Growing older doesn’t have to be scary, especially when so many resources are available to ensure healthy aging is achievable. After all, September is Healthy Aging ® Month!
“There are no magic bullets or pills for healthy aging. But healthy aging is achievable by engaging in everyday activities,” says Dr. Marcia Ory, Ph.D., M.P.H., Regents Professor and director of the Program on Healthy Aging at the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) School of Rural Public Health.
Dr. Ory emphasizes simple things can be done every day, not just during Healthy Aging Month. They include the following:
- Have a positive attitude about aging.
- Keep an active mind.
- Stay physically active.
- Maintain a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Be socially engaged.
- Learn how to manage stress.
- Build healthy communities for active aging.
Providing support to these everyday steps, the Program on Healthy Aging conducts research to identify social, behavioral and environmental risk factors for health and illness across the life-course. It also seeks to understand factors associated with self-management and coping with chronic illnesses and disabilities in later life.
But the most important part of its mission may be translating this research into practical solutions for local communities.
“It’s very important we translate this research into practice and work with communities to disseminate and sustain evidence-based programs that can make a difference in seniors’ lives,” Dr. Ory says.
For example, her team works closely with the Brazos Valley Area Agency on Aging and other Brazos Valley Health Partnership members to disseminate chronic disease self-management programs throughout the seven-county Brazos Valley region, with expansion to East Texas and the Houston areas. With recent funding from WellCare Health Plans, Inc., Dr. Ory’s team also is engaged in a novel effort to build and test private-public partnerships that will transcend public health, aging and health care boundaries. Such programs help seniors learn and adopt the keys to successful aging.
September also marks National Falls Prevention Awareness Week (Sept. 22-28, 2012), designated to increase awareness about how to prevent and reduce falls among older adults. For the past five years, the TAMHSC-School of Rural Public Health has been documenting the success of falls prevention programs through the Texas Healthy Lifestyles Program.
Dr. Ory is especially pleased with a new program available to Brazos Valley residents. Through a mini-grant from the Community Research Center for Senior Health, the TAMHSC-School of Rural Public Health will be helping local community agencies implement Fit and Strong! – an evidence-based program designed to improve older adults’ fitness and thereby reduce the risk of falls.