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Active seniors 'getting older,' but not their 'mind, body and spirit'

Posted January 2, 2019 12:01 a.m. EST

The definition of what constitutes an "active" older adult has changed over the past few decades. Seniors are joining clubs, re-learning old hobbies and participating in athletic events. (monkeybusinessimages/Big Stock Photo)

This article was written for our sponsor, Summit Senior Solutions.

The definition of what constitutes an "active" older adult has changed over the past few decades. It was once all about book clubs and golfing, but now seniors are joining clubs, re-learning old hobbies and participating in athletic events such as the Senior Games.

More activities are available now than ever before with opportunities year-round.

"The exciting thing that we're seeing is that people are staying active longer and healthier longer," said Martha Bader, senior marketing associate for Overture, a company that owns and operates modern 55 and older, active adult apartment home communities. "By creating an environment focused on an engaged and maintenance free-lifestyle, the resident's sense of adventure returns to them. When your community is the hub of all activity, people automatically stay involved, ensuring that they can maintain an active lifestyle longer."

Active adult communities for residents 55 years and better are sprouting up around the country, offering seniors a way to downsize their homes and connect with their peers. These communities also offer amenities like shared public spaces, workout centers, demonstration kitchens and pools.

These types of activities offer ways to reignite curiosity, get residents involved with neighbors and get them out of the apartment home.

"When you think of people in this age demographic, think of someone like Susan Sarandon, she was 72 ... this year," Bader said, "That's the perfect example of residents that thrive in 55 and older communities. Going downtown, having wine with friends, going to museum openings. Their chronological age is getting older, but their mind, body and spirit aren't."

That is true for many new seniors, not just those who choose to live in 55 and older communities.

The Wake County Senior Games are a great opportunity to show off skills in a sport or other pastime, and see how you measure up against peers in a similar age group. Each year in April, local "Olympic-style" Senior Games events take place around the country. Medalists at the local level are eligible to compete at the state level, and winners there move on to the national games held every other year.

Competitors aged 50 to 99 play everything from basketball to table tennis, to the Silver Arts like poetry and knitting.

"It really is all-encompassing," said Marilyn Asay, past president of the board and longtime Senior Games participant. "Anything that you might have done in the way of athletic or artistic competition or visual arts, literary writing, short stories, poems. If you've done that before, just because you're getting older there's no reason for you to quit."

If you are not interested in participating in an event, volunteers are always needed to help ensure the events run smoothly.

The Games have proven so popular that off-season intramural activities are being considered. A pilot program including table tennis, corn hole and billiards just concluded.

"We'd like to do those again and perhaps add swimming events and bocce ball. We want to get the word out so folks can participate year round," Asay said.

Classes and events are also available at local community and senior centers. Each one usually produces a catalog of events.

"Right now, most of the places are offering something in the way of arts, from painting to drawing to doing stained glass," Asay said. "A lot of the groups are also doing line dancing. That's very popular for both men and women."

These classes are not just a way to explore a new hobby. By staying active and engaging with friends, seniors see a marked increase in attitude, mental health and physical fitness.

"Being physically active as a senior is tremendously beneficial," said Mark Tribbett, president and co-founder of Summit Senior Solutions. "Obviously, increasing your strength and mobility helps prevent falls and injuries. But your cognitive capabilities and general mood are also significantly improved."

He added, "Physical activity of any kind, in any amount, greatly enhances our quality of life as we age."

This article was written for our sponsor, Summit Senior Solutions.