The Golden Years
Active Aging Week, Sept. 20-26
Baby Boomers, (1946-1964) the generation that brought you rock’n’roll and the flower child, are now qualifying for senior citizen discounts.
The Silent Generation (1925-1945) – so named because they didn’t protest much- brought us many movie icons and television legends. Many of those older adults are living in assisted living and long-term care residences, as well as their own homes when they are independent enough to live alone.
Those 93 years of age and older are considered to be part of the “Greatest Generation” due to living through the Great Depression and WWII.
What these generations have in common is that they are in the process of aging. Even though it can be rich in reward, aging can be a challenge to do gracefully and energetically.
Active Aging week is Sept. 20-26. The International Council on Active Aging started the organization to promote ideas to get seniors up and moving more and change the way society perceives aging so they can remain active contributors to their families and communities.
Heather Pieper, activities coordinator and manager at Regency Retirement Living in Chamberlain, raises the status quo of what is expected of older adults. She holds exercise classes there for the residents five times a week.
“When we circle into a group and they can see each other, it makes them want to try a little longer and keep up with each other. When we make movements we make BIG movements, getting them to stretch and reach farther.”
She and others, including doctors, have noticed the boost in the health and attitudes of the seniors as a result of the ambitious exercise program she encourages.
“It not only improved health issues for conditions like diabetes and arthritis, but they just seemed to be in better moods. Their reflexes and flexibility improved and attention span and listening skills got better, too. They were able to stand for longer periods of time.”
Heather likes to keep activities varied and tries to challenge them.
“I cannot beat them at bean bags. And if we are playing kickball and you’re not paying attention, you will get hit in the head.”
The brain acts as a muscle, too. Trying new hobbies and experiences, exercise, reading, and games all have the ability to improve brain plasticity and make stronger connections.
Of it transformative effects Heather said, “It’s just amazing what exercise can do to your brain and the way it encourages you to do more at every level. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally.”
When you exercise, your muscles have to work harder, increasing the body’s demand for oxygen. Breathing and heart rates go up, and blood vessels begin to expand, allowing oxygen-rich blood to flow more freely to those muscles. This process makes the blood vessels more elastic which contributes to a lowering of blood pressure. As you burn more calories than you take in, your body taps into fat reserves for more energy, causing weight loss.
Water’s therapeutic effect is obvious to anyone who swims. Swimming is especially helpful for those with arthritis and joint pain as it presents little risk of injury compared to other activities. It has been shown to be the most beneficial activity to reduce falls because it strengthens core muscles and maintains muscle mass.
Carla Balster Hubbard is a member of a local water aerobics group that meets three times a week.
“We have to keep moving to keep those joints from getting stiff, and pool exercise is something people of all ages and abilities can do!”
OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at University Center), is an organization that provides intellectually engaging and enriching lifelong learning and personal growth opportunities providing its members with a variety of courses and workshops on topics which are membership driven. The goal is to create an innovative learning environment so that older adults from all backgrounds and levels of education are able to pursue learning simply for the joy of learning.
To join OLLI, come to any of the classes in Chamberlain. You can also contact Sharon Oliveira at 605-680-1805
For baby boomers and beyond, Active Aging aims to promote a healthy life expectancy and quality of life within emotional, cognitive, physical, vocational, social, spiritual, and environmental dimensions.
Perhaps there’s gold in getting older after all.