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Do this ONE thing for a longer, healthier life

Longer, healthier lives already exist. However, we don’t necessarily all age well with few pains and no concern about our physical or mental wellbeing.  In fact, physical and cognitive decline are a significant worry for many as I wrote about here.

Now, we could wait for the miracle anti-ageing pill being researched and tested by Dr David Sinclair at Harvard University, however, it’s ten or more years away. And whilst billionaires such as Paul Allen and Sergey Brin co-founders of Microsoft and Google respectively, invest millions in anti-ageing research, there’s nothing available that will make a difference to our lives today.

Our lives are longer today than at any other time in history thanks to progress in medicine and healthcare. Although some seek to defy the natural physical processes of ageing with Botox, plastic surgery, or beauty products, others simply aspire to age well. The idea of occupying our bodies into decline via a nursing home to death appeals to … well, no one actually.

However, there is one thing that we can all do today that makes a significant difference to how we age.

That one thing?

Weight-bearing exercise.

The benefits

Of course some exercise is better than none. However, research undertaken by exercise physiologist Dr Tim Henwood with older adults, including one study that involved residents of an aged care facility with an average age of 86 years old, found that there were numerous advantages associated with a tailored weight bearing exercise program.

Benefits revealed in Dr Henwood’s research included:

  1. Improvement in overall health and wellbeing;
  2. Enhanced sleep;
  3. Reduced symptoms of disease associated with physical and/or mental decline;
  4. Better bone density;
  5. Reduced falls; and,
  6. Greater general strength and ability to be independent.

With falls a leading cause of injury for those aged over 65 years, it’s worthwhile considering what activities can reduce the likelihood of these occurring. Weight-bearing exercise is one proven way to make a difference and have an impact on falls prevention.

However, there’s another advantage. Social relationships and connection.

Bonus of weight-bearing exercise

Loneliness is a significant issue for people as they age and is now being equated to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. By undertaking a weight bearing exercise program with an exercise physiologist or suitably qualified personal trainer at a gym or facility that knows and understands older bodies, a person is able to informally meet and connect with others.

Another advantage of a gym is the opportunity to meet and speak with people of all ages. To build relationships inter-generationally.

3 tips for selecting a trainer and gym

When embarking on a new weight-bearing exercise program there are 3 essential factors to consider:

1.What qualifications do the exercise physiologists (EP) or personal trainers (PT) have to train older people? Ask.

Whilst working with a young, enthusiastic, optimistic young, good looking man/woman might appeal, if they don’t have the right training they could cause minor injuries such as strains or pains that are inconvenient and mean you can’t exercise at all for a period of time. This type of experience could also reduce your interest or desire to continue.

2. Who does the EP or PT currently work with who is older? Ask for references and speak to some existing clients.

3. What initial testing do they do to design the program? Is it free or does it cost money? How much?

4. How do they manage, monitor, and develop your program? If finances are a consideration, you could ask for a new program once a month. In between sessions you could work independently either at the gym or at home.

In the early stages you may not be lifting the types of weights these ladies seem to do with relative ease. Sometimes specific exercises utilise our own body weight and that’s challenging enough. Over time, who knows? We might become a weight-lifting champion.

In the meantime, it’s just about starting.

Make an enquiry.

Speak to friends.

Go to a gym.

Make it a social occasion and a regular part of the week. It really is one of the best things we can do to enable us to age well.

Note: If in doubt, seek medical advice prior to undertaking physical activity if you have health issues or any concerns about your ability to do this type of exercise

Image credit: Photo by Parvana Praveen on Unsplash

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intergenerational community

Intergenerational understanding

It’s well known that baby boomers often feel invisible.

Often ignored by marketers, Baby Boomers can also struggle to get jobs as employers consider them “too old”.

The perception tends to be that turning 50 is the start of a slippery slide downhill towards physical or cognitive decline. To being old.

Reality is quite different.

Baby boomers, and beyond, are an active, engaged, experienced, interested, interesting, technologically literate, and wise group of diverse individuals. Despite greying hair, wrinkles, and a slight slowing down, our own research reveals that baby boomers generally feel at least 3 years younger, and often 10-15 years younger than their chronological age.

Recently, I had the privilege of staying with my Aunt in a retirement village. She was thrilled. And because she knows my work is focused on people over 50, and she loves catering, I was treated to a fabulous dinner party with a group of women from their mid-80’s to 92 years old! All independent, active and with a great story to tell.

In my work, I am lucky to meet and talk with a wide range of older men and women. The more people I meet, the more grateful I am to have the privilege of their company and conversation.

The challenge is encouraging organisations, marketers, advertisers, and PR agencies to recognise this valuable cohort of people. Usually, marketing departments and agencies are filled with millennials who “don’t get us”.

The key is to educate, inform, and inspire a new understanding that changes the cultural conversation about becoming older.

It’s a significant segment of Australia’s population comprised of nearly 8 million people!

Time to change

It’s time to change so that ageism and age discrimination don’t remain into the future.

Lifespans are becoming longer.  The desire to remain an active part of the workforce and the community well beyond 50 will only grow. Considering ways to shift entrenched cultural and organisational attitudes and behaviour is key. One way to achieve change is to bring generations together.

Why Intergenerational Understanding

Hollywood did it in a light-hearted way with The Intern. I love this demonstration that shows how bringing younger and older people together to gain understanding – even for a few minutes – completely changes attitudes and perceptions of what “old” is.  NBC Universal introduced a ‘Bring-your-parents-work-day‘ as a way of mixing generations for greater understanding. It enables young people to show off what they do by bringing their parents into their business environment. In a world where parents and children don’t necessarily live in the same town, an extension of this idea could involve simply bringing an older person you know with you to work for that day. And, whilst it is only a day, it does change the age ratios momentarily and provides the opportunity for increased understanding.

The potential for what could be created and the contribution that each could provide the other is vast. At a minimum, it could bring generations together. And that could be the start of a conversation that creates the ripple for change.

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5 things worse then dying

5 things more scary than dying 

It’s reasonably well-known that many people fear public speaking more than they fear dying.  However, as we age, a number of other fears enter our consciousness beyond the sense of foreboding, dread, or denial that can occur as we age.

A bonus of ageing is that we commonly celebrate another decade passing.  Whether that celebration involve a party, an adventure, or a quiet dinner at home with a loved one or friends. We’ve lived another 10 years!  However, the celebrations are usually for the life we’ve lived, not the life before us.

Who celebrates a 50th, 60th, 70th or 80th birthday because of what they’ve experienced and because of your enthusiasm for the next decade? Compare this feeling to the experience of celebrating an 18th or 21st.  Generally, these birthdays are celebrated as a milestone because they represent a turning point in our life.  A time when we can look forward to new and exciting experiences and adventures.  What can we possibly look forward to in our 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond?  Isn’t this a time when “it’s all downhill from here”?

No.

Well, it doesn’t have to be.

As this well known quote so succinctly states

“If it’s going to be.  It’s up to me.”   

With lifespans longer than at any other time in history, it’s time to re-think how we look forward to, think, and plan for our later years.

5 things scarier than dying

In a recent survey of baby boomers conducted by Three Sisters Group, we discovered that this age group found these 5 things more scary than dying:

1. Physical and/or cognitive decline

2. Nursing homes

3. Retirement villages

4. Loneliness

5. Being like our parents

The question is:  If we’re afraid of these things, what are we doing about it?

The reality is, physical exercise combined with good diet and a healthy lifestyle (not smoking, low alcohol intake) are the two things most likely to make the biggest difference to our lives.  Furthermore, just these two ideas could influence whether or not a nursing home becomes a reality or simply an unfounded fear.

There’s so much to look forward to as we become older.  In fact, one study (1) has shown that our life satisfaction in our 60’s and beyond is equivalent to when we were teenagers!  As a friend shared with me, being physically active and not playing the age card are essential to enjoying our later life.  And Jane Goodall simply doesn’t think about ageing.

Of course planning everything in our life isn’t necessary either.  It’s really about our level of enthusiasm for what we’re doing and what might happen in the future.  I’ll never forget my grandmother telling me that she always carried her passport with her wherever she was in Australia just in case a friend called asking her if she’d like to go overseas with them.

And if you’re wondering … there was a time she spontaneously went on a cruise and asked her friend in Perth to pack her bag for her and she’d meet her in Sydney at the cruise ship (she was in Darwin) .  Unfortunately she did end up in a nursing home – despite her best efforts to live a very full life. At least she maximised her able years to the best of her ability.

 

Source:

(1) Qu, L., & de Vsus, D. (2015). Life satisfaction across life course transitions (Australian Family Trends No.8). Melbourne: Australian Insitute of Family Studies.

 

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