Senior citizens in 17 West Virginia counties will have access to a sustainable system of allied health care professionals, thanks to a $348,000 grant to West Virginia University Extension Service and the Center for Excellence in Disabilities.

The new grant supplements Extension Services Taking Charge of Your Health and Safety project in which WVU Extension agents train community members to work with senior citizens to make better lifestyle choices.

We teach seniors to manage chronic conditions and enhance their independence,said Elaine Bowen, WVU Extension specialist.The resources and educational tools we provide can help improve their quality of life and allow them to live independently for a longer period of time.

The project, Activating Senior Networks in Rural Appalachia, began Oct. 1 and is funded by the U.S. Department of Agricultures Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service.

Allied health professionals and area leaders will be trained to deliver the project, and small competitive training grants will be awarded to community partners. The grants provide funding for resources that include information on everything from heart health to diabetes and arthritis.

The original grant has helped Extension reach more than 400 senior citizens in rural communities. New facets of the grant include in-home assessments to help seniors recognize and improve health and safety hazards in their homes. An automated phone messaging service with health promotion messages from peers will be used to motivate seniors to change behaviors.

The project is supported by the Rural Health and Safety Education Competitive Program of the Department of Agricultures Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service.

To find out how to participate in Taking Charge of Your Health and Safety, call 1-800-841-8436 or e-mail ” rel=nofollow> .

For more information on how WVU Extension Service works in all 55 counties, visit .