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Copyright 2007,
American Senior Fitness









Whole-Person Wellness
for Vital Living

This is the beginning of a five-part series on senior wellness matters by SFA professional Jan Montague, MGS. Ms. Montague has a Master of Gerontological Studies degree and has been involved in wellness and health promotion for over 25 years. She serves on several international and national Advisory Boards and has authored numerous articles on whole-person wellness. Prior to becoming Vice President of Community Life for Lakeview Village, Lenexa, KS, Ms. Montague was President and founder of Montague, Eippert & Associates, a nationwide consulting service that specialized in the design, development, and implementation of wellness cultures, programs and centers.

Part One of five installments

Why Wellness? Why Now?

Newspapers, magazines, television, radio, and the Internet -- all are constantly reminding us that our population is aging. Haven't we always been aging? Well, yes and no. Never before in our history have we had so many older people living so long. Life expectancy at birth has increased by about thirty years, from 47 years of age in 1900 to about 76 years of age in 1996. Furthermore, demographers predict the number of persons age 65 and older to increase to 69 million by the year 2030. To understand the enormity of growth within this defined market, consider this: In 1980 there were 25.7 million individuals age 65 and older in the United States. From 1980 to 2050, this group is projected to nearly double, from 12 percent to 23 percent of the population.

This demographic switch has numerous implications for both individuals and society; perhaps the most vital is the concern surrounding health care needs and resources. Proponents of the "live longer and healthier" model cite research that indicates older people have increased knowledge and awareness about the importance of health management -- including both traditional and integrative medicine techniques. Research also shows that older people are more health conscious than other age groups and when health promotion programs are available, accessible, and appropriate, older people participate. Information provided by American Sports Data Research in the report Tracking the Fitness Movement showed the 55 and older market leading the way in healthy living, for example:

  • Individuals 55 and older have the largest percentage (29 percent) of frequent participants in fitness activities, compared to all other groups;

  • The number of people 55 and older who exercise frequently has soared by 75 percent since 1987 to 14.2 million;

  • 2.7 million belong to a health club;

  • More than a million lift weights twice a week.

However, as the older population increases in numbers and age in the coming years, some fear that medical costs will continue an upward spiral at alarming rates. To address this concern, the wellness concept has emerged as a model that can lead not only to decreased health care consumption, but also to improved health and quality of life for many Americans.

The desire for optimal health as we age -- to be functionally-able for as long as possible -- has people embracing the concepts of wellness as a leading model of health management. The wellness model promotes self-responsibility for health and well-being within all areas of a person's life. This model incorporates a holistic perspective: The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It integrates, balances, and blends the six dimensions of wellness (emotional, social, intellectual, physical, spiritual, and vocational) into individualized programming. Research shows that for many aging individuals, participation in whole-person health programs slows the aging process and promotes independence.

Click here for Part Two of Whole-Person Wellness for Vital Living, which will address society's new interest in wellness and provide a working definition of the wellness philosophy.)

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