Having just attended a conference in Florida, the discussion around older adults has become ever more controversial. Controversial? How? The incongruity between the researched information and the perception that the public, and this also includes fitness industry, have around exercise, longevity and function of people over the age 60.
Countless published and recognised research has been done regarding the powerful effects of exercise for the active ageing population (this was a term I learnt from the conference that I had not heard before). Everything from increasing bone density to reversing the effects of ageing, have been proven as benefits of regular exercise. Moving has been proven to be necessary for good health, functional and overall wellbeing for everyone, in particular the older population, whom have been traditionally more sedentary. With 60% of the population being Baby Boomers by 2020, the importance of keeping people active, healthy with a high quality of life is of the utmost priority for our society.
So with all this in mind, what is the general attitude towards active ageing? Recently in the news, Bill Stevens and Eleanor Griffiths were featured as instructors teaching high energy aqua and land workouts. What makes them unique compared to the average instructor is their age; 90. Channel 9 showed clips of both instructors with their classes, testimonials from members and team leader. It was inspiring. The odd thing was, that when I was watching testimonials from members and their team leader, I realised that I had never considered their age. I have known Bill since he qualified as an instructor, and he has always been Bill (aqua instructor and colleague), not Bill, the older active ageing instructor and I certainly wasn't saying things like "Wow, Bill good on you!". I simply never saw his age. Just like I don't see someone's ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion. They are simply human beings that I work with.
It struck me as I was moving around this conference how many people were talking about older adults like they were mentally and physically disabled and needed to be treated differently. I am currently 45 years of age and when I think back, I don't feel or think much different than what I did when I was 25. I still expect people to treat me the same regarding ability and intelligence. I would like to think that at 65, I would be similar and that people would not treat me like I was incapable and less intelligent because of my age.
People are people and everyone wants to feel good. Let's not look at someone's age as a barrier to being able to participate in everything fully, with the ability to improve fitness and function. As instructors, lets teach to the ability rather than teaching to their arthritis, hip replacement or heart disease. Let's focus on their wellbeing and teach to that in each person we have the opportunity to influence.