A Holistic Approach to Healthy Aging.

With spring finally here, what a great time to announce that I was the first guest on the new weekly show called Why Our Seniors Matter launched May 4th, 2015 on ListenUp Talk Radio where my interview focused on a holistic approach to healthy aging. While this show will cover a range of topics of broad interest in the daily lives of seniors, it seems perfectly fitting to open with this holistic view.

Over the next thirteen weeks, the Why Our Seniors Matter show will feature many practical matters from finance to fitness, but they all tie in to one or more of the eight aspects of the holistic healthy aging – social, cognitive, physical, psychological, spiritual, purposeful work, financial and environmental.

In my progress, through my work as a gerontologist and educator, my focus has been on supporting a new vison of aging – healthy aging that is not only out of concern for the old but also for their families which makes all this truly an “inter-generational” new vision.

As I mentioned in the Talk Radio interview, there are gaps in how we provide information on aging matters directly to seniors in the community, and there will be a growing demand on family members of all ages to become an integral part of that information food chain as the aging demographic curve rises over the next two decades.

Furthermore, we require new ways of providing information and resources to those who need it. Communities and municipalities as well as businesses serving seniors can do a lot to shape the way information about seniors’ services and resources is presented. Lack of awareness is one issue but equally important is timely information provision.

Many older adults have complex needs and the best way to meet them is to enhance information, including knowledge of resources and tools. Better information provision is a key way to build an age-friendly society.

Coming up in June is Seniors’ Month in Ontario. Listening in to the Why Our Seniors Matter radio show is timely and as it happens all this coincides with our Planet Longevity theme of inter-generational connections as part of what makes a healthier age friendly community; all viewed in that holistic approach.
Suzanne Cook

B+P+S = A Healthy Longevity Equation

Reading the breadth of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) 2013-2018 Strategic Plan, focused on supporting a healthy longevity; I started and stopped at Priority 1 of its five priorities. Priority 1 hits the nail on the head. Interactive and holistic, it highlights how the accumulative benefits of combining Biological, Psychological and Social factors contribute towards healthy aging. Working the equation, it comes down to combining practical activities, something each individual can control.

Biological: The Cardiovascular system is one of the ten systems that keeps our bodies going; a major contributor for healthy aging. More and more, the health professions are promoting exercise, “Cardio” is a term the media favours. That means get moving. The more we move, the more often we move and the more we increase our levels of activity the better our cardiovascular system works.

Psychological: Enhancement of life is a skill developed by life experience. We now know a change of scene can change a mood. Experiencing nature – greenery, trees, waters are proven mood lifters and can heal the psyche.  In urban areas people watching is 24 hour a day street theater and comes without a big-ticket price.

Social: Real time interaction with friends and neighbours helps us maintain social support systems. Talking on the phone or Skype is not the only way to stay connected; sometimes we need to focus on topics without the structure of home and phone.  Again getting out and about is the way to go.

So what brings these three important factors together?

“Twalking” I call it. Start the walk slow, picking up the pace as you become fitter. You can tell if the pace is safe if you can talk and walk without panting for breath. Can we “twalk”? Having a walking-buddy motivates us to exercise. The bonus in the making of this part of the equation is that a walking group provides a social network, offering a psychological outlet for airing everyday life challenges.

So now that we know how to easily contribute to healthy longevity at little or no cost then we can do the math on healthy aging – B+P+S = A Healthy Longevity.


Mary Ellen Tomlinson