Be Active Your Way Blog
May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month! This month, organizations, schools, worksites, and communities across the nation are celebrating the benefits of being physically active, and the strides we've all made to help Americans move more. During May, take some extra time to enjoy the fun and excitement of being physically active with your friends, coworkers, and family.
How are you or your organization recognizing National Physical Fitness and Sports Month? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to contribute a blog post!
You have probably heard the saying, "A family that plays together, stays together." If this saying is true, our goal must be to provide the environments and programs that support this intergenerational bonding activity. The question is, How do we, as providers of health and wellness services, achieve this goal? Two words: active aging.
The active-aging approach enables you and your organization - as well as governments, product and service providers, employers and the health care industry - to create and implement strategies that provide fitness and wellness offerings over the life span. To help guide this process, the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) offers a roadmap with its "Nine Principles of Active Aging."
Nine Principles of Active Aging
As you develop and deliver programs and environments for the family, remember to take the following into consideration:
1. Populations: Who is your consumer? The US population is extremely diverse - from ability and age, to income and culture, to sexual orientation. How will you meet the needs and interests of the different individuals you serve? And consider how these challenges may be heightened in centers that serve multiple population segments.
2. Perceptions: Ageism, racism, and negative stereotypes are stalling the opportunity for inclusion. Moving forward means leaving old ways of thinking behind. What family programs can you offer that are inclusive and give people opportunities to discover misperceptions they may have about others?
3. People: What personnel will you need? If you offer a fitness program for grandparents and grandkids, what staff and staff knowledge will be required to run the program? With fewer people working in the field of aging, where will the workers come from if the program should need to accommodate special needs, such as those of frailer individuals or those living with disabilities?
4. Potential: With the population aging, age 50-plus consumers will dominate purchasing decisions for decades to come, creating untold business opportunities for those who attract them. What are these opportunities, and how can businesses tap them? One opportunity is to offer programs that grandparents will support. Engaging these consumers in family activity is good for the whole family - and for your bottom line.
5. Products: What products and services will you need to meet the needs and interests of multiple generations? From technology to fitness equipment, to outdoor playgrounds and fitness trails, are the products and services you use accessible and inclusive for all? Or will your choices limit the family experience?
6. Promotions: Effective promotions are important ways to inspire connections between generations. Yet marketers often earn a failing grade with the older population by being youth-oriented in their promotions. Did you know, for example, that 95% of all marketing dollars are spent on attracting people 35 years of age and younger? To be effective, promotions must be rooted in the realities of today's diverse population, including young and old, fit and non-fit, and individuals from a variety of cultures.
7. Places: Environments can encourage or discourage families in leading active, engaged lives. What environments - both indoors and outdoors - will you use to support active aging across the generations? Also, how will you create an environment that feels welcoming to all? It may make all the difference to people continuing to participate in your programs.
8. Policies: How do policy decisions affect active aging? Consider how important policies are in areas such as age discrimination, where policies can help avoid the unfair exclusion of young or old, and encourage intergenerational relationships. Are your policies inclusive, or do you need to revisit them?
9. Programs: As promoted by ICAA, the seven dimensions of wellness - physical, social, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, vocational and environmental wellness - are the backbone of active aging. They are also key to meeting the challenges of providing the wide variety of programs and environments that fulfill the needs and interests of a diverse population. What programs can you offer in each dimension of wellness that will support your family plan? One example is a program where adults mentor children through lifelong learning... Why? Research from the MacArthur Foundation Network on Aging in Society shows that children who fail to graduate high school live 10 years less than their counterparts who graduate. No matter which programs you decide to create - and there are many possibilities - focus on getting the family involved.
What is your family plan? Only you can answer this question. But the Nine Principles can help guide you in establishing your plan of action - from recognizing the populations you serve to choosing the place, products, and programs you offer to those who participate.
Tags: physical activity, family, older adults, active aging
Family Traditions | Marketing Physical Activity | Older adults
They say two things are guaranteed in life: death and taxes. I would like to add a third... aging.
We age from the moment we are born until the moment we draw our last breath. We all experience this natural life process; some of us just experience it for a shorter time than others. Today, our longer life spans are creating challenges and opportunities as we enter unknown territory.
Among these challenges is the aging population's continual fixation on staying young and on top of its game. This desire to discover the fountain of youth has spawned numerous million-dollar industries. Whether its Viagra, nutraceuticals, or tummy tucks, these markets are being driven by aging Boomers who want solutions and want them now. Just look at celebrity Boomers Randy Jackson of American Idol and Al Roker of NBC's Today Show; both had gastric bypass surgery. After a lot of nip and a little tuck, they are thin again. But these celebrities took a major risk when undergoing their operations, as three out of every 200 people die after weight loss surgery.
The Hunt is On
Plastic surgery has gone mainstream. So, too, have the cosmetic companies that claim to offer solutions for wrinkles, age spots and cellulite. Of course, let's not forget the so-called medical breakthrough of a few years ago: the World's First Anti-Aging Pill. The pill's dramatic press release stated that the "promising discovery has been proven to quickly reverse the aging process by repleneshing the body's own production of youth hormone to normal 25-year old levels." Hard to believe, I know, but let's try to image what such a product could mean.
If we can lose weight by having surgery and build muscle by taking a pill, why spend time sweating off those pounds and building that noteworthy physique? If we can take "elixirs of life" that promise to recapture the vitality of youth, why get out of bed to walk or run on a dark, cold morning in winter? These are good questions to ask, but the fact is that all the surgeries, pills and elixirs have a downside, whether their claims are ture or false. About 40% of Americans age 50 and older believe anti-aging products are basically "hogwash," while another 36% are "curious, but skeptical." Although more than 20% of people in this age group say these products can "work sometimes," just 3% say they like them a lot.
To Age or Not to Age
As we hear stories about increasing numbers of Boomers and older adults having their stomachs stapled or taking expensive remedies, we must recognize that most of these new industries focus on physical beauty rather than on internal health. Think about it. We can have a great exterior, but still develop heart disease, hypertension, osteoporosis, diabetes and depression. But by making healthier lifestyle choices, eating properly, and exercising, we can prevent, control or retard much of the damage. Even today, physicians can prescribe pills to treat diabetes, depression and hypertension. However, we can address these health issues as well and if not better - and for much less money - through exercise, proper nutrition, and lifestyle modifications.
The reality is, we don't live in a perfect world. And the pursuit of the perfect exterior, whether young or old, while neglecting the perfect interior, could have a major impact on the health of aging Boomers. Our goal must be to help these individuals achieve their ideal self, both inside and out. By broadening the focus to include the internal, we can help our members - and our businesses - enjoy better health.
Expanding the Message
To accomplish this lofty task, take a step back and think of the market as your child. What advice would you give to your child, who you love dearly, and who you want to see grow up healthy and living a long life. Would you put them in front of a mirror and critique them, testing their body fat to see how they compare with the rest of the population? Not most parents. You are more likely to talk to them about what it means to be healthy, from the inside out, offering the support they need to grow and accomplish a healthy lifestyle.
Now think of members in your community. Do you help people you care about to be better from the inside out? Do you give them the support they need to be succesful?
What we in the field of physical activity and exercise offer the world is the ability to lead a high quality life, and there is no better time to start a physical activity program than during National Physical Fitness and Sports Month.
So, how will you help your community members shift their focus from perfection to prevention?
Tags: physical activity, older adults, active aging, prevention
Older adults | Preventing Obesity
Let's Move! provides the ideal opportunity to attract grandparents and grandchildren into your health or wellness center or program by providing participants with shared experiences and multidimensional health benefits, depending on the programs offered. To embrace this opportunity, you may want to incorporate the intergenerational activities below into your programming, or use them as a springboard for other ideas.
1. Walking the World
Start this walking program by describing the reasons why walking is good for health and how to make walking workouts enjoyable. Create an adventure for grandparents and grandchildren by making the goal to circle the globe. Ask participants to count their steps with pedometers and to write down their results. Pin a map on the wall to track progress, and count each step towards mileage. Recognize efforts by enrolling grandparents and grandchildren in the President's Challenge.
2. Family Album
Invite grandparents to bring photographs from the family album. Encourage them to use these images to talk about the past, allowing grandchildren to ask questions and discover more about their grandparents. Introduce an extra level to this program by suggesting that grandparents help grandchildren begin a photo album of their own.
3. Scavenger Hunt
Create a list of small things for grandparents and grandchildren to search for on a walk. Include items appropriate to your environment, e.g. a paper clip, a leaf, a white stone. Count the number of scavenged items each pair has at the end of the walk. Let the pair with the most things choose the next adventure.
4. Book-lovers Club
Ask grandparents and grandchildren to read books together, with the goal of discussing them at monthly Book Lovers meetings. Encourage participants to discuss the books they've read with other members of the club. Prepare for an enthusiastic exchange between book lovers, young and old.
5. Group Exercise
Make group exercise opportunities for the whole family. Offer classes in tai chi, swimming, yoga or group fitness, for example. Give dance classes for families. Come up with dances and name them after families participating in the program. Consider having family nights a few times a week.
6. Life Stage
Start a theater group to offer creative fun for grandparents and grandchildren. Ask the participants to write, produce and direct a year-end play for the theater group to perform. Urge them to come up with an active, fun play. Invite family members to the performance.
7. Tennis for Two
Offer tennis classes for grandparents and grandchildren at a special intergenerational rate. At the season's end, organize a tennis tournament in which participants play other intergenerational pairs. Suggest that grandparents and grandchildren invite other family members to watch or join in the fun. Provide fun awards to program participants, and be creative when coming up with award categories. When the tournament ends, throw a party to recruit other family members for the upcoming season.
8. PC Pals
Provide intergenerational computer classes, which allow grandchildren to help grandparents learn basic computer knowledge. Encourage family groups to use the computer to communicate.
9. Family Play
Devise activities that provide all family members with opportunities to work out together, e.g. outdoor hikes, biking or walking trips, or sports days. Host a family Olympics, with fun events and categories for all family members. Ensure that activities are accessible for all participants.
10. The Learning Files
Help grandparents share their skills and talents with younger family members by giving them opportunities to teach grandchildren - even if they are learning a topic themselves. Make lesson plans fun and easy. Give tomorrow's plan to grandparents, so they can prepare to teach grandchildren about subjects such as meal planning, reading food labels, or choosing the right footwear for an activity.
Relationships with grandchildren bring love, energy, play and purpose into the lives of older adults. In return, children benefit from the attention, maturity, knowledge and love of their grandparents, many of whom are caring and thoughtful role models. By creating programs that bring together these family members, you can provide individuals with healthier futures and valued life experiences, while improving your bottom line.
Tags: physical activity, Lets Move, older adults, active aging, generation, programs
Creative programming | Older adults
This page last updated on: 11/04/2009
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Office of Disease Prevention & Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.