Celebrating Active Aging Week

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It was bound to happen eventually, but I just expected it to happen later rather than sooner. Now that my three sons are in college, the realization that life continues to accelerate at a pace much faster than I would prefer has suddenly hit home.

On occasion, my boys will lovingly tease me about getting older; there are times when I cannot figure out how to update something on my phone or when operating a remote control with 50 buttons on it seems overwhelming to me. However, I have realized since turning the corner into my 50s, somewhat confidently but not fully comfortable yet, that just because I am facing the afternoon of life doesn’t mean I can’t be a vital and fully participatingmember of society.

Growing older doesn’t mean losing one’s capabilities. Acquiring additional years should be celebrated, championed and, yes, even revered. To that end, the International Council on Active Aging, or ICAA, has initiated Active Aging Week, a weeklong celebration that began in 2003. This year’s observance will be held September 24 through September 30 in many places throughout the United States and around the world.

According to the ICAA, “Active Aging Week challenges society’s diminished expectations of aging by showing that, regardless of age or health conditions, adults over 50 can live as fully as possible in all areas of life–physical, social, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, vocational and environmental.” The primary objective of this annual health-promotion event is to provide older adults the ability to experience a variety of wellness activities in a safe and supportive environment. Additionally, this event promotes the benefits of embracing a healthier and more active lifestyle throughout one’s life span.

Since this campaign began, the ICAA and numerous host organizations have positively affected the lives of millions of people around the world, including the United States, Canada, India, Australia, Ireland and Finland. Last year, more than 3,000 organizations hosted events to promote the benefits of leading an active and healthier lifestyle. The organizations involved include active adult and community centers, retirement homes and assisted living facilities, medical practices, libraries, wellness centers, senior services agencies and governmental departments.

Host organizations during this year’s promotion will offer a variety of events to celebrate Active Aging Week, delivering positive and inspiring messages on aging, energizing the communities in which they are involved with experiences designed to accommodate their populations and enhance well-being and personal growth. Activities promoted include a focus on physical activity, skin health and nutrition. For example, the WALK! With Aegis Therapies, now in its seventh year, provides a six-day guided program featuring activities to support all dimensions of wellness, including intellectual, emotional, spiritual, occupational and social. Each day, participants are encouraged to engage in 15 to 30 minutes of walking or alternative seated activities. With its focus on environmental wellness, participants are encouraged to take a few moments daily to observe their surroundings and appreciate plants, animals, elements, energy and more, simply by spending time outdoors.

Intellectual wellness activities are provided to exercise the mind and include trivia questions, puzzles and brain teasers. For spiritual wellness, participants will learn about meditation and deep breathing exercise techniques. Social wellness will focus on the importance of interacting with others and building meaningful relationships while simultaneously learning how to create a support system of family, friends and caregivers.

Skin health also matters as we age. As the number of people over the age of 60 is expected to exceed one billion by 2020, a common issue is the matter of deteriorating skin. All of us will experience at least one skin disease over the course of our lives, which can disrupt our daily routines and negatively affect our emotional and mental wellbeing, threatening our ability to continue our independence. During Active Aging Week, participants will discover ways to maintain, nourish and enhance healthy skin, as well as effectively treat and correct compromised skin through the Get Skin Health Smart promotion during the week.

Other topics discussed during this promotion include understanding muscle health, nutrition and healthy aging. Nearly 50 percent of older adults suffer from muscle loss, which can impact their overall health and recovery. The ICAA will promote activities featuring how to eat healthy and stay strong, focusing on fighting muscle mass loss, good nutrition and community nutrition resources. Because nine of ten older adults fail to meet key nutrient intake levels recommended for an active and healthy life, this is an integral part of the week-long celebration.

Active Aging Week promises to be filled with fun, educational experiences and positive messages that prove aging is not just a process, but a wonderful journey filled with potential. As Frank Lloyd Wright once contemplated, “The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.” Besides, when you consider the alternative, growing older isn’t so bad after all. ■

Sources: icaa.cc and activeagingweek.com.