Project Title

SOWN: Growing Healthy Lives Together


SOWN’s Healthy Lives project served 229 people living in seven subsidized older adult apartment buildings in West Philadelphia neighborhoods that have high concentrations of low income, minority older adults with multiple chronic health conditions. The majority of older people served were African American women; a smaller number of Korean speaking older adults were also served at one site.


The goal of the Healthy Lives project was to improve health knowledge, health management, and social connectedness among low income elders living in subsidized apartment buildings. Specifically, Healthy Lives sought to improve physical and emotional well-being of older adults by providing a continuum of services to support healthy living, including:

  1. Healthy living coaching,
  2. Weekly Healthy Living workshops,
  3. Healthy Snacks with each workshop,
  4. Support groups, and
  5. Volunteer ambassadors who discuss program with their friends and neighbors and encourage them to attend workshops

Selected Accomplishments

Specific accomplishments of the SOWN Healthy Lives project include:

  • Bridging cultural and communication gaps between Korean and English speaking residents in one building
  • Developing active partnerships and appropriate, quality programs in order to gain the trust of target population;
  • Participants’ self-reported improvement in their understanding of health issues, health-related behaviors, and social connectedness;
  • Survey data that demonstrated a high level of participant satisfaction with Healthy Lives workshops;
  • A decrease in participants’ feelings of isolation and depression (Older adults demonstrated a statistically significant decrease in depression after participating in SOWN programs for 2 years); and
  • Staff-reported improvements in participants’ mobility.

Participation in the SOWN Healthy Lives project also enabled staff to identify several key factors that lead to improved self care, including:

  • Support and encouragement from a peer group;
  • Feeling cared about by other group members and knowing that each participant mattered;
  • A personal desire or interest in learning new information and engaging in positive life experiences; and
  • New knowledge that clarifies what steps to take in order to make healthy change.


SOWN is continuing its Healthy Lives program, and has received funding for two expansions of the project:

  • The Health Talk program (funded by the Barra Foundation and First Hospital Foundation) engages Healthy Lives participants and others with common health concerns in monthly educational teleconferences with a SOWN health educator.
  • With funding from the Aetna Foundation, nutrition, exercise, and health education programs have been extended to grandparent-headed families served by SOWN’s GrandFamily Resource Center (GFRC).


Supportive Older Women's Network

Merle Drake
Executive Director, SOWN