There are so many articles out there about
“healthy aging”, but most of them are bizarrely vague.  Like ads for menstrual products or
incontinence, they seem to be convinced that we’d all run away screaming if
they actually mentioned what aging is actually like, so we’re left with
commercials of silver-haired couples taking romantic strolls on the beach,
senior women lifting two-pound weights in yoga pants, and similarly-aged men
mowing the lawn and looking purposefully at the horizon.  It’s not that there’s anything wrong with
beach dates or light workouts, but it doesn’t really address the issue of aging
head-on.  It’s like a dream of healthy
seniorhood, as imagined by people who still don’t believe they’ll ever actually
be old.

(Yes, I said old.  It’s not a dirty word!)

But even if it’s usually polished up beyond recognition,
healthy aging is a major concern.  Across
the world, the percentage of the population over the age of 60 is increasing,
and by 2050 this percentage is expected to surpass 30% in Canada and most of
Europe.  We ain’t getting’ any younger!  So what does it mean to age well?  And what do we need to do in order to get

Defining healthy aging

Health is a broad term that means different
things for different people.  But in
general, it’s looking at functional
, regardless of the particular quirks that your own body or mind
develops as you age.  The World Health Organization defines
functional ability in the following terms:

The ability to meet your basic needs (healthy
finances, a safe place to live, warm clothes, clean water, nutritious food,
access to medical care, etc)

The ability to learn, grow and make decisions
(hobbies, autonomy)

The ability to be mobile (walking, exercising,
stretching, driving)

The ability to build and maintain relationships (family, friends, community)

The ability to contribute to society

Aging isn’t
always easy

It would be nice if our minds and bodies kept
functioning as though we were perpetually 25, but that’s not the reality we
live in.  What is our reality is that we have choices available to us that can
help us lead meaningful and fulfilling lives at every age, even as we face new challenges.  So today, think a little bit about the future.
 Take a walk, call your sister, volunteer
for that cause you’ve been meaning to help out, or schedule that massage.  Aging isn’t always easy, but it’s a privilege
all the same.  So here’s to making the
most of the opportunity.