10 Tips: Building Healthy Communities for Older Adults



What makes a healthy community? One answer is contained in the physical spaces and services that enable older adults to engage in healthy behaviors. Bike paths, walking trails, outdoor fitness spaces, meditation areas and labyrinths are just a few examples of infrastructure that can inspire and engage older populations. Another example can be found in upgraded senior centers providing spaces for community gardens and offering numerous educational campaigns and incentives to help lead their population towards a healthier life across the lifespan.

The second answer lies in the catchphrase of “personal responsibility.” For a community to be healthy, the people living in that community need to take action. Here are 10 tips that can help you inform your older consumers about ways in which they can lead a healthier life, thus creating a healthy community. Here we go…

1. Expectations: If they have been following a healthy lifestyle up until now, simply tell them to keep going. If they need to make changes, help them to anticipate succeeding, not failing – and don’t let age be a barrier. Research has shown that thinking positively about getting older can extend their life by as much as 7.5 years.

2. Enthusiasm: Few people are thrilled with every aspect of their lives, but many have at least one area – family, friends, work, avocation – that they feel good about. Identify an activity or connection that sparks their enthusiasm, and make it their lifeline; try to get them to extend that enthusiasm to other areas of their life.

3. Energy: Having the energy and motivation they need to age well are hallmarks of healthy living. If they are fatigued all the time, don’t let apathy and lethargy drag them down; suggest they get a checkup to try to determine the cause and the solution.

4. Eating: Eating a balanced diet and attaining/maintaining a normal weight are keys to physical and mental health; if they need to lose weight or make changes in their diet, keep their expectations high – they can do it!

5. Exercise: Staying physically active fuels the body and mind. If they are already exercising regularly, encourage them to keep it up. It they are just getting started, help them to understand their skill level, get them to set goals and progress at their own pace, and get them to be consistent.

6. Engagement: Volunteers have higher levels of well-being and life satisfaction than those who don’t volunteer; volunteering and other forms of civic and social engagement can play an important role in the maintenance of good health later in life. Get them involved in the community.

7. Emotions: Everyone feels down at times, but full-blown depression is a major cause of disability. If they are feeling out of sorts for two weeks or more, talk with their doctor or have them take an online screening test. In many instances, simply exercising and eating right can change their mood.

8. Education: Lifelong learning is important to living an independent and fulfilling life. Suggest your customers start now to learn a new area of knowledge or physical activity. It’s good for the brain.

9. Effort: Changing expectations and embarking on new behaviors takes energy and effort, but the results for your customer will be well worth it.

10. Enjoyment: A healthy life generally is a joyous one. Suggest ways in which your customers can savor the process of being or becoming active, engaged, and truly alive.

How will you use this information to help build a healthier community in your town or city?