September 21 to 27, 2014 is Active Aging Week. Aging is a complicated process that is quite different for every individual. Not everyone will experience long term, chronic conditions and those that do can do something to mitigate the pain and reduce discomfort. Staying active can help reduce the risk or symptoms of a number of degenerative conditions. Active Aging Week was established to bring attention to some of these subjects and how they affect us as we age.
There are many things that our culture and even doctors have attributed to aging that may be more complex. This interesting article from NextAvenue.org points out some of the reasons we shouldn’t take these symptoms of aging so lightly. However, most people agree that staying active can be an essential tool to fight the onset of some of these degenerative diseases.
One of the best ways to integrate active aging into your life is to participate in Active Aging Week. The annual event was started by the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) to promote the idea that you don’t have to take aging lying down. The week celebrates adults 50 years old and older as fully participating members of society. Its intention is to promote the benefits of an active, healthy lifestyle. It also sheds light on the fact that just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you have to give up on being active.
As the organizer’s website notes:
“Are you ready to get active? You’ll feel better, have more energy and likely stay more healthy. That adds up to being able to do what you want, when you want.
Active aging means living life as fully as possible. How well we age has much more to do with how well we function, and a lot less to do with the years. And we all function better when we take a walk, visit friends and family, work crosswords or work for money, and sing and dance.”
Organizations throughout North America can offer their own Active Aging Week events that are either free or low cost. These are intended to be educational and fun for participants. You may find events in your community in places like parks, malls, YMCAs, and Jewish Community Centers. Health clubs, senior centers, senior living communities, and other sites may also have programming or classes available. Popular activities include group walks, health fairs, dances, exercise classes, concerts, and anything else the local organizers are interested in presenting. The ICCA encourages local groups to be flexible in the type of programming they offer.
The science of aging
The American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) provides several resources on their site about the biology of aging as well as practical and medically sound advice for maintaining health as you grow older.
There are many aspects of aging that are natural. Degenerative conditions are caused by wear and tear of the body over time, but they don’t only affect older adults. However, new advancements are being made every day that can influence the way science and other health professionals approach treatment of the common symptoms of these conditions. It is also important to note that medicine isn’t the only answer. Many adults benefit from a holistic approach to facing aging.
The science of aging is vast and researchers are learning new things all the time. Different people have different biological indicators for certain conditions while others are based on injuries, overuse, or external factors. For this reason, information on active aging is important.
A degenerative condition is one where the function or structure of the affected tissues will increasingly deteriorate over time. This can be due to normal activity or various lifestyle choices. Two of the most common degenerative conditions in older adults are osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.
- Osteoarthritis: This condition affects the soft cartilage tissues that cushion the joints between bones. When it begins to deteriorate, increased pain is often a result. There may be swelling or a grating feeling or sound when the joint is moved. There are a number of potential treatments for the symptoms of osteoarthritis including supplements to restore the tissues as well as exercise to strengthen the surrounding muscles. Active Aging Week can help individuals dealing with the effects of osteoarthritis learn to cope with their condition in a healthy way.
- Osteoporosis: By contrast, this condition is indicated by bone loss in the body. Most often attributed to long-term calcium deficiency, osteoporosis affects the bones and causes them to become weak. A patient suffering from osteoporosis is susceptible to falls and breaks that can be detrimental. Active Aging Week includes a focused day on fall prevention to help individuals understand the risks and employ solutions in their everyday lives.
Active Aging Week helps seniors and anyone interested in taking an active role in their aging process by encouraging a holistic approach to this natural phenomenon. Suggested events for each day throughout the week will focus on different important topics. These include foot health, walking, fall prevention, bone health, and intergenerational learning. You can visit the website for more details on each event and find out where they may be happening in your community.
Organizers of Active Aging Week events are encouraged to close out the week with a celebration to close the event in a meaningful way. Dances, educational series, mixers, or other community based activities are highly encouraged. Research has found that aging with a strong support group is another way to help improve quality of life as you grow older.
Spread the word
It is not too late to spread the word about Active Aging Week in your community. Even if you are unable to find sponsored events in your area, get together with your friends to celebrate the week. Take the initiative to organize a community walk in a local park and spread the word on social media. Active aging is an individual experience with great community benefits so take some action of your own. Spend some time cultivating your relationships, focusing on your health, and improving your quality of life as you age in any way you can.
What are some of the ways you can incorporate some of the Active Aging Week events into your daily life?
Image by Nicolas Alejandro Street Photography via Flickr