Growing older is not easy, but it is possible to stay healthy and happy. Having a healthy aging guide can help show you how.
In the United States, the population of individuals over 65 grew by a third from 2010. In Maine, Florida, West Virginia, and Vermont, one in five residents was over 65 in 2019. By 2060, it is thought that there will be 20 million individuals over 65 throughout the country.
Life expectancy has also changed. Currently, the life expectancy in the U.S. is an average of 78.7 years. The rapidly aging population needs support systems to ensure that their senior years remain healthy and productive. With that goal in mind, the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council (aka National Prevention Council) has published the report Healthy Aging in Action: Advancing the National Prevention Strategy.
Overview of Healthy Aging in Action and Download
Healthy Aging in Action: Advancing the National Prevention Strategy is a downloadable booklet compiled by the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council (aka National Prevention Council). It was made public in 2011. This manual includes a review of pertinent scientific research, commentary from experts in aging and public health, as well as remarks from federal government sectors, including health, employment, housing, and transportation.
Healthy Aging in Action highlights specific actions for seniors to maintain their health and well-being as they age. It lists federal and nonfederal programs that align themselves with the Strategic Directions of the National Prevention Strategy.
These strategies are:
- Healthy and Safe Community Environments
- Clinical and Community Preventive Services
- Empowered People
- Elimination of Health Disparities
This report’s information is meant for health care providers, public health officials, service providers, and decision-makers at all levels of government. The booklet has three primary goals. The first goal is to support efforts currently in place that allow seniors to remain active and independent. The second is to focus awareness on National Prevention Council programs that highlight seniors’ mental, physical, emotional, and social well-being issues. Examples of these types of programs are found throughout the report and in the Appendix. Finally, the third goal is to encourage efforts to promote healthy aging.
Some of the challenges organizations face are gender, racial, ethnic, and economic inequalities regarding health. Aging also comes with its inherent problems, including a decline in cognitive and physical functioning. Let’s look at the main points covered in the Healthy Aging in Action report that addresses these issues.
Healthy and Safe Community Environments
Only about 4 percent of those over the age of 65 were living in assisted care facilities in 2010. Most seniors wish to continue living independently as long as possible. Since this is the case, programs should be focused on developing initiatives to support aging in place. Programs highlighted in this section include guidelines from HUD in creating accessible housing and the Federal Highway Administration on designing roadways for seniors.
Clinical and Community Preventive Services
Aging implies some loss of physical and mental function. However, healthy aging with the aid of clinical and community preventive services improves seniors’ odds of maintaining their independence. This report section focuses on how preventative services can be cost-effective and reduce functional decline among the elderly. Health care providers should be kept up to date on clinical preventive guidelines, and seniors should be made aware of the benefits of preventative care and have easy access to it.
Senior dental health is often overlooked. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has created a report entitled Improving Access to Oral Health Care for Vulnerable and Underserved Populations. It looks at ways to improve access to oral health services for seniors. Another highlighted program is the first Administration for Community Living National Falls Prevention Resource Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fall prevention.
The idea behind the Empowered People goal is that individuals and agencies need accurate and current information to make better decisions. So much information is found on the internet. However, older folks may not have the ability or opportunity to access it. Teaching seniors how to use technology is one way to empower them. Another is to provide them with opportunities of giving back through volunteering. Caretakers are a second group that can be empowered with the right information and support.
This section highlights the National Family Caregiver Support Program, created by the Older Americans Act Amendments of 2000. This program gives grants to states in order to fund programs that support informal caregivers.
Another program spotlighted is MarketRide. This collaboration between the Department of Education and New York City’s Department for the Aging helps seniors get to and from farmers’ markets and supermarkets for healthy food purchases.
Elimination of Health Disparities
Historically, socioeconomic status, disability, ethnicity, and gender identity have limited access to healthcare. The goal of Elimination of Health Disparities aims to reduce those inequalities. The first program mentioned in this section is Vote & Vax. This Sickness Prevention Achieved Through Regional Collaboration (SPARC, Inc.) sets up flu shot sites near voting booths. This location has been determined to be an excellent place to reach older adults and members of racial and ethnic minority communities. It is an effective strategy to reduce ethnic and racial vaccination disparities.
More Healthy Aging Guides
The report concludes with a call to action on the part of individuals, organizations, and government agencies. Moving forward, further research should be conducted and initiatives set up that support the healthy aging of the nation’s Baby Boomers.
Appendix A lists organizations that meet the criteria the National Prevention Council has set in place, Healthy and Safe Community Environments, Clinical and Community Preventive Services, Empowered People, and Elimination of Health Disparities. Appendix B is a list of works consulted and studies about aging for further reading.
More healthy aging guides:
- Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Well-Being by Andrew Weil
- How to Achieve Healthy Aging by Neal Rouzier
- The New Rules of Aging Well: A Simple Program for Immune Resilience, Strength, and Vitality by Frank Lipman MD
If you’d like a copy of Healthy Aging in Action: Advancing the National Prevention Strategy, you can download it here. This report is useful for elderly individuals and caretakers looking for support. Organizations looking to expand their services can also use the information provided as a model for their own programs for seniors.
You can also read more of our articles on healthy aging.