Active Aging: A Policy Framework


The concept of active aging was adopted by the World Health Organization in the late 1990s. Today, active aging provides a conceptual framework for governments, communities and corporations to plan and implement multi-dimsensional strategies to improve the quality of life for older adults. Individuals can also improve their quality of life by being engaged in life as fully as possible throughout the life span. Accomplishing this requires that an individual be physically active, cognitively and socially engaged, occupationally or vocationally involved, and emotionally and spiritually healthy.

Dimensions of Active Aging

Physical health means choosing lifestyle habits that maintain or improve your health and functional ability. Things people can do to enhance their physical health include: exercising, eating a proper diet, playing sports, sleeping regularly, caring for self, and not using alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

Cognitive/intellectual health means engaging in creative pursuits and intellectually stimulating activities, as well as problem solving and reasoning. Activities one can participate in to improve intellectual/cognitive health include: brain fitness classes and workshops, cultural activities, arts and crafts, journaling, games or puzzles, and reading.

Emotional health means managing and directing one’s feelings, coping with challenges, and behaving in trustworthy and respectful ways. Things one can do to improve emotional health include: practicing stress management, embracing humor and laughter, and writing or talking about his or her personal hisotory.

Social health means interacting with others for mutual benefit, as well as awareness of and participation in the larger community. Things once can do to improve social health include: joining a club, volunteering, dancing, visiting friends and family, doing group and intergenerational activities, and traveling with a group.

Spiritual health means living with a meaning or purpose in life, and exploring beliefs and values that create personal peace and understanding. Things one can do to enhance spiritual health include: group and/or individual faith-based activities, personal meditation or reflection, mindful exercise (e.g. yoga, tai chi), and experiencing nature.

Occupational/vocational health means maintaining or improving skills, abilities and attitudes that help individuals stay productive and satisfied with the work they do. Things one can do to to enhance their professional or vocational health include: paid work, volunteering, skill-building classes, mentoring, tutoring, starting a hobby, and caregiving.

Active Aging – An Appealing Future for All

The financial cost associated with a disengaged older population is immense. The financial rewards for an engaged older population are significant. To ensure that engagement is created…

…governments will need to create and support policies, funding, and tax breaks for organizations, communities and businesses that create and deliver engaging active aging programs.

…businesses will need to train, retrain, and retain a greater number of their workforce by providing engaging active aging programs.

…communities will need to provide settings and supportive organizations that will provide engaging active aging opportunities and environments.

…families will need to embrace the concept of active aging to create greater emotional and social ties with their loved ones, and to help them improve their quality of life.

…individuals will need to decide if being engaged in life as fully as possible throughout the lifespan is a lifestyle choice they wish to embrace in achieving quality of life.