Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Seniors in Other Parts of the World

Recently through a raffle drawing, I was honor with two airfares to Europe. Having never experienced Europe, my eyes were wide open and my mind very observant. The trip began in Amsterdam, Netherlands, where people transport themselves in a multitude of ways – trains, trams, buses, bicycles, small cars, and walking of course.

One of my first observations was that older adults – in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s – were walking about and to my amazement confidently hopping on and off bicycles. During my four years of serving seniors in Atlanta, I would have to say I’m not sure our older adults would be so confident hopping on and off a bicycle or walking the distances I witnessed of our Amsterdam older adult neighbors.

America is an amazing place, spread out across this vast land. However, we need to remember too that exercising our bodies and minds is an important component of our long-term well being. I’m curious now to find studies that compare or show the health statistics for older adults in Amsterdam – due to their physical activities – comparing to American older adults. I was also amazed by the fact that I didn’t see any “obese” people of Amsterdam (you could point out the Americans who had that “bulge”). I relate the fitness of the people to their low stress levels and capabilities of walking to the stores or enjoying a beautiful walk in one of the many parks, or simply biking to the store. And to the older lady I spoke with, she was 72 and hopped right off a bicycle in front of me, she stated she knew no other way to live and she hopes that she can forever be able to ride her bicycle.

We have a lot to learn from our European neighbors – physical fitness, energy conservation (energy powering windmills everywhere), and even driving habits. The livable communities that have begun to sprout up have a direct link with “walk-able” communities and seem to be promoting the same type of European lifestyle. But can this European lifestyle be copied? I’m not so sure. But one thing can be accomplished; we can all get on a bike, walk around the block, or do what physical activity our bodies allow us to do and enjoy a healthy life.

by Patrick O'Kane

Director of Operations

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