Be Active Your Way Blog
Colin Milner, founder and chief executive officer of the International Council on Active Aging® (ICAA), is one of the North America’s foremost visionaries on the health and well-being of the older adult. His passion to change the way society perceives aging is only rivaled by his desire to help inform and educate health and wellness professionals that work with adults age 50 and above. Milner is an award winning writer, public speaker, industry leaders and advisory to many leading health organizations.
What’s creative about walking? If you are Aegis Therapies, a leading provider of contract rehabilitation and wellness services in the United States, the answer is everything.
One of the company’s recent innovations, WALK! with Aegis Therapies, has garnered nationwide attention as more than 50,000 participants collectively walked about 100,000 miles by the end of the company’s weeklong celebration of health and wellness, held September 20–24, in 2010.
How did Aegis accomplish these numbers, especially given the fact that their first Walk Your Ageis event took place in 2009?
First off, the events are hosted at 582 client locations across the US, including independent living communities, assisted living centers, continuing care retirement communities, skilled nursing facilities, and other locations.
Everyone participating in WALK! with Aegis Therapies receives an activity card for the week. Attendees walk 15–30 minutes on each of the five days. They also listen to upbeat songs on CDs narrated by health and fitness expert Chris Freytag, which are custom-made for these activities. In addition to daily walking, the program features other activities designed to encourage active aging and wellness and highlight different dimensions of wellness. These events are structured to remind participants of the importance of nourishing their emotional and intellectual health, in addition to maintaining their physical well-being.
Each participant’s activity card is stamped to mark days they complete both the daily walking exercise and the wellness activity planned for the day. Participating sites calculate miles walked daily by participants at each location, and Aegis staff tally the total miles walked at locations across the nation. Aegis also track contributions of participants who are in wheelchairs or otherwise unable to walk, as they engage in other physical activities.
In addition to walking, each day of WALK! with Aegis Therapies incorporates another dimension of wellness as follows:
Monday: intellectual wellnessCreative and stimulating mental activities include trivia questions about America and brain teasers.
Tuesday: emotional wellnessActivities encourage participants to stay positive, connect with others, and remain physically active. Attendees write thank-you or caring notes to friends, loved ones or caregivers; alternatively, they may engage in another activity that promotes positive thinking.
Wednesday: spiritual wellnessA 15-minute guided meditation segment encourages participants to merge the physical realm of wellness with the spiritual.
Thursday: occupational wellnessParticipants engage each other in a game that involves going through the alphabet and listing as many occupations as they can for each letter.
Friday: social wellnessActivities promote social wellness and the importance of socializing with others. Socializing involves using good communications skills, having meaningful relationships, respecting yourself and others, and creating a support system that includes family, friends and caregivers.
Ultimately, WALK! with Aegis Therapies helps to spread the word about the importance of getting—and staying—healthy, and that participants use the program as a springboard to a happier and healthier life.
What are you doing to turn basic ideas into creative programming?
Tags: walking, wellness, older adults
Creative programming | Events | Older adults | Recreation
In today's society, we're flooded with negative messages and images about what it means to age and to be an older person. We are constantly exposed to stereotypes that show older adults through a lens of decline and diminished value, emphasizing the "burdens" of growing old. In North America, we seldom hear about the value of older adults, or the rich, untapped potential of an aging population. We don't see enough portrayals of active older adults who are taking on new challenges, expanding their knowledge and skills base, or working tirelessly to help others. The result? Our views of aging are distorted.
The distorted view of aging is a major reason we have limited success engaging older adults in physical activity.
Just this month, for example, MSNBC reported on the disconnect between fashion magazines and aging readers. "An analysis of editorial and advertising images reveals that despite proportions of older readers ranging as high as 23%, fashion magazines portray women over 40 sparingly, if at all," writes Stephanie Pappas. "Even in magazines geared toward aging Baby Boomers, the images collectively present a thin, youthful, wrinkle-free ideal that's impossible to maintain later in life."
This ideal has an impact on body image in older women, according to Denise Lewis, a University of Georgia gerontologist and author of the research. "It leads to issues that have people denying age, so going to great lengths to continue to look like that ideal of a youthful person," she explains. The question is: If aging is something to be negated, denied or even "treated" through plastic surgery, where do we draw the line?
If looking old is somehow unacceptable, what about being old? An ad campaign for Circle K convenience stores blatanly disrespects and dismisses old age. The creative minds behind the campaign have used a drawing of a person in three stages of aging to illustrate the sizes of "Geezerade" slushy drinks and their cost. The eldest stage, which corresponds to the largest and most expensive drink, is an aging caricature: a bald, toothless, wizened old man. "Youngsters" can post their photos on the campaign's website and see themselves turned into "Geezers" - all just for fun, of course.
The "Geezerade" campaign is one overt example of ageism in marketing. But marketers make choices every day that have an impact on how society views aging. The campaigns they create too often reflect and reinforce negative perceptions of aging in society because they show one slice of the aging experience, if they show it at all. Marketing targeted to older people largely misses the mark by failing to connect with the realities of their lives.
One such reality is the ability of older adults to be physically active. Simply shifting attitudes from I can't to I can can help shift society's perceptions of aging, helping more adults to become healthier.
What can you or your organization do to change perceptions of aging?
Tags: older adults, aging, physical activity, advertising
Barriers | Building Healthy Communities | Older adults
Research published in the British scientific journal Age and Ageing found that older adults are highly knowledgeable about the health benefits of physical activity, yet many remain inactive due to the many barriers to participation. This article examines these barriers and suggests ways in which you and your organization can reduce or eliminate their impact on the physical activity levels of older adults.
1. Lack of interest (by far the #1 factor)
Prior to starting a program, have your older customer examine all their options. Would they prefer taking a class or going solo? Are they a morning or night person? Does indoor fitness appeal to them, or would they prefer to play outside? Could they dedicate large blocks of time to physical activity or could they fit only shorter, more frequent intervals into their schedule? What are their real world goals?
Young or old, people tend to enjoy things that interest them, that help them reach a goal or that is fun and social. By simply asking what they like to do you can break this barrier down one program at a time.
2. Shortness of breath
Shortness of breath can be due to a variety of health issues. It can also be that they are simply out of shape. Meet with their healthcare provider to see whether you'll need to consider any special modifications before starting an exercise program. If necessary, get clearance to begin a program. Educate members that there are ways to address issues to improve their quality of life.
3. Joint pain
According to the Arthritis Foundation, regular, moderate exercise offers a whole host of benefits to people with arthritis. By exercising, your member can reduce joint pain and stiffness, build strong muscle around the joints, and increase flexibility and endurance.
4. Perceived lack of fitness
Education is the key here. Ensure that your members know they can start slowly, i.e. with 5-10-minute walks in the morning, at lunchtime and after dinner. With their resistance training, start them with only a couple of exercises and build up. DO NOT OVERWORK them or you will never see them again. Set long-term goals and show them how they will build their fitness level or workout over time.
5. Lack of energy
In many cases, this barrier is reversible and can be due to a low fitness level. It could also be from the interaction of multiple prescription drugs. The first step to a solution is to establish why they are lacking energy, then explain how being active will actually give them more energy. For many it can even reduce the number of expensive drugs they take.
6. Doubting that exercise can lengthen life
Ask your older customers about their quality of life. Are they able to do the things they want to do? Explain how exercise can improve their quality of life, no matter how long they live. What exercise will offer them is the ability to age on their own terms.
How are you reducing barriers that limit participation levels among your older customers?
Tags: older adults, barriers, aging, inactivity
Barriers | Older adults
This page last updated on: 11/04/2009
Content for this site is maintained by the
Office of Disease Prevention & Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.