What is active aging?
Active aging is a term used to describe the maintenance of positive subjective well-being, good physical, social and mental health and continued involvement in one’s family, peer group and community throughout the aging process. It is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age.”
Our research and active aging
Cognition, health and well-being are central to the idea of active aging, and the ways in which they change with age is a major focus of our research. Currently, we are working to develop more precise measurement tools and to track changes over a short period of time (i.e. days). This will help us to learn more about ways in which individuals can best achieve autonomy, independence and overall well-being across the lifespan and throughout older adulthood.
It has been known for some time that age differences exist in many areas of cognition, such as attention, working memory and processing speed. However, the ultimate reasons for such differences are not yet fully understood. Recent research suggests that changes in these variables begin earlier in adulthood than later, and accumulate over the course of one’s life. For us to be able to promote active aging and help older adults, their families and health care staff improve quality of life in later years, it is important to study the within-person changes that occur on a daily basis across one’s whole life. This is the major goal of our research.
B.C. and active aging
Population aging is an international phenomenon, and British Columbia is no exception. The proportion of people over the age of 65 in BC is expected to reach 24% by the year 2031. The Healthy Aging through Health Living report released by the Ministry of Health (2005) identified five issues as priority areas to encourage active aging: injury prevention, physical activity, social connectedness, healthy eating and tobacco cessation. As more people reach the age of 65, continued research and dissemination of information about the ways in which active aging can be achieved is key.
Reminiscence activities for social connectedness among older adults
Reflection about one’s past is a natural aspect of life. Reminiscence therapy can contribute to active aging by providing a social environment in which people are encouraged to discuss their pasts. This can help in the development of a sense of integrity, increased self-esteem, and increased feelings of life satisfaction by reminding people of the meaning and value in their lives. Additionally, group-based reminiscence activities can naturally increase social connectedness and friendships and decrease isolation. Reminiscence activities have been shown to significantly decrease symptoms of depression in older adults as effectively as drug therapy. As the Canadian population ages, research examining activities that increase social connectedness and contribute to active aging are important. More information about reminiscence can be found at http://www.manyhappyreturns.org/why-reminiscence-is-good-for-us-all/
More information about active aging can be found in the British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association report (2006), located at http://www.bcrpa.bc.ca/recreation_parks/active_communities/documents/Active_Aging_Lit_Review.pdf.