With the pandemic shedding light on the importance of fitness and wellness to promote health, developing wellness programs has become a priority. The International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) has taken its cue from these lessons, highlighting the need to reinvent wellness services and programs for older adults. Their recent Call to Action invites businesses and organizations to shift attention toward integrating wellness strategies to improve health for seniors.
Key Goals of the Call to Action
The Call to Action aims to both improve the prioritization of senior services and to offset the mental and physical stresses that intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ICAA envisions a holistic approach that moves away from a focus on fitness to a wellness model that addresses all facets of health for seniors.
ICAA has identified the following critical focus areas businesses and organizations can use to inform their senior wellness strategies:
- Recover emotional and mental wellness. This will reduce anxiety, loneliness and grief that may have increased during social isolation or loss. Strategies may include offering support groups, counseling and (safe) physical gatherings to build community and connection.
- Regain functional ability. Allow older adults to manage the functional tasks of everyday life by offering cognitive, physical, social and psychological support.
- Reclaim the potential of aging. Combat ageist stereotypes that exacerbate social isolation, poor mental health and reduced physical health. This involves creating programming that encourages volunteering, learning, interactions between generations, and other activities that acknowledge older adults as valuable contributors to the community.
- Restore business health through senior services. Correct misunderstandings about senior services for business and better showcase how wellness contributes to personal growth, improved health and safer care. Supporting wellness culture can lead to more effective wellness programs, better recruitment and retention for a company, and opportunities for enhanced wellness services.
- Support the Decade of Healthy Ageing 2020–2030. The initiative from the World Health Organization seeks to increase collaboration between governments, businesses, media and academia to improve wellness and health for seniors. This model for healthy aging seeks to improve functional ability, life expectancy and holistic wellness that addresses physical activity, nutrition and cognitive health.
ICAA founder and CEO, Colin Milner, explains the urgency and inspiration behind the initiative: “The call to action is calling on all organizations that support the health and wellbeing of older adults, or who should be, to engage their customers, members, residents and citizens in reclaiming their wellness. […] We have looked into the COVID-19 abyss and not liked what we see. We must move to a new place of possibilities and embrace these in a manner that is safe. We need to inspire, empower and provide access—indoors, online, outdoors or whatever is safe, acceptable and effective.”
Steps to Implement Wellness and Health for Seniors
The ICAA breaks down the steps for implementation as follows:
- Define wellness and wellness culture in your business or organization, which will require all leaders, staff and departments to integrate services that improve senior wellness.
- Gather allies to enhance this culture by forming a strategy group and identifying important elements of wellness in your business.
- Assess which wellness programs are in place now and what needs to be improved.
- Evaluate new options and methods for access, considering structural and technological changes post-pandemic.
- Prioritize the most important places for improvement by mapping action items and deadlines, and assigning tasks to specific individuals.
ICAA offers many resources and guides for those who want to answer the call. “For the past 20 years ICAA has been helping organization and individuals to better understand what wellness is,” says Milner. “[This includes] what trends, best practices, resources, programs and research matter; what older adults think, need, desire and aspire to; and how to operationalize and market wellness to the older population.”
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