Nine Principles of Active Aging
Programs: The seven dimensions of wellness anchor the principles.
Programming possibilities for older adults are limited only by our creativity and our biases—what we believe older adults can (or should) do or not do. The essential elements in programming include the following:
- all of the seven dimensions of wellness
- adaptation for this group’s diverse abilities and health issues, using functional levels
- engagement that helps customers find and fulfill their purpose in life
By implementing these three programming elements, you’ll keep your customers coming back for more. Let’s look at these areas in more detail.
Multidimensional wellness offers you a breadth of programming options to meet the diversity of needs, capabilities and expectations in the older-adult market. ICAA endorses seven wellness dimensions, as outlined on page 51. An overview of each dimension also appears, giving you information to help you implement or augment wellness programming. Keep in mind, though, that wellness is not singular; it is like a good wool suit—best when woven tightly together.
With the seven dimensions of wellness, it’s possible to offer a multitude of life-fulfilling opportunities. The benefits can be minimized, however, if your programming does not address consumers’ diverse abilities, physical and cognitive, to ensure engagement.
Referring to ICAA’s functional levels will help you adapt your programming to meet your target group’s needs. These functional levels, which are adapted from the work of Waneen Spirduso, EdD.30 It summarizes the five levels of physical function, as well as the specific fitness abilities and immediate physical needs of older adults. You’ll also find programming goals and areas of focus to help you engage customers.
Finally, engagement in life is emerging as a critical indicator of healthy aging. Providing a menu of diverse activities for older adults is an appropriate first step in encouraging an active lifestyle. To engage older adults requires knowing each person as an individual. An exploratory process can help your staff uncover each customer’s hopes, past successes and personal goals.
In 2011, an ICAA work group wrote a white paper on engagement, providing the following definition:31
“Engagement represents a dramatic business shift from traditional programming that is typically rooted in activity theory. Getting to know an individual’s life story, desires and dreams requires more time and an additional skill set for staff. For example, an engagement approach positions program and activity directors as personal life coaches. Staff roles would shift from designing and delivering large group programs to the role of ‘engagement coach’ with the purpose of helping each client to live the life that they chose to live. Providing programs and professionals who facilitate engagement is a more complex business model than simply offering older clients things to do.”
A thought to ponder: Would it take you further than you are today if you addressed the diverse abilities of your older consumers, physical and cognitive, through an engagement strategy for the wellness experience? If so, what are you waiting for?
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