What do the words “active aging” mean to you? According to The World Health Organization, it’s the process of optimizing opportunities for participation in healthy choices in order to enhance your quality of life as you age.
Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former director-general of the organization, described active aging when she said, “There is much the individual can do to remain active and healthy in later life. A healthy lifestyle, the involvement of family and friends, and a supportive environment for older persons all preserve well-being.”
Dr. Brundtland’s words also accurately describe the widely-used Six Dimensions of Wellness model developed by Dr. Bill Hettler of the National Wellness Institute. The six dimensions of wellness in Dr. Hettler’s model include spiritual, physical, social, mental, emotional and vocational well-being.
Whether we use the term active aging or refer to the six dimensions of wellness, it’s all about personal choices and attitudes.
It’s never too late to make healthier choices in your daily routine. Sociologists and anthropologists have long said that humans are pattern seekers, and we get comfortable with daily patterns and behaviors. Often, it is the small changes that we can stick to most successfully. Even one small, healthy change maintained over the course of a lifetime can yield great benefits.
Let’s look at one dimension of wellness—physical wellness—and the benefits of implementing one small change.
In studies by the International Council of Active Aging, it was found that only 30 minutes of a simple, moderate, daily exercise such as walking may lower your risk of having a stroke. It can also lower high blood pressure and assist in managing diabetes. Thirty minutes of a moderate intensity daily activity is also a great way to increase your energy and improve your mood.
What is considered moderate? It varies from person to person. Moderate means that you can feel your heart beating faster and you are breathing more rapidly, but you can still talk comfortably. Can’t fit 30 minutes of activity into your day? You don’t have to. Try for three times a day for 10 minutes. Try stepping in place or simply standing up for all commercials during a one-hour television show.
Remember, it is all about optimizing healthy choices to enhance your quality of life. It’s not always easy, but active aging can begin with one simple choice.
By Margaret Hemauer, ACC, MA, NHA
Quality/Performance Improvement Consultant
World Health Organization: What is Active Aging
International Council on Active Aging - Consumers: Walking Center
Strategies for successful aging – By Laurie Parker
Where’s the joy in growing old? – By Marya Burns