Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
What would you do with 30 extra years of life?
Give those 30 years back?
If you are like some of the older adults in the Forever Fit Cardio fitness class I teach at Spectrum, you don’t necessarily want 30 years added to your lifespan. And these are active adults in their 60s-80s, so imagine what inactive people might say to living to 100 and beyond. And yet, it is possible to greet such an offer with delight, not dread.
Redefine How You Age?
However, the worry about adding years to life without adding life to those years is well-founded. When we interviewed for our radio show, highly recognized active aging expert, Colin Milner, founder of the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA), he laid out some interesting stats and scenarios facing our baby boomer population.
According to Milner, the US and Canada have shoveled out trillions of dollars to increase longevity. And that effort has been quite successful: we North American humans have added an average of 30 additional years to our lives in just one century. That jump is bigger than the one my sister did when a tick landed on her during a dog walk the other day. The problem with the lifespan jump is that those added years are not proving to be healthy ones. Suuuuuu-prise, suuuu-prise. Or not really a surprise at all.
Basically, as we age, our generation faces 5 key challenges. (For the full story and examples, click to hear the radio interview “5 Top Challenges Redefining How We Age.” Then you can proudly claim you’ve been “Colinized!”).
Top 5 Challenges Facing Baby Boomers
- Listening to and buying into ageist stereotypes and myths. Examples: Once we cruise past our 50s and 60s, we are destined to slow down. Or believing that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Or that white knee socks look good with sandals.
- Sinking into social isolation. Colin depressed us with the fact that by 2020 depression is projected to be the second leading cause of disability and death; By 2050, depression is predicted to be the number one cause. I may have paid more attention to that cute boy, Andrew in my math class than to actual math, but even I can see that we are talking ‘bout my generation! Who? No, the Who. If you got that song reference, you are in the social isolation demographic
- Having a history of unhealthy lifestyle behaviors.
- Sticking with habits; repeating behaviors that are ingrained; aka No Longer Learning
- Looking always for quick fixes. Learning to manage aging changes takes time, effort, and patience, whether those changes are physical, financial, or otherwise. Apparently we are young enough to still want instant results. Or is that just me? Did you answer yet? How about now?
Super Sensible Solutions for the Projected Problems
For each problem, Colin Milner offers a corresponding suggestion. While he confesses that his advice may seem simple, he stresses that putting it into practice takes effort and focus. Making a plan to age in a healthy, “new thinking” way is hard. Yet aging inactively is harder.
- Stay alert to stereotypes so you can be aware of them, then question them, then decide whether to ignore them.
- Vow to fight isolation, for yourself and others. Find people who are isolated and interact. You will save two birds with one phone! Colin urges us to find something we can start now. Go to a group fitness class today; call a neighbor today; sign up for an adult education class now.
- Look now for one habit you can change for the better. Rather than looking back at decades of unhealthy choices, look at today for one behavior to improve.
- Expand your knowledge and skills, Ask “why” a lot. Be curious.
- Anticipate and manage changes. Ask yourself “what works?” and implement more of that.
All in all, the key is to be proactive in order to age actively. Whew! That’s a lot of action. But not yet enough, as what we ultimately need to do is create a plan for today and the added tomorrows. We can redefine how we age, writing a new and better ending for ourselves and history. As Colin asks, “What is your plan?” What expectations do you have — of yourself, your health, your future, your present? In short, what will you do with your 30 added years?
Make an active aging plan today and subscribe to our blog and listen to our radio show. Experience some of the best leaders in the health, wellness, and fitness world every Wednesday morning at 8:00 PT/ 11:00am ET. Listen in (better yet, call in to 866-472-5792) to our new radio show Active Aging for Boom Chicka Boomers with guests who offer practical advice and cutting edge solutions to your active aging challenges. You’ll find us at voiceamerica.com on the Health and Wellness channel.