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Embrace regular physical activity for a better quality of life

10/7/2016, 6 a.m.
Americans are living longer than ever before, and many are discovering that they don't have to live it out in ...
Regular physical activity like dancing, walking and gardening can help maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints and reduce the risk of falling and fracturing bones. Photo by Curtis Parker

Americans are living longer than ever before, and many are discovering that they don't have to live it out in rocking chair.

Nationwide, more than 46 million Americans are 60 years old and by choosing healthy lifestyles they are improving their physical and emotional well being and helping to prevent and delay many diseases and disabilities long thought synonymous with longevity.

Those who embrace physical activity, eat right, quit smoking, get annual health screenings and flu and pneumonia shots are vastly improving their quality of life.

And resources abound locally and on the internet to help them do it.

Adults can find lots of resources from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Aging (AoA) and from local programs and services like the DeKalb Office of Senior Affairs, Senior Connections, the Lou Walker Senior Center and Kaiser Foundation's http://everybodywalk.org/

Metro Atlanta and DeKalb County have long been a favorite for residents aging in place and for retirees relocating here from other states and cities. The ARC's 2007 survey "Older Adults in the Atlanta Region: Preferences, Practices and Potential of the 55-plus Population" projected that by 2030, one in five of the region's residents will be over the age of 60.

The study, which surveyed 55-plus population in DeKalb, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale counties, projected that between 2000 and 2015, the region's population of older adults would increase by 30.6 percent, a rate of growth that is more than double the region's population for the same period.

"This tremendous shift will transform the region and challenge every aspect of community life: healthcare, transportation, employment, housing, recreation and leisure, economic development, infrastructure expansion and education," the study said. "It will force local leaders to question the way billions of dollars are spent. It will affect the way public and private services are delivered, homes are built, even the way streets are crossed."

The 2010 US Census show that adults, 50 years and older, accounted for 178,247 or 26.3 percent of DeKalb County's population of 678,844.

For many of these aging adults, inactivity usually increases with age. Studies show that by age 75, about one-in-three men and one-in-two women are not physically active, but they don't have to.

Regular physical activity can help maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints and reduce the risk of falling and fracturing bones. It also can help reduce high blood pressure, colon cancer and diabetes. Some people also report feeling more energetic.

Adults are also discovering that regular physical activity relieves stress and improve mood which in turn helps eliminate anxiety and depression. For some, it also improve their ability to think.

Exercise doesn't have to be strenuous to be effective. Walking works for most and 30 minutes or more of moderate daily physical activity is recommended. Swimming, dancing, gardening and biking work too.

Good nutrition can also impact many of the chronic conditions that ail people as they age.

Studies show that 40 percent of Americans who are 65 and old eat poorly and that a healthy diet that includes a wide variety of foods, vegetables, high fiber gains, beans and nuts and is rich in calcium and low in saturated fate, sodium and cholesterol can help protect against like diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer.

Health Screenings

Each winter, millions of Americans suffer from the flu, a highly contagious infection that can be quite debilitating. It spreads very easily from person to person and can be life threatening to aging adults and those who have chronic illnesses such as diabetes or heart, lung, or kidney diseases. Studies show that a flu shot reduces hospitalization by about 70 percent and death, by about 85 percent, among aging adults who do not live in nursing homes.

Among those living in nursing homes, a flu shot reduces the risk of hospitalization by about 50 percent and death by about 80 percent.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends flu shots for people 50 years and older, and others, who are at high risk for the flu.

It recommends a vaccine to protect against pnuemococcal pneumonia for adults 65 and older.

For more information and to locate resources, visit the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 www.eldercare.gov