World Health Day: Active Aging

May 21, 2012

Active aging is key to longevity.

Populations all over the world are seeing senior citizens living longer than ever before. In response to the longevity changes, the World Health Organization is celebrating its own birthday this year with observances focused on strategies for healthy, active aging.

Dr. Neil Buckholtz from the U.S. National Institute on Aging told Voice of America that governments all over the world should prepare for the increase in senior citizens living much longer into retirement. Governments must adjust their policies and programs to accommodate this growing population and help them age in a healthy, active way.

"The population, not only in the United States, but worldwide, of older people is increasing," Buckholtz told VOA. "And actually, the fastest-growing group of people in the United States are those people over 85."

In the next five years, the World Health Organization projects the number of people over the age of 65 will exceed the number of children under the age of five. Dr. Enrique Vega, from WHO's Pan American Health Organization, said one way to enable a healthier, more active retirement is providing programs and activities for seniors to improve physical fitness as they live longer. Vega said that healthy aging involves stay socially and physically active, rather than becoming secluded from society or letting pain take over someone's life, VOA reported.

Vega believes that pain and disease are not specific to any one age group, and thus senior citizens should be encouraged to stay active throughout their physical maladies as younger Americans are encouraged to do. For example, playing golf or tennis could keep joints limber and prevent arthritis from stiffening up various body parts, VOA reported.

Europe has also turned its focus to the growing number of retired individuals, declaring 2012 the year of active and healthy aging. In a piece for the Washington Post, Michael Hodin, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and executive director of the Global Coalition on Aging, said the most significant social, political and economic develops currently in progress revolve around the aging population.

The United Nations projects 33 countries will have more than 10 million citizens over the age of 65 by 2050. Brazil is expected to house 58 million senior citizens, 437 million in China, 324 million in India, 70 million in Indonesia and 107 million in the United States. The aging population is having a significant impact on social stability, economic growth and fiscal sustainability all over the world, prompting world leaders to add active aging to the Group of Eight summit's agenda next month, Hodin reported.

At the summit, leaders will discuss how the world is working to accommodate the growing senior population while coping with very low birth rates. The proportion between old and young is changing rapidly, and governments are brainstorming over new policies and programs to ensure the demographic changes are factored into decisions economic activity, Hodin reported.


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