Friday, April 27, 2012

Population Trends Make History by Cammy Dennis

Recent statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau (USCB) and the United Nations Population Division (UNPD) demonstrate that never before in history has our global population contained so many older adults. The latest U.S. census shows that the number of older adults is increasing faster than younger populations. And according to the UNPD, one in five people are expected to be 65 years or older by the year 2035! This population shift is primarily due to a drop in birth rates and an increase in life expectancy.

As we contemplate these historical population shifts, it is also important to think about society's perceptions on aging. As our demographics change, so should our perceptions bearing in mind that chronological age (how old we are) does not correlate with biological age (our state of health). We should be cautious not to judge ourselves or others based on chronological age.

With that in mind, never before has there been a better time to embrace aging "actively." We have more years in our lives so now we need to ensure that we have more "life" in those years. The physical science is very clear; aging actively has a profound influence on function, independence and quality of life.

Age alone does not define someone or dictate their capabilities. I have a very fond memory that vividly demonstrates this point. Two years ago when I was 47, I was fighting to finish the third leg of a sprint triathlon, which was a 5K run (3.2 miles). The run comes after swimming a 1/4 mile and cycling 12 miles. I was coming up on a woman who was ahead of me and it took all I had to pass her. As I passed her, I noticed her age which in a triathlon, your age is marked on the back of your lower leg with a permanent marker. She was 68. She swam and cycled faster than I did! It was a moment of inspiration that I will never forget...and I think of her often even to this day.

Our society places such a high value on youth and physical beauty that it seems to automatically attach a negative stereotype to aging. The assumption becomes if young is good, then old must be bad.

In my capacity as Fitness Director of On Top of the World Communities, I am convinced and continually inspired by the residents of this community. Everyday I bear witness to an average of over 200 people who flock to the fitness center and fitness classes. The community also boasts walkers, runners, cyclers, tennis players, golfers and the list goes on and on.

I am especially impressed with the commitment On Top of the World residents have to overall wellness with their participation in lifelong learning at Master the Possibilities Education Center, social activities and dedication to clubs and volunteerism. This community is indeed a community that embraces the many dimensions of wellness, supporting and reshaping a healthy perspective on aging.

Cammy Dennis the the Fitness Director for On Top of the World Communities and The Ranch Fitness Center & Spa.

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