“Well-being” Is Whole-Person Wellness

 

Plunging Into Whole Person Wellness
Plunging Into Whole Person Wellness

The term “Well-being” may have come along at just the right time. Public speakers and marketers are re-branding wellness as wellbeing by saying that well-being is more complete, more holistic. Well-being, they say, incorporates the whole person, their environment, their financial picture, their career, etc. On the one hand it’s too bad that we have to invent a new term to refresh our memory of what “wellness” really is. On the other, with the way that corporations and organizations have allowed their wellness programs and products to deteriorate into overly simplistic efforts, based on single-measurable-variable pieces of research, “well-being” may be the kick in the pants that reminds us about “whole-person wellness”.what-is-HWB_04

Twenty to forty-year veterans of the wellness and health promotion field hear speakers appear to create false distinctions between the terms wellbeing and wellness. And yet, are they indeed false distinctions?

Has the term wellness been worn out? It has certainly been misused and abused. Here in Northern Colorado a “wellness center” is probably a medical marijuana dispensary. “Google” the word and the number one listing on that search engine is always the “Wellness” brand of dog and cat food.

What may be more disturbing though, is how we have come to look at wellness in ways that jettison its original holistic meaning. In an effort to be more scientific and “evidence-based”, we have embraced research efforts to show the effectiveness of our approaches to wellness and health promotion. While this research is important and has yielded much of great value, too much of it has been focused on what could be called the measurement of a single variable. As we’ve tried to apply the scientific method to this cause we’ve oversimplified our approach far too often.

Skinner boxWhen we want to study the health behavior of human populations the challenge is daunting. It’s easy to control extraneous variables in a “Skinner Box”. Any social scientist will tell you that people are a lot more complicated. The result has been too many health behavior studies measuring one aspect of activity, one blood lipid level, one blood sugar level. While those little building blocks all help to assemble the scientific foundation we need, too much is concluded from them. In our online digital world a simple study with twenty subjects, run one time, has its results proclaimed as headline news.

Following the medical world, where the threat of litigation for malpractice hovers over every practice like a vulture, we have sought to provide only programming that is “evidence-based”. That means, as Dee Edington stated at the 2013 American College of Lifestyle Medicine Conference, “if you only do evidence-based you’ll never innovate!” The temptation is to “dumb-down” our concept of wellness to just physical fitness and nutrition. The temptation is to be happy that we got someone to walk three times a week and call it good.

620-667-I-G36There Is Nothing New Under The Sun

Dusting off the yellowed pages of my edition of Donald Ardell’s High Level Wellness: An Alternative To Doctors, Drugs and Disease (1977) I found my long-time friend Don referred to his colleague and fellow wellness pioneer, Jack Travis, as Jack and he defined wellness: “Travis believes that wellness begins when an individual sees himself or herself as a growing, changing person. High level wellness means giving care to the physical self, using the mind constructively, channeling stress energies positively, expressing emotions effectively, becoming creatively involved with other, and staying in touch with the environment.”

Travis - 12 Dimensions Model
Travis – 12 Dimensions Model

Ardell posed five dimensions of wellness, Bill Hetler six (http://www.nationalwellness.org/?page=Six_Dimensions), and Travis, including a number of psychological dimensions, built a model with twelve dimensions (http://www.wellpeople.com/Wellness_Dimensions.aspx). Clearly “wellness” has always been meant to be a holistic concept as I stated in 1994 in my article “The Ten Tenets Of Wellness” (published in Wellness Management , the newsletter of The National Wellness Association, which also can be found in Chapter Two in Wellness Coaching For Lasting Lifestyle Change, 2nd Ed.)(http://wholeperson.com/store/wellness-coaching-for-lasting-lifestyle-change.shtml).

Indeed we’ve seen it all before. The term “Mindfulness” has been skillfully re-packaged by Jon Kabat-Zinn and others. Studying today’s version of “mindfulness” someone like me is transported back to about 1968 when I was in college and reading books like Bernard Gunther’s Sense Relaxation Below Your Mind(http://www.amazon.com/Sense-Relaxation-Below-Your-Mind/dp/B000VLH7Q8). Of course everything we’re talking about here is based on practices that go back thousands of years in the traditions of meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi, and more.

While in my doctoral program in the 1970’s, I was blessed with the opportunity to learn deeply about biofeedback and how to apply it in working with stress-related disorders. I specialized in that for many years as a psychologist and served as the President of The Ohio Society For Biofeedback and Behavioral Health. The beauty of the research done by biofeedback pioneers Elmer and Alice Greene (http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Biofeedback-Elmer-Green/dp/0940267144 and http://www.consciousnessandbiofeedback.org) was to use recently developed technology to study the consciousness practices of Indian Yogis, monks, and others. By examining their subject’s brain waves and various physiological indicators they ended up validating the legitimacy of such practices. Thus we see that today’s “mindfulness” has its roots in research completed under other names as well.

Authentic H CoverToday’s dynamic Positive Psychology movement has invigorated the field of psychology and is providing the sound research evidence that is validating what the Humanistic Psychology folks have been saying since the 1950’s and 1960’s. The “Human Potential Movement” of the late 1960’s and the work of Abraham Maslow, Virginia Satir, Carl Rogers, Rolo May and many others, emphasized looking at human behavior from a positive growth perspective instead of the usual clinical/pathological perspective. Saying that Martin Seligman “founded” the Positive Psychology Movement may be accurate in recent history, but he did so standing on the shoulders of these earlier giants. Our field of coaching also built its self on these same shoulders and from its inception always took on a positive psychology, strengths-based approach to working with people.

WellnesssunsetkickA Return To Whole-Person Wellness

Looking at wellness programs merely as “cost-containment strategies” has caused us to develop a tunnel vision ROI-only view. Some companies today are spending more money on their incentives to get people to take a health-risk assessment, etc. than they are spending on their wellness programs! When we view employees only as statistical units that drive up healthcare costs, we down-size – or “dumb-size” our thinking. The “well-being” approach would have us view employees as whole people who can contribute to the mission and purpose of our company and do so through creative, higher performance that happens when they are “well” in this holistic sense. The term to shift to is VOI (Value On Investment).

More Than Just Corporate Health Promotion

BIGGARD_SU_C_^_SUNIQWhen we step outside of the corporate world we see wellness, and now well-being, at work in our healthcare settings, communities, schools, places of worship, and among groups and individuals who want to live their best life possible. We are realizing the powerful effect that connection and community provides for our health and well-being. We are seeing how having safe green spaces to walk, play and exercise increase the health of communities. Part of our approach to wellness/well-being is to step outside of a myopic corporate perspective and remember that not everyone works for a company with the benefits of a wellness program. Being inclusive of under-served populations in both rural and urban areas, Native American/First Nations Reservations, and others means maintaining this big-picture view of what wellness/well-being means.

If “Well-Being” helps us remember to work with the whole person and view them from a holistic perspective – great! If the term refreshes programs and generates engagement – wonderful! Bring on “Well-Being” while we remember that it really is – Whole Person Wellness.

 

Note: This June the National Wellness Conference will celebrate it’s 40th Anniversary. (http://www.nationalwellness.org/?page=NWC2015) The latest in wellness and health promotion will be on display as well as an opportunity to create community in the wellness field like nowhere else. Among the celebrations will be a special Legacy & Vision Talk with a number of the founders of the wellness field. Come and join us and experience what Whole Person Wellness is really all about!

Crafting A Wellness Lifestyle With A World Of Choices

If we know that our lifestyle has tremendous effect upon our health,

how then shall we live?

How trapped are we in the limitations of the culture we have experienced most of our lives? Greater travel and today’s technologically shrunken world has immensely increased our awareness of alternative ways of living. We do, in fact, have a world of lifestyle choices to draw upon. Let’s look at some cultural concepts and practices we might draw upon and explore some strategies for doing so and some challenges we might face.

My best definition of wellness/well-being is living our lives consciously in ways that enhance our health. Conscious choices allow us to avoid the “automatic pilot” that often steer us toward stress, illness and poor performance. Consciousness about our entire way of living includes mindfulness. Appreciating the moment, noticing the senses, soaking it all in enriches our lives. Conscious choice means considering the path that will optimally serve us, whether it is how we will spend our Saturday, what we will order at the restaurant, or what risk we might take emotionally.

In our Wellness & Health Coach Certification Training (https://www.realbalance.com) I love to teach that it is the job of the coach to remind people that they have choices. It is so easy for us all to forget the actual choices that we really do have. Realizing that we are choosing to live our lives the way we do actually frees people to embrace the present and make life better.

A factor that can either expand or limit our perception of choices is culture. There is extensive evidence and wisdom in the health promotion literature that peer norms affect our health for better or for worse. (http://www.healthyculture.com, and http://organizationalwellness.com/who-we-are/dr_joel_bennett/) We operate on norms within our work, family, sub-culture and the larger culture that we live in. Some choices never even occur to us because we are operating so habitually within these norms.

Provence and French Alps
Provence and French Alps

L’Art De Voir

It’s no fluke that France is always the most visited country in the world, and Italy always shows up in the top five. The appeal to a large degree is for the opportunity to experience a different way of living among cultures that consciously work at “L’Art De Voir” – the art of living. Provence and Tuscany in particular seem to epitomize this cultural agreement to put quality of life first.

“Community, not work, is at the center of Provençal life. Nowhere is that more obvious than during meals, when friends and family come together to share dishes which are simple, healthy and robust in flavor. This unrushed life allows each and everyone to be in touch with themselves, and could be called true living.” (http://www.lifeinprovence.com/p_life.html)

Bk Cover Wisdom TuscAs Ferenc Máté shares in in his book The Wisdom of Tuscany “When I mention Tuscany to outsiders, the usual response is a wistful sigh. And when I add sheepishly that we live out in the hills and vineyards and olives, the common rejoinder is “You’re living my dream.” What they seem to be talking about is the quality of life: the pace, the peace, the physical beauty, the social togetherness, and, of course, the food and wine. And just as Tuscan food and wine is rooted in myriad things beyond the kitchen and cellar, so the quality of life is a vast conglomeration of daily details, each of which must be of quality for all of it to work.”

That quality in the details comes from two things: conscious awareness and a commitment to doing everything in life as best as one can. When people travel to these places they often say “there was the best tasting food there I’ve ever had”, or “the simple bread every day was amazing”. Daily things that perhaps we have allowed to become mundane, and unfortunately mediocre, suddenly astonish us when prepared and presented with pride and love. Perhaps one quick way to increase our own quality of life is by doing the same.

If one grew up in a place like Montepulciano or Roussillon the culture there would certainly have its pros and cons, but many of the healthy lifestyle components being lauded here would just be facts of life. For those of us in places like the United States, the UK, Australia, and elsewhere, we may have to very consciously work at L’Art De Voir.

Cultural cross-over is happening more and more. We see it in food especially. Ethnic restaurants and cookbooks abound. With the tremendous increase in gourmet cooking the “fusion” approach is showing up everywhere. Access to a worldwide cornucopia of food products is greater than ever. Even a small town in rural Wisconsin may have a supermarket with a fully stocked olive bar. Awareness of the Mediterranean Diet and its healthful benefits has spurred many to adopt a whole new way of cooking, often at the behest of their cardiologist. (http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/Mediterranean-Diet_UCM_306004_Article.jsp)Med-diet

As more people travel at younger and younger ages we bring home with us awareness of how daily life can look different. What we often want to bring back with us is not what will fit in our luggage. It is often a new pace of life, a greater sense of connectedness to our community, our family and to the natural world around us.

One of the blessings of a changing population that is increasingly ethnically diverse is the cultural infusion that results. Chances are most of us live in communities today that include neighbors from India, Nicaragua, Somalia, the Ukraine, Viet Nam, Poland and many more. As we associate with this cultural mix we are reminded that we don’t have to just do everyday things the same way all of the time. We have a world of choices.

Small head cropped1Coaching The Art of Living

Rather than pine away for a villa in the Tuscan hills what can our clients (and we coaches) do to make their own lives a work of art? Without the surrounding culture already supporting such a way of living, how can our clients still create a consciously crafted lifestyle with more choices?

1. Realizing The Choices We Have.

There are many ways we can modify our lifestyles and borrow from other cultures without losing our own cultural identity. One way is to help clients identify when they are operating on assumptions and sheer habit. Help them discover the “blind spots” in the lifestyle where they have been making certain choices simply because they have “always done it that way”. Work with your clients to distinguish between the “imperative” and the “volitional”. When something feels imperative it seems like we “must” do it that way. Ask to clients to challenge themselves at such a moment and ask “Who says?” Help them reclaim greater volition in their lives.

2. Resetting Priorities.

Not everything can be a priority. That defies the very definition of what a priority is. When clients clarify and connect with their values and create a life that is more congruent with them stress is reduced and inner peace is found. Explore what the true priorities are in life with your client and coach them around the sometimes daunting challenges of living in accordance with them.

3. Possibility Thinking And Exploring.

Creating an artful life often begins with the joy of discovery. Learning more about new ways of living may take on a fun process of exploration. We know that the stage of Preparation is what ensures successful Action. (http://www.amazon.com/James-O.-Prochaska/e/B001H9VXJ0) Make it a conscious process with support and accountability built in. Allow the client to share their discoveries in the coaching session and acknowledge their efforts. Coach them around distinguishing what new ways of living will work for them and what old ways they would like to let go of.

670px-Measurably-Improve-Your-Quality-of-Life-Step-14. Focus On Quality Of Life.  As Máté shared (above) “What they seem to be talking about is the quality of life.” Don’t just think about food alone, but rather the greater question of how can one infuse greater quality into every aspect of one’s life. When we look at L’Art De Voir we might do well to consider The Wisdom of Tuscany (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7034969-the-wisdom-of-tuscany) and its emphasis on the pace of life, the feeling of peace and tranquility, enhancing our physical surroundings, valuing social togetherness and, of course, putting quality into our way of eating and what we eat as well. (We will explore these in more detail in an upcoming blog.)

5. Experimenting.  

Coach your clients around ways to live more consciously, more artfully, and make it a part of the Wellness Plan. Identify experiments to try out new ways of being, new foods to eat (it’s okay if you really think some olives are too sour), new ways to get together with friends, etc. Start small. Integrate new ways of living slowly into the current lifestyle. Make it part of the coaching to create these action steps, commit to conducting the experiments, and being accountable to follow through. While much of this is true fun, there can be challenges that arise that require some processing in coaching. Conflict may show up. Your client’s friends pan the new recipe or activity that they thought would be so enjoyable. The new boundaries around work and personal time get lots of pushback from co-workers. Such experiences are important to process in coaching so the client can continue with improving their lifestyle instead of giving up too soon to avoid conflict. This is why the next step is so important.

6. Gathering Supportfriends

Living L’Art De Voir is possible in Tipperary or Tulsa, not just Tuscany. The key is gathering support for one’s new way of living. An effective coach will already be working with their client around enlisting others in their Wellness Plan. Lasting lifestyle improvement comes from the supportive network that helps a person sustain their healthier ways of living. Building that network needs to be a conscious process. Before launching new experiments successful clients secure commitment from other that will be affected. Getting “buy-in” from the family on a new dietary shift can be critical to its success. Sharing with others the real intention behind a new move to set boundaries around twenty-four-seven availability helps engender support rather than criticism. Just as it helps to get a “walking buddy”, so too it may make the process more fun and successful to engage like-minded friends in these ways to culturally shift one’s lifestyle.

7. Keeping Life Artful – Maintaining

Like any new behavior, the real challenge is often in maintaining the change. Coach your client around maintenance strategies that they can develop when the lifestyle shift is still new. One approach is to anticipate boredom and have “variations on the theme” available. Keep it fresh. Don’t get stuck on that favorite recipe or it will become like a favorite song on the radio that, when overplayed, becomes annoying. Joining interest groups or classes focused on their new culture-blending pursuits may serve to reinforce interest, learn new skills and access fresh resources.

The other key to maintenance is tracking. Encourage your client to find a way to keep track of their new ways of living. Just how often are they practicing some new skill or behavior? The old habitual ways of living, reinforced constantly by the dominant culture the person is surrounded with, will re-emerge and vie for supremacy. Some clients may find that keeping a lifestyle journal works for them. Others may need to get more specific using coaching tools and/or smartphone apps.

The Art Of Living

Londoners discovered over a hundred years ago that they didn’t have to dress like people from India to enjoy a good curry and today the city is famous for this dish. We live in a world with unprecedented access to information and products about and from other cultures. The invitation is there for us to explore and to begin to consciously choose what we will integrate into our lives. Part of being well is having more choices and the world today gives that to us. The remaining challenge may be within us rather than in our culture. Will we allow ourselves to experiment, to try something new? What kind of mindset shift needs to occur for us to give ourselves permission? Can we realize that we can still hold onto our own traditions and customs and choose what else we might add? Salt and pepper over and over again is fine, but have you really looked at the rest of the spice rack?6969813-bags-of-spices-on-display-in-a-market-in-provence-spices

 

Dr. Michael Arloski is CEO and Founder of Real Balance Global Wellness Services, Inc. taking wellness and wellness coach training worldwide. (https://www.realbalance.com)

Yes, We ARE Getting Healthier!

How Does Your State Rank?
How Does Your State Rank?

In the midst of the healthcare crisis, America’s actual health, in many ways, is improving! It’s easy to feel discouraged by the political struggles, obesity and diabetes “epidemics”. Hearing that the U.S. has a worse life expectancy than Slovenia and Chile is very disheartening. Yet, despite some huge challenges that aren’t going away, there is an upside.

The 2013 Annual Report by America’s Health Rankings® is in and the word is better than we may have expected. The longest running annual assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by-state basis, America’s Health Rankings has spent 24 years assembling health data to help us see our progress and challenges. (http://www.americashealthrankings.org)

The almost twenty-five year trend of increasing obesity appears to have leveled off since 2012. The scientists aren’t ready to predict which way the scales will tip on this one, but at least it’s not another increase. In 1990 almost thirty percent of Americans smoked. In the last year we finally edged just under twenty percent with seventeen states showing a decrease in smoking.

Healthier Hearts

Healthier Lifestyles, Healthier Hearts
Healthier Lifestyles, Healthier Hearts

A real eye-opener is learning that cardiovascular deaths have declined 36 percent since 1990 and each year continues to see a 2-3 percent decrease. We’re also doing a better job of helping people avoid ending up in the hospital when it could have been prevented. “Preventable hospitalizations continue to decline. In 2001, there were 82.5 discharges per 1,000 Medicare enrollees; in 2013, there were 64.9 discharges per 1,000 Medicare enrollees.”

The American workplace is also becoming safer. “Occupational fatalities have declined slightly in the last 6 years from 5.3 deaths in 2007 to 3.8 deaths per 100,000 workers in the 2013 Edition. Rates have reached a 23 year low.”

Though most of the decline happened between 1990 and 1999, infant mortality is 39 percent less than it was in 1990. Though not dropping much recently, there has been no increase in recent years. At the same time though, the number of children living in poverty continues to increase with the 2013 report telling us that slightly more than one in five American children live below the poverty line.

As you look at the state-by-state maps in the report the geographic and other disparities are painfully obvious. A close to home example show us this. “The prevalence of physical inactivity varies from a high of 52.8 percent of adults aged 25 and older who did not graduate high school in Arkansas to a low of 6.7 percent of college graduates aged 25 and older in Colorado.”

While challenges remain and stats like those found in the America’s Health Rankings report can help drive the changes we will need to improve our country’s health, the progress needs to be hailed. The knowledge that we can and in fact are being successful in improving the health of populations helps empower us all. When we see that a state like Nevada can lead the nation in decreased smoking there’s motivation to do more in our own neck of the woods!

Dr. Arloski
Dr. Arloski

The Coach’s Take Away

Many wellness coaching clients are discouraged not only by their own failure experiences, but also by the never-ending barrage of negative press that spotlights one problem after another. While a head-in-the-sand approach to life only leads to more problems, and we do need to increase our vigilance about the food we eat, etc., everyone needs to know that our country-wide wellness efforts are paying off. We talk about the client’s “self-efficacy”; their degree of belief that it is possible to positively affect their own health. Stats like America’s Health Rankings can show that there is reason to increase our collective sense of health & wellness efficacy. Positive psychology works!

Wellness Is About The Big Picture!
Wellness Is About The Big Picture!

Coaches also need to be involved in wellness beyond the one-on-one or small group work that they do. In a company, the key to a successful wellness coaching program is for it to be part of a larger comprehensive wellness program. Such programs provide not only coaching, but education, wellness skill building, opportunities to be well (healthier food access, physical fitness access, built-in movement throughout the day, etc.), and a thorough effort at establishing a culture of wellness throughout the organization at all levels. The natural extension of all of this is community and environmental wellness. Demonstrated progress can show decision makers in both industry and government that wellness works, and most importantly, is worth funding. Coaches who care about wellness can benefit by caring about the bigger picture as well.

Coaching The “Boomer Generation” for Aging Well

Expect the unexpected with THIS generation!

Every seven seconds a “Boomer” turns fifty. The American post-war “Boomer Generation” spends more on health care than their parents did.
They visit the doctor more, they consume more services, and aren’t afraid to use their $7 trillion in collective wealth to improve their quality of life. From physical therapy, to cosmetic surgery, to the latest in life-saving technology, Boomers just aren’t built to grow old gracefully or go “quietly into the night.” Their impact on the marketplace for health and wellness products and services is huge and unprecedented, and wellness coaching may just be on their shopping list.

Boomers live longer, but the debate goes on whether they are healthier or not. It is like the tale of two generations in one. Our stereotype of the generation is like most stereotypes, usually misleading. We think of the Boomers as the same folks who went to college in the late sixties and projected an image of rebelliousness, and social consciousness. While this generation did acquire more education than any previous, not everyone went to college, and not all became the health conscious, socially and environmentally aware folks that describe the icon the current media might portray.

They are in fact quite a paradoxical group to look at. While on the one hand there are plenty of physically active, health food conscious “oldsters” in Yoga classes and out on the bike and hiking trails, especially in some parts of the country, many folks the same age are living a very different lifestyle. The Boomers, as a whole, are far more obese, are under more stress at work, and are retiring later, if at all. They are much more sedentary than any previous generation driven by more jobs that limit movement and have longer commutes. While they don’t smoke as much, they self-report being less physically healthy than their parents. They watch more TV and even their recreational pursuits can go either people-powered or “full throttle” (i.e. sitting down revving some kind of engine).

Abbey Road has a new look!

Helping this enigmatic generation create a healthy future takes on two aspects, the individual and the sociological. When we look at long-lived cultures around the world, like the National Geographic-funded Blue Zones project does (www.bluezones.com ), we see cultures that have in place healthy norms and lots of social support. People in all of these longevity hot spots make lots of movement a natural part of their daily lives. They live with meaning and purpose and a strong sense of spirituality. They eat wisely and “belong to the right tribe”. They honor and keep elders within their community. Social isolation is a health risk for all, and only increases in threat as we get older. The challenge is for us to build the kind of families and communities that support being well not just while we’re young, but for our entire lives.

Once again, “coaching for connectedness” may take center stage. Making the goal of obtaining greater social support a central part of a client’s Wellness Plan may be the most helpful thing they experience in wellness coaching.

COACHING BOOMERS – Three Ideas

# 1 – Never assume they are retired, or are even retiring anytime soon. Chances are your client who is still at least in their sixties, is still employed full-time. In fact they may be headed into the most productive time of their lives. Let’s call them late-bloomers. For them Work-Life Balance Coaching is a greater need than ever. Furthermore it may be complicated by some factors of aging keeping them from performing like they would like to, or being able to get the most out of the limited time they have for exercise and self-care. If they are taking medication that makes weight loss more challenging, or are recovering from surgeries, etc. (joint repair and replacement is more and more common with this group) they may not be able to be as “efficient” in their activities to maintain their health. Exploring this in coaching and helping them to create new strategies may become a really valuable use of coaching.

Many of this generation have also found themselves facing retirement with financial problems instead of reserves to draw upon. For them, healthcare issues and wellness lifestyle choices may revolve around expenses, especially for the pre-Medicare group. They may really benefit from coaching that can help them keep their health a priority in the face of the frightening costs of healthcare.

#2 – Coach around the subject of meaning and purpose. Some folks are fortunate and either find meaning and purpose in work they continue to do, or have lived full lives where they have developed rich sources of meaning and purpose outside of their careers. For others “retirement” may result in such feelings losing their anchor. Without a solid sense of meaning and purpose in one’s life there is less motivation to engage in a really healthy lifestyle. Help your client search in directions that align with their values and interests. Reconnecting with old interests, becoming active in organizations, volunteering with non-profits may all bridge this gap in a meaningful way. This may be a great time in life for developing the spiritual side of one’s self. Coach your client through the steps of exploring such new pursuits and following through on creating “experiments” to find something that works for them.

#3 – Always explore the issue of connectedness. Never assume that your client has friends and family that can or will support their efforts at improving their lifestyle. More and more seniors are living alone, especially as spouses die and children move away. Many others have relocated themselves to places where the challenge is establishing a whole new circle of friends.

“Studies have shown that people who are isolated and lonely have a higher incidence of health problems. A 1998 study of patients with heart disease found that 50 percent of the patients who reported feeling very isolated were not married and had no one in whom they could confide died within five years. During the same time span, only 17 percent of those with either a spouse or confidant died. Another 1998 study on women found that symptoms of depression and lack of social support were associated with more heart attacks, open-heart surgeries and deaths from cardiovascular disease. A report has found that seniors, who attend church at least weekly, live longer.” (http://seniorhealth.about.com/od/mentalemotionalhealth/a/lonely.htm)

Also, don’t assume that social networking online is not in the picture. Many boomers are quite tech-savvy, certainly more than any other group of oldsters ever has been. Folks with chronic illnesses may find both information and online groups of others sharing the same health challenges. Whether it is through something online, participating in a Senior Center’s programming, or engaging in community groups in align with their interests, it’s all good.

The individual aspect, again comes back to lifestyle choices, conscious awareness and realizing that we are in charge of our own health. A big part of it is realizing that we can and do affect our own health. Building that confidence, that self-efficacy is crucial. Making the individual decision to connect with others and build a sense of healthy community may create yet another paradox, but one that works for us.

My grandpa, he’s 95

And he keeps on dancin’

He’s still alive

 

My grandma, she’s 92

She loves to dance

And sing some, too

 

I don’t know

But I’ve been told

If you keep on dancing

You’ll never grow old

 

Come on darling

Put a pretty dress on

We’re gonna go out tonight

Dance, dance, dance

Dance, dance, dance

Dance, dance, dance

All night long

“Dance, Dance, Dance” – The Steve Miller Band

What’s your experience coaching this aging “Boomer” generation? Please share in your comments here on the blog.

Slimmest City in the Country = Fort Collins, Colorado

When the Fort Collins/Loveland, Colorado metro area topped the Gallup Poll research as being the least obese metro area in the United States, those of us who live here were proud, but not very surprised. It is evident that things are a bit different here…in a good way.

Gallup found that there are huge disparities across our nation when it comes to both the statistics of obesity, and the other factors that contribute to that ever-expanding bottom line. Why is it that the ten most obese metro areas have an average obesity rate of 33.8% while the ten least obese metro areas have an average rate of only 18.7%? Why does the hometown of Real Balance Global Wellness Services (Ft. Collins) have an obesity rate of only 16.0% compared with the national average of 26.5%? Why are only 5% of the residents of Boulder, Colorado challenged with diabetes and 18.9% of the folks in the Mission, Texas area currently diagnosed with it?

Looking at more than just the BMI results, Gallup explored income, health habits and access to both healthy foods and safe places to exercise. Again, there were great disparities. Check out the details at http://www.gallup.com/poll/126362/Good-Health-Habits-Norm-Slimmest-Metro-Areas.aspx?CSTS=alert .

So, what makes us so special? Many people in Fort Collins were attracted to move here to live in an area where outdoor recreation opportunity abounds, so a lot of us came here valuing healthy lifestyles. Our population, while aging like everywhere else, tends to be young. We also tend to remain active, very active. Peer health norms here are very positively skewed toward activity and healthy eating, lots of contact with nature and a high degree of social connection, perhaps the perfect formula for wellness! Most of the people I know personally, who range from their late twenties to their early sixties, are almost all actively involved in bike-riding, walking, hiking, dancing, skiing (both downhill and cross-country), and/or have a membership at a health club.

We still go to movies, have sedentary jobs, eat ice cream and pizza, but we also are just as likely to get together with friends around a planned hike, bike ride or picnic outdoors, or spend a weekend night out vigorously dancing. The peer health norms support such fun activity, it’s what folks tend to do here when they get together. Health club membership levels are very high as well. Gallup found that “Half or more of residents in all of the least obese areas report exercising for at least 30 minutes three or more days per week.”

Our city is riddled with bike paths that avoid city streets and follow rivers and creeks along scenic parklands (kudos to a city parks department with vision and state lottery funding). The foothills of the Rocky Mountains begin at the very edge of our city limits. Enough said, we do indeed have access to safe activity-oriented recreation.

Access to affordable healthy food is another factor, and having the income to spend on it. In the ten least obese areas in the country residents indicated that, for the most part they had both of these factors working for them.

Part of what puts communities like ours at the top of the list, and places like Boulder, Colorado, a close second, are sociological. Younger populations, higher than average income and educational levels probably give us advantages that we can claim little credit for. The questions to learn from that we might look at though, is how did places like us, and others in the top ten like Barnstable Town, MA, and San Louis Obispo, CA, consciously develop healthier communities? How can other communities follow suite?

Further, from the wellness professional’s perspective we need to ask, what does this information about healthy and unhealthy communities hold for us? The quick answer is “a gold mine”! We need to mine this information and look at both what works and what we wellness workers, and our clients, are up against.

We’ll be exploring these questions further in this blog. Stay tuned!