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International Council on Active Aging
United States

About Me:

Colin Milner, ICAA BloggerColin 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.

Recent Posts by ICAA

Intergenerational Programming: 10 Ideas for Family Fun

by ICAA March 28, 2012

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.

Choosing Your Target Market: The Key to Successful Marketing

by ICAA January 27, 2012

One of the first things taught in marketing is that if you don't know who your customer is, you will never achieve ultimate success. Keep this axiom in mind. It is probably the most important thing to take into account in the conceptual stage of building your physical activity marketing program.

How do you choose which segment of the older adult population to target? In recent years, marketers and researchers have suggested all kinds of approaches to this question. But when it comes to physical activity and exercise, levels of physical function remain an important and effective way to segment older adults.

The five levels of function

In her 1995 landmark book, Physical Demensions of Aging, Waneen Spirduso, EdD, Mauzy Regents Professor of Kinesiology and Health Education at the University of Texas-Austin, details five distinct functional levels in the mature population:

1. Physically dependent - Individuals cannot do some or all Basic Activities of Daily Living, or BADL (i.e. self-feeding, dressing, using the toilet, transferring, and walking). These adults depend on others for food and other basic functions of living.

2. Physically frail - Individuals can perform BADL, but cannot execute some or all of the activities necessary to live independently. Generally, this inability is due to a debilitating disease or condition that physically challenges these adults on a daily basis.

3. Physically independent - Individuals live independently, usually without debilitating symptoms of major chronic diseases. However, these men and women have low health and fitness reserves.

4. Physically fit - Individuals exercise at least twice a week for their health, enjoyment and well-being. They also enjoy high health and fitness reserves.

5. Physically elite - Individuals train on an almost daily basis. In addition, these adults either compete in sports tournaments or work in physically demanding jobs.

Imagine the impact on your business if you had no defined target market, and you aimed simply to serve older adults, with little awareness of the range of abilities. Not to mention, of course, poor experiences your wellness center would offer many potential clients. The bottom line? Functional levels influence every aspect of marketing, and ultimately, it's success.

Different levels, different needs

In narrowing down which segment(s) to pursue, you will want to consider the most immediate fitness needs of older adults. Physically dependent adults need movement that helps maintain or improve physical function for basic self-care, such as strength training, range of motion, and balance and coordination. Physically frail adults need exercise that helps maintain or improve their ability to perform basic and instrumental activities. Physically dependent adults need to focus on exercise that will help them prevent illness, disability, or injury. Since this group is at high risk for greater dependency, a main goal is to educate them about the importance of "prevention of functional loss" and motivate them to increase their health and fitness reserves.

With physically fit older adults, the primary goal is to provide them with current health information and various opportunities to maintain their fitness. And physically elite older adults still need exercise that helps build reserve and maintain fitness, and conditions individuals to improve performance in competition or in strenuous work and/or recreational activities. With physically elite clients, the wellness professional's role is that of facilitator.

Information about each group will help you make an informed choice about which functional level(s) to target - before you invest in your marketing program. Once you know who your customers will be, you can plan all aspects of your marketing effort, keeping their needs in mind.

Think of it this way: If the key to success is targeting your market effectively, then knowing this group's needs and abilities lets you select the right key.

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Marketing Physical Activity | Older adults

Active Aging: A Policy Framework

by ICAA November 23, 2011

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.

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Older adults | Policy

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