As of 2012, about 21% of Canadians were over the age of 60. By 2030, it is projected to rise to 28.5% and by 2050, it will exceed 31%. This means that by mid-century, approximately a third of Canadians will be over the age of 60. In ten years time, there will be over one billion seniors worldwide. Soon seniors will outnumber the amount of children under the age of 15. This is also not solely a First and Second world issue. In over three decades, Africa will be home to 10% of the world’s seniors.
Seniors have much to offer the young of today. They are full of knowledge and wisdom that could transfer to further the development of today’s youth. Therefore we need to ensure that they are properly taken care of for the remainder of their years through physical activity and socialization.
Physical activity is key for seniors. Due to their ageing physical bodies, they have a greater likelihood for cardiovascular diseases, as well as arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis and other chronic diseases. Along with the physical deterioration, there are also the issues they face when it comes to mental health. Seniors are at a higher risk for depression, anxiety, and loneliness. With the typical stresses of everyday life, seniors also may lose their ability to live independently because they may suffered from limited mobility, chronic pain, frailty, along with other physical problems. Seniors also experience events such as bereavement, a drop in socioeconomic status with retirement, or a disability. All of these can result in isolation, loss of independence, loneliness and psychological distress.
Socialization is also an important part of keeping seniors healthy and well. Socializing is a good way to ensure that loneliness is “kept at bay”. This also helps to alleviate feelings such as depression and anxiety. Making sure they have a class that they get involved in or making sure they get outside and go for a walk will be key to keeping seniors well.
There are a number of barriers that seniors face when it comes to recreation and physical activity. Some of these barriers include: fixed income, lack of knowledge, lack of transport/accessibility, self efficacy, and/or self consciousness. As it relates to fixed income, the seniors demographic is often living off pensions; they have the same amount of money coming in every month and live on a very specific budget. Consequently, they do not have the funds to go out and seek physically active activities. Sometimes they do not have a car or a license causing them not to have transportation to activities. They are also more likely to be self-conscious. They are concerned with how they appear to others, and how they would perform in a group fitness or sport setting. They do not realize that many seniors are feeling the exact same way. This can deter seniors from being active because they are so self-conscious about the way they are looking or performing therefore they just stay home instead.
There are many benefits that seniors can get from being physically active. It can help their overall health by decreasing blood pressure, increasing muscle strength and flexibility, and increase balance. There are also other psychological benefits from being physically active. Being physically active means you are also working your brain, and having an increased brain activity is beneficial to overall health. Further, the connections that a senior makes in a group fitness or team setting often leads to new interactions and friendships. This is optimal since they may be widowed and/or feeling lonely.
If given the opportunity to be active, people of older age can even compete at elite-level sport. An example of this would be the World Masters Games. It is similar to the Olympics but for people who have passed the age of which most people would consider to be competitive (>35). These Games also run on a four-year cycle and include many of the same sports. They also included other non-Olympic sports like football and geo-caching. Masters level athletes have competed all of the way up to age 100.
As the number of seniors grows, we should be offering programs to meet their needs. They are often interested in being more active but many do not know how to be. We need to develop more seniors’programs, market them effectively, and be open-minded when they come seeking programs.