This article is part of the Agewell topic. Below are more articles in this topic.
By Mike Milstein
Dr. Beven Grant is Professor of Sport and Leisure Studies at the University of Waikato. He had much to say about the physical activity needs of ageing people at a seminar held in Nelson last year in preparation for the review of positive ageing policies in the Nelson, Marlborough and Tasman Councils this year.
He noted that “from our late 60s and on a barrier to being physically active is age itself, how it is constructed, and how it is defined. People in their 70s were born at a time when being physically active was a natural part of their lives. This is no longer the case. Now they need to make a decision to stay physically active. For older people this is a challenge.”
“With age we become a little more frail even if we stay active. Our skeletal and physiological structure does change. The perception is that if I stay physically active maybe I’m prone to more problems than I already have. It’s easy to conclude that maybe I shouldn’t do this sort of thing. The body does decline day by day and year by year and the decline grows steeper, but it can be impeded by mild, gentle physical activity. Just think about it in ways that are playful instead of ‘I have to do it.’
He believes that “attitudes are changing, but slowly. People in their 20s and 30s don’t see older age as a time for opportunity, for growth and development. It’s seen as all downhill. Ageing doesn’t mean you can’t be physically engaged. We need to break this barrier down.” He notes that older people who participate in Masters Games tell him that “it’s about competing, not just joining in, but they have to defend to others why they are doing this. There is no biological reason why anybody shouldn’t be physically active!”
What can the community and the local councils do to promote a more positive approach? Dr. Grant notes that there are already “a huge amount of things that are happening. People are staying more physically active in and around their own homes, small groups are gathering for physical activities such as walking, hiking, and swimming, and non-profit and commercial organizations are offering a large variety of healthy physical options, There is also a growing concern about how social environments and physical environments are designed. For example, taking a walk in the park requires that we feel psychologically safe.”
He believes that local councils need to help people in their later years feel connected and have access to physical activities. “We will be having a lot more older people and they will want to participate and play.” Councils need to “look broadly at how changing demographic will affect their policies and strategies. What might the community look like in 15 years given that we know there are going to be more older people living vibrant lives as well as those who are going to need some support? It’s not about finding solutions. It’s about creating opportunities for people to live quality lives and feel good about where they live.”
“Many older people say they are in good health, even if they have ailments, which is natural as we age. The vast majority of people are getting out and living. We need to listen to older people. They are the ones who can tell us what it is like. We should be looking at ageing as a time for growth and development, not as a time to be on the side, on the margins.”
Note: This article, which appeared in The Leader, Nelson, NZ, on April 2, 2009, summarizes an interview aired by Fresh FM that was conducted by Dr. Annie Henry and sponsored by Age Concern, Nelson. If you want to share your thoughts with the Conscious Ageing Network (CAN) or wish to know when interviews will be aired and when CAN articles will appear in the Leader, send an email to email@example.com .