What does “active living” really mean?

What is “active living,” and why is it so important to seniors? Many of us think of active living as the simple act of incorporating physical activity into our daily routines—a critical component of healthy aging—but it’s actually much more encompassing than that.

The World Health Organization defines active living as, “A way of life in which physical, social, mental, emotional and spiritual activities are valued and are integrated into daily living.”* The links between physically active living and healthy aging are well established, many studies showing that even moderate physical activity helps seniors maintain independence, reduces the risk of falls and fractures, and assists in managing chronic conditions.*

There is also a growing body of research that shows that staying socially connected contributes to increased longevity and well-being. In the first study to link social engagement with daily physical activity, University of Texas at Austin researchers found that participants who had more interactions with a variety of people, including friends, family, acquaintances, service providers and strangers, were more likely to keep physically active, as well as enjoy more positive moods and fewer negative feelings.*

Pursuing a life guided by the principles of active living offers all of the above gains, as well as other significant benefits from staying mentally fit* and spiritually fulfilled.* For some seniors, however, it can be challenging to lead an active life, hampered by barriers such as difficulty in getting out of their homes, physical mobility, safety or transportation issues.

How retirement living contributes to an active lifestyle for older adults

Retirement living can offer a solution and a strong foundation for senior active living. Built-in opportunities make it easy to remain physically, socially, mentally, emotionally and spiritually active.

Seniors should consider retirement residences that are guided by an integrated approach to active living through their amenities, programs and staff. For example, Chartwell’s signature LiveNow program, which is offered at all of its retirement residences and long term care homes across Canada, engages body, mind and spirit in a wide variety of activities that are both fun and fulfilling.

Consider these examples: Avid readers can join a book club, yogis can do a class in meditation or chair yoga, those with a green thumb can garden, and music lovers can enjoy appreciation classes, singing and dancing activities. To keep minds sharp, there are also discussion groups, trivia nights, cards and other games offered. Residents and staff often join together for meaningful volunteer activities to benefit their communities, and many residences offer worship services and activities on-site, as well as transportation to community services.

At Chartwell, every residence has a unique schedule customized to their residents’ preferences. They are welcome to participate in as many (or as few) activities as they like. While many seniors love a busy schedule—and as Time magazine recently reported, the Dallas Lifespan Brain Study found that among those over 50, having a full daily schedule was associated with improved cognitive processing, memory, reasoning and vocabulary—the message is that this is not summer camp! Every resident is encouraged to enjoy the independence and freedom to live an active life on their own terms.

To learn more about Chartwell’s LiveNow life enrichment programming, click here.

*The following sources provided references for this blog, in order of appearance:

1. Active Aging Canada. “Definition of Active Aging by WHO.” (Nov. 3, 2019), online: https://www.activeagingcanada.ca/participants/get-active/active-living/what-is-active-living.htm

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General (Fact Sheets). (1999), online: https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/sgr/olderad.htm

3. Science Daily. “Interacting with more people is shown to keep older adults more active.” (Feb. 20, 2019), online: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190220074610.htm

4. National Institute on Aging. “Cognitive Health and Older Adults.” (May 17, 2017), online: (https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/cognitive-health-and-older-adults

5. Merck Manual. “Religion and Spirituality in Older People.” (May 2019), online: https://www.merckmanuals.com/en-ca/home/older-people%E2%80%99s-health-issues/social-issues-affecting-older-people/religion-and-spirituality-in-older-people

6. Time Magazine. “Your brain will age better if you do this.” (May 19, 2016), online: https://time.com/4341680/busy-brain-cognitive-function-aging/