Be Active Your Way Blog
Colin 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.
They say two things are guaranteed in life: death and taxes. I would like to add a third... aging.
We age from the moment we are born until the moment we draw our last breath. We all experience this natural life process; some of us just experience it for a shorter time than others. Today, our longer life spans are creating challenges and opportunities as we enter unknown territory.
Among these challenges is the aging population's continual fixation on staying young and on top of its game. This desire to discover the fountain of youth has spawned numerous million-dollar industries. Whether its Viagra, nutraceuticals, or tummy tucks, these markets are being driven by aging Boomers who want solutions and want them now. Just look at celebrity Boomers Randy Jackson of American Idol and Al Roker of NBC's Today Show; both had gastric bypass surgery. After a lot of nip and a little tuck, they are thin again. But these celebrities took a major risk when undergoing their operations, as three out of every 200 people die after weight loss surgery.
The Hunt is On
Plastic surgery has gone mainstream. So, too, have the cosmetic companies that claim to offer solutions for wrinkles, age spots and cellulite. Of course, let's not forget the so-called medical breakthrough of a few years ago: the World's First Anti-Aging Pill. The pill's dramatic press release stated that the "promising discovery has been proven to quickly reverse the aging process by repleneshing the body's own production of youth hormone to normal 25-year old levels." Hard to believe, I know, but let's try to image what such a product could mean.
If we can lose weight by having surgery and build muscle by taking a pill, why spend time sweating off those pounds and building that noteworthy physique? If we can take "elixirs of life" that promise to recapture the vitality of youth, why get out of bed to walk or run on a dark, cold morning in winter? These are good questions to ask, but the fact is that all the surgeries, pills and elixirs have a downside, whether their claims are ture or false. About 40% of Americans age 50 and older believe anti-aging products are basically "hogwash," while another 36% are "curious, but skeptical." Although more than 20% of people in this age group say these products can "work sometimes," just 3% say they like them a lot.
To Age or Not to Age
As we hear stories about increasing numbers of Boomers and older adults having their stomachs stapled or taking expensive remedies, we must recognize that most of these new industries focus on physical beauty rather than on internal health. Think about it. We can have a great exterior, but still develop heart disease, hypertension, osteoporosis, diabetes and depression. But by making healthier lifestyle choices, eating properly, and exercising, we can prevent, control or retard much of the damage. Even today, physicians can prescribe pills to treat diabetes, depression and hypertension. However, we can address these health issues as well and if not better - and for much less money - through exercise, proper nutrition, and lifestyle modifications.
The reality is, we don't live in a perfect world. And the pursuit of the perfect exterior, whether young or old, while neglecting the perfect interior, could have a major impact on the health of aging Boomers. Our goal must be to help these individuals achieve their ideal self, both inside and out. By broadening the focus to include the internal, we can help our members - and our businesses - enjoy better health.
Expanding the Message
To accomplish this lofty task, take a step back and think of the market as your child. What advice would you give to your child, who you love dearly, and who you want to see grow up healthy and living a long life. Would you put them in front of a mirror and critique them, testing their body fat to see how they compare with the rest of the population? Not most parents. You are more likely to talk to them about what it means to be healthy, from the inside out, offering the support they need to grow and accomplish a healthy lifestyle.
Now think of members in your community. Do you help people you care about to be better from the inside out? Do you give them the support they need to be succesful?
What we in the field of physical activity and exercise offer the world is the ability to lead a high quality life, and there is no better time to start a physical activity program than during National Physical Fitness and Sports Month.
So, how will you help your community members shift their focus from perfection to prevention?
Tags: physical activity, older adults, active aging, prevention
Older adults | Preventing Obesity
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.
Tags: physical activity, Lets Move, older adults, active aging, generation, programs
Creative programming | Older adults
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.
Tags: physical activity, older adults, marketing, function
Marketing Physical Activity | Older adults
This page last updated on: 11/04/2009
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