Humans are living longer than ever before in history. The unique population structures seen today stem from a decline in mortality and fertility catalyzed by the fast economic growth and healthcare innovation of the twentieth century.
Many countries adapted their social support systems to improve the life of the aging group, but a disproportional expansion rate relative to younger adults combined with earlier labor force removal and increased chronic disease risk now strains the public pension system as the cost of health care soars with age.
The United Nations report World Population Ageing: 1950-2050 predicts a superior growth rate over the next hundred years:
In absolute terms, the number of people over 60 years of age has tripled over the last 50 years and will more than triple again over the next 50 years.
An additional financial burden will rise from more adults facing the need to care for a frail, much older parent, a stress bound to affect children in turn. The report prepared for the 2002 World Assembly on Ageing highlights the hurdles ahead in its concluding statement:
The challenge for the future is to ensure that people everywhere will be enabled to age with security and dignity and continue to participate in their societies as citizens with full rights”. At the same time, “the rights of older persons should not be incompatible with those of other age groups, and the reciprocal relationships between the generations must be nurtured and encouraged (United Nations, 2001a, paras. 9 and 14).
Time is critical for baby boomers and their successors to work as a team and avoid an impending crisis. Social support structures will soon collapse under the weight of the growing cohort, which could be disastrous without an updated strategy. Everybody will be too sick and resourceless to think straight and help anybody.
Now, how can the older population actively resist the physical and mental decline of age? Exercise is an excellent place to start, of course.
Staying active throughout adulthood is a hard task when you have a family to raise and a mortgage to pay, but failure to do so leads to greater, almost unsolvable problems later when you pass your tipping health point of no return. Results are slower and get more expensive the longer you wait.
Exercise renders elders functional, which allows them to participate in the economy by staying in the workforce longer, more apt to help their younger lineage, and thus less strenuous to the social support systems.
This seventy-one-year-old exercise student of mine first visited my kinesiology clinic with a full history of aches and pain from his feet up, barely able to walk up three flights of stairs, let alone carry his body weight. His movements were sluggish from a journey of fatherhood and battles against illness.
His son empowered him to reach out to me for help. The brave man started training twice a week albeit little energy from poor sleep with constant neck and shoulder pain. He transformed his body after nine months.
Watch him progress since he started last January after decades of inacity.
Hips and shoulders waste a lot of energy when they collapse upon themselves; the forward shift will even alter your thoughts and emotions. Full-range squats and an emphasis on hamstring work made his legs active and mobile, more endurant, which leveled his posture and improved athleticism combined with the strengthening of his mid back and the dynamic stretch of his pecs through deep push-ups.
Athletic development knows no age limit, but results take longer to manifest and disappear faster when you are older. Decades of physical inactivity and their degrading impact on the body and mind require more than just a few months to conquer. Progress will be slow, so focus on the small victories along the way such as showing up or beating your previous workout by one rep.
Adult exercise education must become a pillar of future social support policies, but politics and red tape often hinder sociological evolution. Act now because tomorrow might be too late, whether you are a young adult on the path to inactivity or someone already spiraling down closer to the tipping health point of no return.
The power is at your fingertips to change the course of history. Take advantage of this digital era to access health education content like never before and start your journey at home. Future generations will thank you for the devotion.