HEALTH March 2016
A Healthy Age
More than 1,000 local groups across the country will celebrate 2016 National Senior Health Day on Wednesday, May 25, 2016. (Find your area atfitnessday.com.)
With winter’s chill present, it’s a good time to take a fitness assessment. Perhaps this upcoming day, traditionally a capstone event as part of Older Americans Month, will motivate you to improve your health and fitness.
Today’s older adults eschew the stereotypical Norman Rockwell painting of graying grandparents in the golden years. Many seniors walk on an elliptical daily, raft in whitewater, dive in the Caribbean, and run marathons. This isn’t for them.
Those of you enjoying your newspaper with a cup of coffee who haven’t left the house since December, this message is for you.
We’ll look at two questions: How is our collective national health, as seniors? How can I improve my personal fitness?
What State of Health Are American Seniors In?
According to the United Health Foundation, one in seven Americans is 65 and over. A white paper on senior health by the UHF reports that the balance of the 77 million baby boomers will move into this age bracket in the next two decades.
UHF’s third assessment of American senior health notes encouraging news as well as setbacks in preventable hospitalizations. Seniors report better health overall.
Baby boomers began turning 65 in 2011, and the tide turned with boomers surging as our elders, replacing the silent majority and the greatest generation. Those two landmark groups represent our parents and in some cases, our grandparents.
The 2010 census data projects from 2012 to 2050, America will grow from 314 million people to 400 million. That’s a 27% increase.
All Americans want a healthy population, but why is the health and well-being of seniors so critical now? To put it bluntly, we seniors need the work, and the workforce needs us. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that perhaps one-third of American workers today are over 50.
Some Key Findings of Our Senior Collective Health in 2015
- Vermont is the healthiest state for older adults with a 10% decrease in chronic drinking over the prior study. Other top states include New Hampshire, Minnesota, Hawaii, and Utah. (View your state rankings at www.americashealthrankings.org)
- Louisiana is 50 out of 50. Other bottom-dwellers include Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
Physical inactivity is up overall, with 33.1% of seniors inactive, up from 28.7% in the previous year.
Our collective health challenges as seniors remain physical inactivity, food insecurity, depression, community support and pain management. There is good news, however. As Americans, we reduced hip fractures, preventable deaths, hospital deaths, and premature deaths.
Where Do You Fit?
Consider these suggestions from NIH Senior Health.
- Get to your medical professional and make a plan. Regardless of your health, you should have an annual physical. This is a great time to discuss your overall fitness plan with your medical provider. Do I need to lower my cholesterol? Is my blood pressure high? How is my stress level?
- Pace yourself. Start slowly. All of us have different health conditions that may preclude certain kinds of exercise (for example, I have moderate asthma, so I’ll not be running cross-country.) If you haven’t been active, work up to a moderate level of activity. You don’t have to be senior athlete of the year. Check out your local Y or senior center. Many offer walking, swimming, yoga, tai chi, and a multitude of options for seniors.
- Choose an activity that makes sense for you. I will never be a runner. I am clumsy and easily distracted. My hilly neighborhood isn’t the ideal area for a bi-focaled senior woman running. I prefer a local warm water pool where I can take an inexpensive class or enjoy a free time. This is a great choice and fits me; it helps with my osteoarthritis and overall stress level. Find an activity that suits you, whether it’s swimming or biking or restorative yoga. My 81-year-old housekeeper line dances at the senior center several times a week; my 85-year-old father walks to the gym every morning.
- Find a buddy. Studies show that individuals who exercise in pairs tend to be more accountable and successful. When your pal is expecting you to mall walk, you don’t want to show her up. Then go out for a healthy breakfast!
- Celebrate success! When you achieve a small goal, reward yourself. Consider the small things you can do to improve your overall fitness, and you’ll be celebrating National Senior Health and Fitness Day for years to come.
Find my books and columns at www.amyabbottwrites.com.