What is healthy ageing?

by Catherine Rickwood

We all know that eating well and exercising are important for good health and to age well. We do actually know this. What happens if we know this and we don’t do anything about it?

First, I admit to being a whole food, primarily organic eating woman who either walks or does yoga daily. I believe that this approach to eating and exercise, whilst not the whole story, will contribute to me being able to age well. To age happily. To age healthily. After all, my plan is to live to 100 and beyond.

Second, I’ve just been at the 2016 World Conference on Active Ageing so I’m a little focused on active ageing. One presentation by Dr Rylee Dionigi was particularly provocative. She talked about the potential fallout from promoting sport as a means to enhance our health as we age. Here’s my synopsis and thoughts on the topic.

Culturally, Australia encourages active ageing. We’re encouraged to participate in sport and physical activity. For many of us, this is no big deal. We’re already active and we don’t need a policy to tell us it’s a good idea because we’ll be healthier and happier if we exercise or do sport. For others, this type of policy provides us with the motivation to get moving. For others, the drive to be active tries to push us towards doing something we either don’t want to do, or for some reason can’t do.

There’s an additional thorn for those who don’t actively engage in physical exercise. Those that do exercise may become judgemental. In fact, the research presented by Dr Dionigi revealed that older adults involved in Masters sport considered those who did not do physical exercise as ‘lazy’.

Do I believe exercise, sport, and physical activity are beneficial for us as we age? Yes.

Do I believe that, ideally, everyone would undertake some form of physical activity on a regular basis? Yes.

And, I also believe that we all have the right to choose how we age. There is no right way, or best way.  There is my way, there is your way, there is his way, there is her way, there are hundreds of ways to age. Is one way better than the other? No. They’re all different and it’s up to us to choose the way that suits us as individuals.

The problem with the ideal way of ageing is that it infers there is an ideal way. A perfect way to age. And like the illusive work/life balance, runs the risk of causing stress, guilt, and judgement about the choices we make in our own life, as well as how we perceive others.  Judging ourselves because we’re not active is neither healthy nor constructive and potentially carries guilt and stress because there may be times when we just don’t feel like doing anything.

Judging others based on what works for us reduces the likelihood of meeting and accepting people for who they are vs what they do or believe. And maybe, just maybe, that personal connection is just as important and possibly even more important than whether or not we do exercise or play sport.

What do you think? What’s your experience of being active or not being active? How much do you judge yourself or others?

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About the Author

Catherine Rickwood

An experienced researcher and business executive, Catherine's work is informed by academic knowledge and evidence to deliver practical actions with measurable outcomes. These combined skills create a powerful and useful ability to delve deep on issues, ask incisive questions, think laterally, and bring knowledge and insights to individuals, a team, and an organisation keen to engage with, and include the over 50's as a valuable part of their business strategy.

Catherine Rickwood is solutions-focussed, working with innovative organisations keen to improve customer and employee insights and empathy to increase their success in new markets, build loyalty, and increase innovation. She does this using a co-design process that engages employees and key stakeholders to create collaborative solutions. Contact Catherine to discover how her services can support your organisation to harness the changing demographic reality.

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