation, she wanted a change and — as she said — “I tried lots of things.” One of those things, based on her interest in elders, was a course in gerontology at San Francisco State University.
 
She took one class — which turned into her being a full-time student — which led to two degrees, in Gerontology and Special Education. “I was hooked,” she said. “It suited by capabilities, and I wanted to make a positive impact. I didn’t want people to run when I entered the room, like they used to when I was in H.R.” Those days are long gone. “Now, she said, “I get lots of gratification from my work. People are happy. They want to be there [in class].”
  
In the first quarter of 2017, Hope will be a big presence at the Main Branch of the San Francisco Public Library. Details about a “Brain Fitness” class series to be held at the Main Branch of the San Francisco Public Library starting this month can be found in Neighborhood News. In addition, she has created several other ways to deliver her message of wellness to as many people as possible:
“Creative Ways to Tell Your Life Story” — another free series of classes beginning January 17 — is designed to support participants in reviewing their lives through a semistructured topical and group approach.

“Healthier Living: Managing On-Going Health Conditions” is a series of free classes beginning in April, focusing on managing pain and stress, and goal-setting to make positive changes, be more fit, and eat healthier.
 
To learn more about the services offered by Hope K. Levy, you can contact her via her website, www.Hope@TheresAlwaysHopeConsulting.com.

 
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