6 Ways To Promote Active Aging
The International Council of Active Aging (ICAA) hosts an annual weeklong campaign promoting healthy aging. Active Aging Week (AAW) is held on the first full week of October each year. Communities around the world use this week as an opportunity to educate residents and host activities on the various dimensions of wellness.
What is Active Aging?
Active aging provides programs, places, and environments that support individuals to take an active role in their health and wellness. Research has shown active lifestyles can decrease challenges associated with population aging while increasing opportunities.
According to ICAA, active aging promotes the vision of all individuals regardless of age, socioeconomic status or health fully engaging in life within all seven dimensions of wellness: emotional, intellectual, physical, vocational, social, spiritual, and environmental.
The seven dimensions of wellness are the key to living a purpose-filled and engaged life. Each dimension overlaps and coordinates with each other to provide a well-rounded living experience.
The emotional dimension is focused on creating balance, coping with challenges, and behaving appropriately. Emotional wellness can be encouraged through peer counseling, stress management, humor/laughter, and personal histories.
Engaging in activities that are intellectually stimulating and providing creative outlets of expression are proven approaches to keeping minds alert and interested. There are many ways to promote healthy cognitive aging, including taking college courses, journaling, painting, and playing games or doing puzzles.
As older adults begin to lose their ability to live independently, physical wellness can be encouraged to help them gain a sense of control and freedom. Educate residents on the benefits of healthy lifestyle choices that can maintain or improve health and functional ability. Topics such as engaging in physical activity, maintaining proper nutrition by choosing healthy foods and getting adequate calories, getting enough sleep, managing stress, limiting alcohol intake, not smoking, making appointments for check-ups, and following medical recommendations are great places to start.
Residents can often be a wealth of untapped potential. As older adults age out of the workforce, they lose the personal satisfaction their skills and experience gave them. Offer ways to maintain or improve resident skills and provide a program for them to help others. Older adults can feel more fulfilled when they are able to contribute to society.
Aging can feel isolating when social wellness declines. Interactions with family, friends, neighbors and chosen peer groups can be valuable for resident health. Personal connections made through joining clubs, email pen pals, visiting friends and family, and engaging in intergenerational experiences can be beneficial for maintaining social wellness and good health.
Spiritual wellness refers to living with meaning and purpose in life, guided by personal values, and cultivating a connection to the larger world. Group and individual faith-based activities, personal meditation, mindful exercise (yoga, tai chi) and experiencing nature can create the opportunity for spiritual growth.
Find ways to incorporate natural environments to maintain this wellness dimension. Encourage active living through urban and property designs emphasizing walking paths, meditation, gardens and similar options.
Active Aging Week Ideas:
Active Aging Week can be celebrated by anyone but is often celebrated by assisted living and long- term care communities as well as many fitness groups, libraries, and local organizations. Join in on the celebration by participating in these activities.
While there is no “secret to longevity,” experts recommend incorporating daily physical activity into a healthy lifestyle to achieve a long, fulfilling life. Group activities are a fun way to get your residents active. Low impact activities such as walking, yoga, and aerobics are great ways to get the body moving. Some organizations even host online classes giving people the opportunity to participate virtually.
Promote Support Groups
Aging can be an emotional process. Not only have residents had to move from their homes, but many have also experienced grief, memory loss, various health conditions, and other major lifestyle changes. Promoting support groups give residents the opportunity to process their emotions, connect with others, and find healthy ways to navigate their new circumstances.
Offer Educational Opportunities
Continued education is not just for career professionals. No matter how old we are, we can always continue to learn and grow. Learning new things be exciting and fun, while also improving brain function and prevent cognitive decline. Try hosting various classes and workshops, such as dancing, cooking, gardening, and painting, that allow residents to improve their skills and give them the opportunity to try something new.
Host Meditation Workshops
While it may be a new concept for many, meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. Meditation clears the mind of daily stressors, lowers blood pressure, improves focus, and some studies have even shown it can enhance short and long-term memory. There is an abundance of online videos to play for guided meditations, but even closing your eyes and focusing on your breath for a few moments can be very effective.
Provide Creative Outlets
Creative pursuits such as storytelling can get more residents involved than activities that may require more skill or supervision. Regardless of their background, each resident has a unique story to tell. Sharing these stories can help spark their memory while allowing them to reminisce in their nostalgia. It also gives them the opportunity to connect with other residents. If families and friends can participate, even better! It is a great reminder to everyone of all the wonderful things life has to offer.
Encourage Goal Setting
After living a long, fulfilling life many seniors may think they’ve accomplished all they can, but it is important to encourage them to keep working towards something new. Goal setting can bring a sense of purpose to each day, allowing them to grow, and motivating them to continue to reach to new heights. Taking the time to set attainable goals with each resident on a regular basis will surely contribute to a happy, healthy life.
Getting older can be intimidating but by nurturing good health through each of the wellness dimensions you will be able to build a supportive community that encourages each member to take an active role in their aging. Active Aging Week reminds each of us to be proactive in our health and live a purpose-filled and engaged life.
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