As healthcare professionals, we’re ideally positioned to lead the active aging initiative for older adults. There will be greater and greater demand for our expertise in designing safe and effective physical activity programs for healthy adults as well as those with chronic disease.

Attached is an article from the International Council on Active Aging discussing the top ten trends in active aging.

(VANCOUVER-January 17, 2011), Although there’s been tremendous coverage of Boomers turning 65, the fact remains that many millions of people are also turning 50. Those individuals are entering the active-aging market with needs and desires that will help shape the industry, starting now.

“We’re looking at a huge market that, in effect, embraces people ages 50 to 100 and beyond,” says Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging, who is among those turning 50 in 2011. “While there’s bound to be some segmentation, certain values, principles, and social-economic forces are converging to the point where we can make some predictions for the market as a whole.”

1. More wellness programs. Wellness is exploding. The field has grown exponentially in the past five years and is projected to continue doing so. More than three quarters (77%) of respondents to a recent ICAA survey said they plan to expand their wellness activities. Wellness programs for older adults are growing in number. Among the 65% who have a formal wellness program, 46% of programs have been in place for 1-5 years.1

2. More wellness professionals. Among organizations and communities with wellness programs, 27% plan to add more staff.1 “We’ll see more exercise physiologists, sports medicine professionals, chiropractors, orthopedists, naturopaths, and physical therapists on staff,” says Milner. However, personal training, along with other fitness jobs, is expected to grow much faster than average in the U.S., driven mainly by the needs and desires of Boomers.2

3. Convergence of rehabilitation and wellness. “After the common cold, sports injuries are the number-two reason Boomers visit their doctors. Therefore, as Boomers work to stay fit, many of them will also be working with rehab professionals,” Milner notes. “The convergence is also being driven by a focus on function. Preventing functional decline is a purview of wellness; returning people to optimal function is the purview of rehabilitation.”

4. Rejection of stereotypes of aging. “We’ll see greater diversity in portrayals of aging and greater achievements by older adults,” Milner says. “Because of sheer numbers alone, companies will be focusing more on this demographic. To be successful, they will have to change their perceptions of what ‘aging’ means and what older adults want.'”

5. Increase in energy-boosting solutions. According to a Natural Marketing Institute survey, 82% of older adults want to maintain a healthy lifestyle to ensure they have energy as they age. “This opens the door to an array of programs aimed at boosting energy, from exercise to chronic health issue support services,” Milner says. “The industry will focus on overcoming the paradox identified by researchers a few years back: 69% of older adults exercise to increase their energy level, yet lack of energy is consistently put forth as a barrier to exercise.”

6. Redefinition of “retirement.” Workers over 55 are expected to account for 93% of the U.S. labor force’s growth through 2016, and many of these workers say they’re staying on the job not for the money, but because they want to continue feeling useful and productive.4 This trend means organizations will have more opportunities to provide health management, fitness, and wellness programs to help keep older adults as productive as possible for as long as possible.

7. Technology, technology, technology. “Moving beyond the Wii, we’ll see everything from immersive games for lifelong learning and participation in social causes to more sophisticated ‘brain games’ and assistive devices that extend function into and through the later years of life,” says Milner. “We’ll also see more innovative technologies in support of aging in place, including e-health technologies and social media.”

8. Reengineering of industries to accommodate a healthier older adult market. The global wellness market is estimated at nearly $2 trillion dollars.5 “We’ll see an upsurge in wellness centers, housing, parks and recreation projects that will require new approaches by architects, developers, builders, suppliers and program-management professionals,” Milner observes.

9. Growth of “green exercise” and green communities. Hiking, trail walks, meditation gardens, labyrinths, cycling paths, gardening, and eco tourism will flourish going forward, according to Milner. Research has shown that five minutes of exercise in a park, working in garden, or in another green space benefits self esteem and mood.6 What’s more, “Boomers are fueling a new era of social responsibility and environmental stewardship, and are active participants in organizational ‘green teams.'”

10. More age-friendly cities. What began as an initiative by the World Health Organization in 20077 has now trickled down to cities across the US, Canada, Europe, Latin America, and beyond. In its push for the continued creation of environments that foster social inclusion and social participation, WHO stresses that “Active ageing is a lifelong process, …[therefore] an age-friendly city is not just ‘elderly friendly.'” Says Milner, “if we view active aging as a process that begins at birth and continues throughout the lifespan, then this initiative can only continue to grow.”

About the International Council on Active Aging
The International Council on Active Aging® is the professional association that leads, connects and defines the active-aging industry. ICAA supports professionals who develop wellness organizations, programs and services for adults over 50. The association is focused on active aging, an approach to aging that helps older adults live as fully as possible within all dimensions of wellness, and provides its members with education, information, resources and tools. As an active-aging educator and advocate, ICAA has advised numerous organizations and governmental bodies, including the US Administration on Aging, the National Institute on Aging (one of the US National Institutes of Health), the US Department of Health and Human Services, Canada’s Special Senate Committee on Aging, and the British Columbia ministries of Health, and Healthy Living and Sport.

1. ICAA Active Aging Industry Development Survey 2010.
2. ICAA Active Aging Industry Development Survey 2010. And, the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Fitness workers. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition. Updated December 17, 2009).
3. The Natural Marketing Institute. (2006). Energy. The Boomer/Healthy Aging Database.. And, Age and Ageing 2004;33: 287-292.
4. Pew Research Center, September 2009.
5. Global Spa Summit
6. Environmental Science and Technology 2010;44:3847-3955.

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