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Doctors have been saying all along that physical exercise is essential for healthy ageing, better moods and fewer accidents.  But it’s not just aerobic exercise like walking – the exercise of choice for the majority of seniors – that keeps the doctors away.  While walking is “beneficial to heart fitness [it] does little to protect the exerciser against falls or loss of bone mass” says the Sydney Morning Herald.

The Australian Journal of Science and Medicine featured a study “Walking not enough for older Aussies” that looked at Australians over 65 years of age using the Exercise Recreation and Sport Survey.  Not only applicable to Aussies, this study gets at the heart of the overload of information out there on what’s healthiest, what seniors should be doing, and how best to do it.  Every person holds different interests, ability and fitness level that might work best for them.  What is important is that seniors seek out the regiment that works best for them while integrating various forms of exercise.

Key findings from the study are applicable no matter what the choice of fitness may be:

  • Varying exercise routinely increases your health
  • Combining aerobic, strength and balance exercises is key to maximizing health benefits
  • Exercising in groups increases motivation and reduces loneliness
  • Combining exercise with healthier eating habits optimizes your health
  • Some physical exercise is better than none at all

“Raising awareness on the types of activities that can most benefit the elderly, including those that achieve several fitness dimensions all at once, given that few older adults choose to participate in multiple activities is certainly warranted,” says Dr Dafna Merom, lead author of the study.

Old Runner A3

[Photo Credit: Maxwell GS, Flickr]


Credit: twinpix

In this economy, it’s important to invest wisely and to live prudently without sacrificing the health of your loved ones.  Making smart choices about purchases can affect the quality of care you provide or receive.

Around the world there are ways to save on all the disability aids and technology you need without burning a hole in your pocket or leaving your home.  We did a bit of research and came up with these:

In Australia:

 E-bility features a classifieds section for second-hand beds, chairs and more only for sale within Australia.  

In the UK:

Preloved , similar to Craigslist, offers a variety of miscellaneous items but has a large selection of mobility walkers, bed liners, and scooters both new and used for a fraction of the retail cost.  You can buy and sell equipment online.

DisabledGear – In addition to practical gear, DisabledGear has some thrilling disability gear for the adventurer like a Quad Tetrapalegic Off-road Vehicle and E-Cycle Trainer.

Demand – So much more than a re-seller, Demand also fixes broken equipment as needed.

In the US

The Mobility Market specializes in mobility aids, though there is a small fee for posting items worth $50 or more.  There is also a UK equivalent.    


Apparalyzed covers over 20 countries in Asia, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East and ranges from modified furniture, to aids and equipment.  You can also request items by posting a “wanted” ad for your desired piece.  

Ebay – A classic favorite, Ebay really does have it all. Try searching for individual items to buy or swap out your items.  Depending on the seller, most items can be shipped around the world.

Please share your secrets and experiences with us to better the global community and accessibility for all!

At the 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) this week, the Clothbot, a personal modular robot, has been developed with the aspiration to assist in home care.  This digital friend can be of valuable use in monitoring health of the elderly or disabled.

Created by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, this tech friend can climb up and down stairs, navigate across rugged surfaces, and follow you around.

Its creators, headed by Yuanyuan Liu, envisioned a robot that can:

–          Conduct “body inspection”

–          “Act as a movable phone on our shoulder with frees human hands”

–          “A tiny pet climbing on human bodies”

While others might find this invasive or perhaps creepy, there is a great potential benefit that can come from an interactive robot like Clothbot:

–          A tracking and monitoring device to assist someone who is unable to grip or hold other devices, such as a phone, can be extremely beneficial

–          An alarm system that alerts the recipient of the information any potential danger, similar to sensory detectors or alarms

–          Increase interaction and activity among idle elders (similar robots have been used as games)

–          Companionship  – Just recently, Britain’s Royal Academy of Engineering recommended similar autonomous devices such as the Dream Cat Venus to provide companionship to older people.


I have been asked to speak at this conference as an older person. When the invitation came it was something of a shock but then I am not different than most other people who do not consider themselves old. We, individually and collectively, tend to exercise mass denial about aging and death. The invitation itself has been a graceful experience since it has challenged me to give consideration to those things that have enabled me to be here today. I really must consider myself old since tomorrow I will celebrate the completion of my 79th year on this earth.

In the brief time allotted to me what I would like to make a series of assertions and perhaps contribute to an agenda not only for this conference but for the work of the Pan-American Health Organization.

No person is an island nor does anything exist in isolation.  All things exist in relationships with continual exchanges. Some of these exchanges go on without anyone’s awareness though they affect us profoundly. The coins of exchange are chemical and electrical.  They go on within us and throughout the universe.

There are other exchanges some of which we are aware and some not; some over which we can exercise some control and then there are others that we can only react to. These exchanges are critical to the growth and development of every individual and to every society. What we are about today is to identify some of these exchanges, highlight how important they are and how in some instances when we can  influence them.

As you will see I feel we must be careful about the phrase “healthy aging”, being neither too pessimistic or too optimistic. Being too pessimistic may further “agism” and discourage individuals but, on the other hand the phrase may create too much optimism. It may both create “a blame the person” attitude for an elder’s limitations and unwittingly absolve society from taking measures to minimize losses in old age and to assure the continued participation of older persons in an age integrated society.

Human beings are part of a species, a special species that can have ideas and act on them, that exists with many others influenced by them and influencing them in turn. In some ways we are in competition with them and among ourselves. Within our species and in relationship to others, there is a constant tension in choosing what is good for me , for us and what is good for others both animate and inanimate.

Concentrating for a moment on the individual, each of us grows old and is old within the context of three realities; the first is the human genome which we inherited from our parents,  the second influences are those externalities that impact us as we strive for a homeostasis; physically emotionally intellectually and yes spiritually and the the third element in human growth and behavior are choices that I make  have made over these and make today; choices that others have made with me and for me and the choices that we make together as a society.

Considering our basic biology , especially within the context of evolution, we can identify three ages of human beings the first of which is from conception of through the period  we  growth to physical maturity and the capacity for production and reproduction.

The Second Age is a period of maximum cellular efficiency that enables us to reproduce and to have the strength, at least necessary in the past, to sustain the species and last, a Third Age, new, at least as normal in the life course, beyond reproduction.

During the First Age an individual grows physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. The primary influences are those nearest and dearest. Gradually other persons become significant as one develops friends, fellow students and workers as well as a very special friend. Human interactions involving affection and instrumental help do not cease with the First Age but continue to be important throughout our lives even for 79 year olds.

Concurrently there are many other externalities that either sustain life and growth or compromise them. Time does not allow a cataloging all of them from the most proximate and significant to the more distant but still influential.

In the Second Age individuals have the opportunity to have children and produce what is necessary to sustain personal and social life. Historically both the first and the second age were marked by high mortality, and frequently, by disability. Relatively few people lived beyond that which is necessary for species survival. However at the beginning of the 20th century a new age Third Age became normal, more usual than not, in which the majority of people in developed countries would experience a significant period of life after the period of reproduction.

The introduction of new medical techniques, vaccinations, other public health measures such as better sanitation, and water supplies as well as new pharmacological agents all contribute to lessening early death with resulting increase in life expectancy and perhaps longevity. Fortunately we have seen improvements in various medical interventions, rehabilitative techniques, prostheses, patient self management approaches as well as societal attitudes and public policies  all mitigating disability as well. In some ways and at least for a time we have interfered with natural selection and survival of the fittest.

However, The basic cellular activity and its consequences have not been altered. In the Third Age cellular repair and replication can not keep pace with cellular deteriorations and losses. These have impact similarly on some populations and differently on others. The menopause is an example of the latter. Changes in skin, eyes, hearing, teeth, short term memory, changes in organ reserve and musculoskeletal losses are virtually universal. Fortunately we have developed approaches to compensate for some losses but the inevitably of death is still omnipresent.

Throughout life there is a gap between individual capacity and external demands. We are always in need of other persons and things outside us. Nothing is more dependent and frail than a child. At all stages of life we seek to narrow the gap by changing the capacity of an individual or making the “environment”, social, physical and even financial, more hospitable.

This gap can render a person frail, to a greater or lesser degree, i.e. living with a disequilibrium between capacity and need. In the Third age this frailty is likely to be  be progressive and intermittent even on a given day.

This relatively new Third Age  leaves us in a terra incognita as individuals and societies work toward identifying the structures, attitudes and behaviors which are important all during life but especially during this Third Age that will make it satisfying to individuals and significant the species as a whole.We are  struggling to further develop and support the mitigating structures needed both for the individual and for the species as a whole, the purpose of this convening.

With the ability of human beings to have clear and distinct ideas and to make choices individually but particularly collectively we can  manipulate our environment to make it, in some instances, more congenial to human survival and personal satisfaction . However, in other instances  in the interest of short term or personal gain we damage it.

In conclusion may I also cite something that is vitally important but often is often overlooked; the importance of civic virtue both in regard to this processes whereby we make decisions and also in regard to the values that undergird them. If societies are to exist, to say nothing of flourish, there must be a degree of civility and conversations that are marked by humility. We live in an era of rapid  increase in knowledge and understandings that challenge us to absorb them. No one has all the answers. In addition to the process considerations he must also invoke and be committed to the importance of social justice and social solidarity, balancing autonomy and social responsibility, the development of the common good and common goods, of reciprocity and solidarity, of adequacy and equity.

It seems to me that this kind of activity today and more importantly what the Pan-American Health Organization strives to articulate and to concretize all of these values in a very practical manner.

On a personal note I can identify a series of externalities that have contributed to me being here today I look back at loving parents educational systems that have enabled me to continually grow even until this present time. I am grateful for health systems that not only have saved my life on several occasions but have developed various compensatory approaches, prostheses and pharmaceuticals that have minimized my actual and potential frailty. I appreciate an economy while flawed and even fragile in some instances still has provided the goods and services which we need and want. Vaccinations have almost been taken for granted. I have lived within the context of a decent physical environment with minimum air pollution, good sanitation and the supply of good drinking water. I have been an am the beneficiary of public commitments resulting Social Security and Medicare that afford me me and millions of others with a degree of economic security and access to needed medical services without undue burden.

We live in a society with governmental structures and that foster freedom but also promote, albeit sometimes uncertainly and unevenly, social goods, concern for the marginated.

I must admit be somewhat unique position , hardly typical, since I am a single, white, straight, old Catholic priest, living in a religious community having been in the academic, professional worlds that have afforded me the opportunity to continue to be fully alive and to be significantly involved in the well-being of others and of society as a whole.

It is my hope that all persons in the”ThirdAge” have analogous opportunities.

In conclusion I am grateful to the Pan-American Health Organization’s challenge for me to remember, to  reflect more deeply and to appreciate more fully the structures and the people who have contributed and sustained the life giving environment that have given me the gift of seventy nine generally satisfying years.

Among all these things that which is most precious and sustaining are people who from the very beginning of my existence even till now  have and do love me and who allow me into their lives as well.

~Msgr. Charles J Fahey, Address to the Pan American Health Organization, Washington D.C. USA, 12 April 2012

Have you heard of Cane-Fu? Championed by the American Martial Arts Institute, the practice utilizes a walking cane for self-defense and physical fitness. As a defensive art, it includes traditional moves such as blocks, strikes, self-defense, kicks, and empty-hand skills in conjunction with the cane. It prioritizes awareness and self-confidence, and it possesses a strong foundational heritage in traditional martial arts style. A number of care homes across the U.S. offer Cane-Fu to their residents in an effort to promote balance and strength. Want to learn more? Check out the website or view the video below.

The U.S. 65-and-older population will more than double by 2050 to nearly 90 million, growing at a rate far faster than any other age group. According to Census data, by 2050, one in five Americans will be over the age of 65.  A new report from the Center for Housing Policy, Housing an Aging Population: Are We Prepared?, explores the effects of the coming demographic change on the demand for housing, the challenge of providing meaningful housing choices for older adults of all incomes, and the policies that could help communities across the country respond to the dual challenges of providing older adults with affordable housing and adequate services.

The report finds that older adults are more likely than younger adults to have housing affordability challenges.  As a result, the aging of the population is likely to increase the overall proportion of the country with severe housing cost burdens.  The report also finds that many older adults lack access to affordable services that could help them age in place. The report further covers trends affecting older adults in terms of demand, housing costs, finances, location and housing type, offering recommendations on existing policies that may help to address the coming crisis.

Interested in learning more about affordable housing with services? Consider joining our study tour that will visit communities and providers around the Boston, Massachusetts area.

How do these challenges play out in real life? Check out this video from a Colorado county that is in the process of trying to establish a supported housing project.

MyFriends Online Week kicks off this Monday 19 March and runs through 25 March 2012. The purpose of the campaign is to help seniors learn to use the internet to access information, connect with family and friends and improve their ability to find care and supports. Check out this video from AgeUK on how you can be a part this year!

The Town of Victoria Park in West Australia has constructed a “Rejuvenation Station” to encourage physical activity and fun among seniors. Exercise can help maintain strength and balance as you age, and can improve physical and mental wellbeing. The equipment in Read Park has been designed with seniors in mind and complements other activity programmes for seniors. Check out the full story on the town of Victoria Park website.

Does your community have a park to encourage elders to stay active? Would you use such a park if it was available?

Photo courtesy Town of Victoria Park

Margaret Roberts may be a “non-traditional student” but she hasn’t allowed that to hinder her studies in aged care. Ms Roberts of Brighton, Australia, is pursuing a level 3 certificate in ageing services and hopes to work in the sector upon graduation. According to reporter Jon Andrews, Ms. Roberts did not want to state her age for fear of future age related job discrimination. She finishes her classes at Holmesglen TAFE Moorabbin in June and will carry out a 6 month internship before seeking a regular position.

Check out this video with commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, as she discusses ageist assumptions in the workplace.

In honour of International Women’s Day, we bring you the top five concerns for older women. How do you think that progress can be made in these areas?

1. Women and Poverty
The feminization of poverty occurs in all countries, as mass poverty in many developing countries and as pockets of poverty amidst wealth in developed countries. The risk of falling into poverty is greater for women than for men, particularly in old age where social security is based on the principle of continuous remunerated employment. Adequate safety nets must be established and state-based and community based support systems implemented in order to ensure that men and women are on equal footing.

2. Education and Training of Women
The low educational level of older women challenges their full participation in the public and political life of the country. The goal of equal access to education must be advanced by taking measures to eliminate discrimination in education at all levels on the basis of gender, race, language, religion, national origin, age or disability, or any other form of discrimination, and as appropriate, consider establishing procedures to address grievances.

3. Women and Health
Postmenopausal conditions and diseases tend to be neglected in research, academic studies, public policy, and service provision. While women tend to outlive men in terms of life expectancy women’s quality of life is in danger of being compromised without specific understanding of the older women’s physical, functional and mental health needs. Health care service provision must be affordable, appropriate and accessible especially for those who live in rural areas.
The inter-relationship of ageing and disability among all women needs particular attention. The long-term health prospects of women are influenced by changes at menopause, which, in combination with lifelong conditions, poor nutrition and lack of physical activity, may increase the risk of disabilities.

4. Violence Against Women
Older women are particularly vulnerable to physical, sexual, and psychological harm because of their economic and physical dependency both within the family and in society in general. This abuse often remains hidden and is therefore ignored. Improved gender-disaggregated and age-specific data on victims and perpetrators of all forms of violence against women of all ages must be developed.

5. Human Rights of Women
The World Conference on Human Rights (1993) reaffirmed that the human rights of women throughout the life cycle are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights.
The gap between the existence of legal rights and their effective enjoyment derives from a lack of commitment by governments to promoting and protecting those rights and the failure of governments to inform women and men alike about them.

Want more information on older women’s rights? Check out this video from HelpAge International.

About this blog

IAHSA’s Global Ageing Network Blog was created because of you!! We got your message loud and clear – “Provide us with a quick and nimble communications vehicle so we can stay connected and create community across borders".

Questions? Email us at


Virginia Nuessle, Study Tour Director

Majd Alwan, Director, CAST

Alla Rubinstein, Program Administrator, IAHSA

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