It has been engraved in our society that as our generations become older, they become less independent and less healthy. It has been believed that if our age goes up, everything else goes down. As we age, we become fragile, weak, and incapable of continuing daily exercise, yet that is only a stereotype many countries along with the United States have adopted. Many older adults have both lived up to that stereotype as well as defied it. They have done so by, normalizing their health among others, and how it could be much worse. They have began to turn to nursing homes rather than living in their neighborhood due to neighborhood accessibility and access for their daily exercise, as well as seen improvements in overall health and cognitive function in older adults who do exercise.
Many older adults perceive themselves to be “okay” where they are with their health stands and normalizing their abilities by making comments such as, “ Part of it is just getting old”, “I’m still around so I guess I’m doing better [than others my age], and “I think I’m doing wonderful just to be out of bed” (S. Bardach, N. Schoenberg, & B. Howell, 2016). It can only be believed that they adapted these attitudes in reaction to society. Society is not on older aged people in the sense that they can still do many of the things they were able to do before they hit “old age”. This is not only affecting them mentally and with the attitudes they give off, but also that they begin to hold themselves to lower standards, and expectations when it comes to things surrounding their health (S. Bardach, N. Schoenberg, & B. Howell, 2016). Many older adults this is how it should be for their age, or that is acceptable to begin declining in more things than necessary. This is all accustomed by what society has put forth for many years now. It now affects those in all age groups that as they get older, it is acceptable to let their diet slip, and exercise because they are getting older anyway. But, who is society to tell each individual they do not have to let their diet slip, or they do not have to stop exercising. This is all due to stereotypes older aged people have adapted, and it is poorly affecting them in many ways. Research has proven those who deify this stereotype and continue actively exercising and continue to eat a balanced and healthy diet are, cognitively more aware and active, and appear to become sick less oftern, or become diagnosed with a chronic illness less frequently.
If and when we are able to change the stereotype of older adults and their habits around health and exercise once they hit a different age, could change the motivation and mindset for so many in that generation. A study compared older adults who regularly worked out and those who did not. The exercising ranged from a number of different things, from daily walks, yoga, weight lifting, and cardiovascular type of exercising. Those who were regularly working out and lived an active lifestyle, showed substantial reduced risk in cognitive abilities and lower risk of developing dementia (O. Kuster, 2016). This study went even further to show enchantment on cognitive activity that is associated with an active lifestyle. Enchantment such as improvement of executive functions, such as memory and even global cognition was shown in the research as well. (O. Kuster, 2016). The study then selected a group of older age individuals and gave them a ten-week plan to help improve their current healthy habits and encourage an active lifestyle to see if there was a correlation between those who lived an active lifestyle on their own and those who were given the ten-week plan for an active lifestyle. As results were presented in the study, many older adults did show improvement on cognitive abilities, as well as had a changed behavior and perception about living an active lifestyle at their age (O. Kuster, 2016).
As discussed earlier, living an active lifestyle not only works to improve a healthier lifestyle, but also improve cognitive abilities, another study went to prove the same but with added findings. Not only those who did aerobic and cardiovascular exercise, but also performed weight lifting and had lower extremity strength was also a contributor to increased cognitive abilities (Loprinzi, 2016). A reason was also found behind the increased cognitive abilities and that was due to the regular exercise increased neural activity in both the pre-frontal and frontal cortex, which helped lead to the findings of improved cognitive abilities (Loprinzi, 2016). The hippocampus was also affected in a positive way with increased stimuli, which helps with attention and memory. The working memory, information processing and decision-making were also affected by the sample group who participated in the active lifestyle plan, it is to those of older age benefit to continue an active lifestyle even if it seems that those in surrounding communities have stopped. If older aged people were to go against the stereotype that is constantly surrounding them, we would see such an improvement with in their health and exercise that could become so beneficial not only for themselves but also for society. Just because they are getting older does not mean they need to stop exercising and enjoying active things, they should continue to do, if not even more then they did before. It aids them in such a beneficial way. It only would take one group of older aged men and women to do so, they will inspire those in their community even by walking around their neighborhood let alone lifting weights in the local recreational center.
It has been studied that older adults tend to engage in more physical activity in and around their house and neighborhood. Neighborhood environments are crucial for those of older age due to functional limitations they withhold and can access certain areas and activities solely due to the nature and environment of their neighborhood (L. Fleig, 2016). It was also shown those with a surrounding neighborhood showed higher involvement in an active lifestyle with well established and limited barrier neighborhood. With older adults being able to recognize their movement and active lifestyle around the neighborhood they are able to have a positive attitude toward the movement, and further keep them active and cognitively engaged, which would lead to more active older adults, than those just normalizing their health with limited to no active exercise.
Older adults have seem to adopted the stereotype of being weak and not exercising society has cast upon them, yet with the research that has been provided, we want the most active older adults possible. The more active they are, the more cognitive abilities they are able to engage in at a more enhanced and beneficial level for all members of society. If we can end stereotyping about the activity level older adults “should” engage in, and eliminate the normalization of their health being better than others, just because they are getting older, the older generations could be much more lively and active! The first step to achieving that is encouraging them they can do it.
Bardach, S. H., Schoenberg, N. E., & Howell, B. M. (2016). What motivates older
adults to improve diet and exercise patterns? J Community Health .
Fleig, L., Voss, C., Ashe, M. C., Therrien, S., Sims-Gould, J., & McKay, H. A.
(2016). Environmental and psychosocial correlates of objectively measured physical activity among older adults. Health Psychology .
Kuster, O. C. (2016). Cognitive change is more positively associated with an
active lifestyle than with training interventions in older adults at risk of dementia: a controlled interventional clinical trial. BMC Psychiatry ,10.
Loprinzi , P. D. (2016). Epidemiological investigation of muscle-strengthening
activities and cognitive function among older adults. Chronic Illness ,12(2).