Holding negative beliefs about aging is a health hazard

During national Healthy Aging Month, discover research-proven ways to age healthfully and stay well
September 23, 2019

September is national Healthy Aging Month. Now in its second decade, this is an annual observance to focus attention on the positive aspects of growing older, something the Texas A&M Center for Population Health and Aging does every day. The center works with others in the Bryan-College Station area, as well as around Texas, to promote research-proven ways to age healthfully and stay well.

Carolyn Worthington, editor of Healthy Aging® magazine and creator of Healthy Aging Month, provides concrete tips for reinventing yourself: Act your best age, be positive, ditch the negativity, walk tall, stand tall, keep smiling, stay connected with family and friends, be physically active, get annual physical checkups and be creative.

The center recommends Brazos Valley residents take these health promoting tips to heart—and health. The center will continue to promote healthy lifestyles of aging populations through Texas Active for Life® Coalition, a statewide network committed to keeping Texans active and healthy at every age.

“Through the Active for Life® Program, people in the area can participate in health and wellness workshops that empower adults to actively manage their conditions and take the steps necessary to live healthy and fulfilling lives,” said Marcia Ory, PhD, MPH, center founding director.

Community members can take workshops about fall risk reduction, chronic condition self-management, being a better caregiver, medication management and more. The free workshops are supported by evidence-based research conducted at the center, which shows the strong benefits for individuals and their caregivers.

The center stresses the importance of having a positive view of aging. Holding negative beliefs about aging is a health hazard, associated with poorer functioning, more illness and disability, and even premature death. Consistent with the center’s mission, they take a life-course approach to improve the lives of Texans and others throughout the nation and world. This means healthy aging is a life-long journey.

“Our local, state, and national evaluations have documented that these evidence-based chronic disease self-management, fall prevention, and physical activity programs can improve the triple aim of better health, better health care and better value,” said Matthew Lee Smith, PhD, MPH, center co-director, who joined the center in 2017 and is a national expert in program development and evaluation for senior programs.

Translating research to practice, the center has shown how these programs are not static or rigid; rather, they are flexible, interactive, and uniquely impact different populations and settings. Pushing academic boundaries, they have learned that to achieve long-lasting population health and aging gains, programs must be offered in multiple community locations close to where individuals live, eat, work, play and pray. To ensure sustainability and maximize scalability, the center helps deliver free programs in easily accessible locations on a recurring basis including senior centers, health care and faith-based organizations, residential facilities, community recreation centers and many other locations.

The center also explores how policies and environmental strategies can promote or hinder engagement in healthy lifestyle behaviors. Through public-private partnerships, Bryan-College Station is creating safe spaces for older adults to be physically and socially connected. With a strong vision and commitment to improving the health of all in the Brazos Valley, the community has come together to create a Fun for All intergenerational playground. Examples like this reinforce the dedication of the community to keep residents healthy and highlight how the Brazos Valley values active lifestyles.

The center invites all Brazos Valley residents to join this journey to make healthy aging the new normal.

This article was adapted from a story in Insite Magazine.

— Christina Sumners

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