Challenges to Healthy Aging for Older Adults
5 Worrisome Problems Facing Older Adults and Baby Boomers. Bonus challenge #6 = Don’t call us “old people.”
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 classes I teach, 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, especially if you embrace healthy aging and dispel some common misconceptions.
Redefine How You Age?
The worry about adding years to life without adding life to those years is well-founded. When we interviewed 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 to those of us who work with or are older adults.
Basically, as we age, we baby boomers and our parents face 5 key challenges. Can you guess what they are?
Top 5 Challenges Facing Baby Boomers and our Parents
- Listening to and buying into ageist stereotypes and myths. Examples: Once we cruise past our 50s and 60s, we are destined to slow down. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Or white knee socks look good with sandals. Yeah, I made up that last one.
- 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. (Could be why his nickname is “the Colonizer.”) 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.
In fact, as a generation, we are NOT aging healthfully. Read about it here: Women Over 50: We are NOT aging healthfullyTop 5 things you can do to age well (even after a lifetime of yuck, blah, & bad habits Click To Tweet
Top 5 Solutions to Healthy Aging for Older Adults
- 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?
Want to be an active aging superstar? How? Read this post: What Do You Enjoy About Aging?
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HOT NEWS: Speaking of the International Council on Active Aging, I was one of 30 national fitness leaders selected to present at their Nov 2016 Reimagine Aging conference taking place in Orlando. My topic? “Integrate Function and Cognitive Challenges into Your Older-adult Fitness Group.” In a nutshell, move, think, do both at once.” Am I qualified? Decide for yourself by reading this post: Midlife Funtional Aging Specialists
Really be impressed with how much you will learn and benefit from the cutting edge advice of Colin Milner and others who specialize in healthy aging for older adults. Take a gander at our TransformAging package. Seriously, don’t simply grow old when you can age actively! Costs nothing to check out this link: TransformAging Summit
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA