The growth in the number and proportion of older adults is unprecedented in the history of the United States. Two factors – longer life spans and aging baby boomers – will combine to double the population of Americans aged 65 years and older during the next 25 years to about 72 million. By 2030, older adults will account for roughly 20 percent of the United States population.
During the past century, a major shift occurred in the leading causes of death for all age groups, including older adults, from infectious diseases and acute illnesses to chronic diseases and degenerative illnesses. More than a quarter of all Americans and two out of every three older Americans have multiple chronic conditions, and treatment for this population accounts for 66 percent of the country’s health care budget according to a recent CDC report.
During the month of September, we celebrate the desire for all of us to remain healthy by recognizing September as being Healthy Aging Month. During the last week of September, we specifically recognize “active aging.” We are all aging regardless of whether we fit nicely into the category of “older adult.” We all want to proceed through our life being healthy and engaged. It is never too early (or late) to start a healthy, active lifestyle.
What is active aging? Active aging describes individuals and populations who live life as fully as possible within the six dimensions of wellness (physical, emotional, vocational, spiritual, intellectual and social).
The concept of active aging can be summed up in the phrase “engaged in life.” Active Aging is healthy aging and something we all need to strive toward. We don’t have space in this article to address each one of the dimensions of wellness. However, let me share with you a couple of short facts: 1) Depression will be the second greatest cause of premature death and disability worldwide by 2020 according to the World Health Organization; 2) Regular physical activity is one of the most important things we can do for our health. This can prevent many of the health problems that may come later as we age.
I would suggest that our celebration shouldn’t be limited to one month only. I suggest we celebrate our individual accomplishments each day as we practice the six dimensions of wellness and work toward a long and productive life. What happens then to the concept of “Active Aging?”
Rodney McBride is vice president of Health & Community Services for John Knox Village. He also serves as a member of Lee’s Summit’s Health Education Advisory Board, a Mayor-appointed, volunteer board that promotes and advocates community health by assessing health issues, educating the public and government agencies, developing plans to address health issues, encouraging partnerships and evaluating the outcomes.