The White House Conference on Aging took place on July 13 and Gale Reece, founder of the I know expo, was in attendance. The topic of intergenerational connections and healthy aging was discussed on that day and here’s a synopsis of what was said as reported by Next Avenue, public media’s first and only national service for America’s booming 50+ population.
An afternoon panel at the conference included distance swimmer Diana Nyad, who set a world record by swimming from Cuba to Florida in in 2013 at age 63. When she walked up on the Florida beach, “The first words I said were, ‘Never, ever give up. If you want to get to that other shore, you will find a way.’ The other thing I said was you’re never too old to chase your dreams.”
She said she is now organizing a walk across America to encourage greater physical activity. “In 10 years, we will see the numbers of childhood diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression and all the things that come from inactivity, disappear.”
Matt Hayek, mayor of Iowa City, Iowa, said that local governments have an important role to play in encouraging healthy aging. Iowa City provides incentives for senior housing and promotes walking and bicycling, he said. Small loans can help older adults make needed home repairs, thereby extending their ability to live independently. “Our goal is to make our community welcoming to seniors,” Hayek said.
The U.S. Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, called for a “culture of prevention in America.” The nation has a high rate of obesity; almost half of adults have some chronic condition. The solution is a combination of healthy nutrition, physical activity and mental health care, he said. But the cultural factors that affect change are not generated from Washington, Murthy said. He once spoke to a pastor whose church served a weekly meal of fried chicken; the pastor believed switching to baked chicken for the health advantages was a tough pill to swallow. “About a month in, he thought, ‘This baked chicken tastes pretty good.’ So we can change norms, beliefs and practices based on what we do in our neighborhood,” Murthy said.
Dr. Michael Smith of WebMD moderated the panel. YMCA President Kevin Washington and Fernando Torres-Gil, director of the UCLA Center for Policy Research on Aging, also took part. Torres-Gil, who contracted polio as a child, said we need to break down stereotypes about age, ethnicity and disabled vs. “temporarily abled.” “I’ve never felt healthier or happier as I do now as a polio survivor getting older with a disability,” he said. “Life is good at any age … as long as we stay active and stay engaged.”