There’s no doubt: world population is aging, and aging fast. China recently made it a law that its young people must return home to care for their parents. In Japan, it is projected that the population over 65 will reach nearly 40 percent by 2060. Swinging across the globe, the United Nations projects Latin America’s population over 65 will triple from 6.3 percent in 2005 to 18.5 percent in 2050. In the United States, the Administration on Aging projects Americans will reach that same statistic by 2030.
The Director of the Center for Sustainable Health (CSH) at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, Dr. Michael Birt, explains that “for the first time in human history, the number of people over the age 65, as a percentage of the global population, will surpass the number of children under the age of five.” Significantly, CSH also reports a sharp rise in the global burden of chronic disease. We are living longer, but not necessarily healthy lives, and with reduced fertility rates spreading across the world, there will not be enough humans to support the needs for long-term care. Not to mention the expenses and pressures on existing institutional infrastructures.
What does this all mean? We’re doomed in one of the most vulnerable moments of our lives? Not at all! There’s an opportunity here to modify the way we live, because if we don’t, the burden of population aging will overwhelm our social, economic and health care systems. That’s just a fact. Nothing like working under pressure! But with teams of thought leaders, health fanatics, technological innovators, informed clinicians, government, and big business backing you up.
There isn’t anything new about fitness and health. It’s understood that exercise and eating the right combination of foods is best. Small adjustments like cutting back on fried food, eating greens, walking around the block once a day, getting more sleep, or laughing have huge affects on your long-term health. You’ll experience more energy, be happier, feel snappier, leap and bound through fields of green. As Esther Dyson says, “It’s colossal stupidity that people aren’t healthier, because we know how to do it.”
Something’s changing out there, though. Among other things, systemic shifts in comprehensive health care, in long-range perspectives of aging global population issues, and in technological advancements have put health and fitness on the front burner. It’s about preventative care, and there’s a swirling market around how to make access to it all easier, cost effective, and fun.
“It is a pivotal time in health care,” says Dr. Robin Berzin, Executive Curator of Health Interactive (HI) (www.hi-losangeles.com), a new initiative of Health 2.0, an organization that brings together and catalyzes new technologies in health care. “There is a greater recognition that health is our personal responsibility, but [also] that we need to equip people with the tools they need to most effectively take that on.”
At the Health Interactive conference people will engage in fitness and cooking classes, learn about new health philosophies and be inspired by fitness success stories. It’s a full hands on experience that will hopefully be ingrained in attendees’ behavior into the future. At the core, is the ease of being healthy. “Lots of people are intimidated by health,” says Dr. Berzin. “We wanted to create an event that was practical, real, salient and fun.”
It might be easy for some, says my internal naysayer. Fitness gurus, health junkies (and people who have time and resources) seem to have it all figured out. How to keep healthy longer, how to keep happier more. In her blog, My Edible Sunshine (myediblesunshine.com), Amanda J. Carney exposes herself – health junkie, yoga-addict, knower of all things green and fresh and herby – as actually having daily bumps and dips in the road to her health goals. She discusses how some days you give in to old habits, and how other days, you feel as though you’ve kicked them all into a can, tied them up with a raggedy bow, and tossed all of the evil ways off a bridge forever. What she shows is it is the small things that lead to big changes, and it is a constant balancing game. Some days you win, some you don’t. Overall, however, if you’re aware and putting effort into being healthier, there will be spectacular benefits in the end.
With modern innovation focusing on health and wellness, understanding our minds, our cells and our bodies in order to better grasp how best to live richer, perform stronger, and be happier has never been easier – or more critical. It is inevitable, I think, that health interceptions through education, technology, and accessibility will be key to sustainable health. As aging populations shift global demographics, we are being given an awesome opportunity to take charge of our own health, rather than experience the shift as a burden we can do nothing about.