Two years ago, the Executive Office of Elder Affairs developed an “Aging Agenda,” underscoring the fact that aging begins at birth and is a lifelong process. Based on nine principles for improving the quality of life, the Aging Agenda recommends adopting healthy habits early in one’s life to guarantee a happier healthier later life. Lifelong healthy diets and exercise are obvious choices for promoting healthy aging. As an agency, we practice what we preach.
Several staffers who incorporate exercise into their daily routines, and inspired by Mass in Motion, developed a series of exercises, largely based on yoga, and invited their colleagues to join them every afternoon at 3:00 p.m., for fifteen minutes of stretching and balance-building, that they called “Stretch and Smile.” The group is multi-generational, ranging in age from people in their twenties to their eighties, and led by a staff member in his early sixties and the agency Mass Wellness Champion who is in her early seventies. Some afternoons, only a handful of people find their way to EOEA’s back hallway to claim a spot. On other days, the stretchers and smilers fill the space.
Every session includes the same ten exercises, and participants report real gains in strength, suppleness and balance. Repetition is the key to success in regular exercise. Pain is not. The Stretch and Smile leaders are scrupulous in promoting a routine that expands capacity without damaging muscles and cartilage.
In addition to their 3:00 p.m. exercise routine (3:00 p.m. was deemed to be the time at which most employees need a boost and exercise has far more lasting benefits than caffeine), the Stretch and Smile team share health and diet tips and occasionally add something new to their routine. They invite passersby to join them, some of whom have become group members.
There are lots of ways to stay active and a number of community-based group exercise programs. Check out your local Council on Aging – the list is available on the mass.gov/elders home page under Related Links. Call your local Parks and Recreation Department to join or form a neighborhood walking club, including people of all ages who take regular walks in community parks or in and neighborhoods, or, if you want to exercise at work, you’ll find more tips at your fingertips at:
The Administration on Aging website at: http://www.aoa.gov/AoAroot/Press_Room/News/2011/Healthy_Tip/36.aspx
Or the mass.gov website: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/consumer/wellness/healthy-living/move-more/move-more-overview.html