Active Aging - The Future of Wellness

Photo of Colin Milner Founder of International Council on Active Aging.
Colin Milner

By WWW Ambassador and Wellness Writer, Judith Culp Pearson

While he lives in British Columbia, Colin Milner has impacted wellness around the globe. He’s the Founder and Father of Active Aging North America.

As a WWW Ambassador and Wellness Writer, I was pleased to interview Colin and learn more about his work.

Colin grew up a fitness buff who embraced wellness at a young age. He has an 85-year-old mother and a 110-year-old grandmother. So Colin completely understands the challenges of aging and the impact of active aging.

Colin had a dream. Like many young men, he wanted to become a pro soccer player. He made it to the reserve team of the Vancouver Whitecaps professional team.

Colin shared, “I was a young guy living at home and loving playing soccer. But my Dad came to me and said, “It’s time for you to move out and fend for yourself.”

“I wasn’t earning any money. So I had one choice. I left my dream and got a job as a fitness instructor for $3.50 per hour.” 

“I ran fitness clubs for about nine years before opening Canada’s first fitness association. Five years later, I sold that association and went to work for Keiser fitness equipment.”

“Back in the early 1990s, Keiser, through their equipment, was involved in a lot of research. They were studying the potential of strength training and aging. Those studies showed immense promise, and reports were published in major magazines like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.”

“What that research showed was the huge human potential to tap into our bodies and keep our strength even as we age.”

“To support the marketing efforts of Keiser’s fitness products, I launched the Keiser Institute on Aging. The goal was to help customers better understand the aging process and the potential for our older population to make massive changes in their health.”

At 39, I got involved with IDEA Health and Fitness Association. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a good fit. So a year later, I resigned. I wanted to help seniors, and IDEA focused on a much younger crowd.

“On the long drive back home from San Diego to Vancouver, British Columbia, I had an idea. My unemployment had lasted three hours.”

“I reached out to a colleague with my idea. He kept sending messages to my phone that I pulled over to check out all the way north. They were ideas for designs, logos, and other branding components that I approved.”

“Six months later, we had pulled that idea together and launched right after 9/11. I had pulled all my retirement funds out of my stock accounts and put them in the new association. Then, in In reflection, I realized that I probably saved those assets. So instead of being lost, they went to work for me.”

“Now, 20 years later, my brainchild, the International Council on Active Aging, ICAA, is in 57 countries. We have 10,000 member organizations. They support our vision of changing the way people age.”

“I believe that we have the power to change the way we age by simply living better, longer. You EARN your health span and have the ability to reduce ill-health.”

“We work on changing perceptions, which changes products and services to address the changing needs better. We use education, and all the other elements come into play.”

“We simply stay healthier longer.”

“The ICAA was built to support professionals, B2B. Our members are professionals who work with older adults to improve their health and well-being.”

“We’re not a healthcare organization. We focus on Prevention, not Care. Proactive instead of reactive. If we can flip the system to prevention, it would have an immense impact on society. People would be healthier longer, independent, and more vibrant. Health care costs would drop.”

“Regardless of the setting, whether it’s a senior center or a place like Canyon Ranch, we want to help them do a better job of achieving their goals.”

“We have a lot of support tools for our professionals: education, events, and a scholarly journal. There are many different types of research studies, reviews, and reports. We share materials and handouts with clients or potential customers and offer diverse training courses. There are even blueprints for building a wellness living community that is people-focused.” 

“Every October, we have an Active Aging week, and about 750,000 people globally participate in that event.”

“Our scope is huge, and we have a long way to go to achieve our goals. There are a lot of complex issues around everything from diet to disease to lifestyle. But, at the end of the day, people have to be able to understand those issues to fulfill them.”

The “new” focus is person-centered. ICAA has been teaching this for the last 20 years. Of course, any great wellness culture is person-centered. But the revitalization of the buzz-words is driving more people to become involved.”

“If you looked up the term active aging when I launched the ICAA, there were maybe 100 responses in a search engine. Now, if you search Active Aging, Google returns 2.9 Billion results. Add fitness to your search, and the results explode to over three billion. That’s a huge change.”

So what do we know now?

“I’m often asked what is active aging. Of course, everyone has their own definition. For us, active aging is being engaged in life. While being physically active is a core principle, it’s about engaging with life around you. 

If you aren’t engaged, you’re disengaged. And there are huge implications with that.”

Where do I start? Do they want to know about spiritual health, emotional health, or physical health? My most frequent answer is to put one foot in front of the other. The hardest step is the first one.”

“Getting a buddy system boosts your odds of sticking to it. It’s very easy to stay at your desk, in your chair, or on your couch. But the rewards of moving are immense. You need to get up, move and keep on moving. 

Pick something you enjoy, and do it. Dance, walk, garden, do sports, or join a  group exercise. Find something and do it at least five days a week.”

“The American Health Association research shows women over 50 who stay active can live 14 years longer than their sedentary counterparts. “

“We now know that simply walking 90 minutes a week has benefits. For example, a person over 50 can save USD 2200 annually in health care costs.  

“While you can save money, you can also improve your quality of life. That’s what it’s really all about.

“The bottom line is people are living longer. So how are you going to spend that time?

“We know that if you follow the current norms, you will live 30 years longer than we did 100 years ago. But unfortunately, most people have 10-12 years of ill-health. 

“The goal is to shrink that and expand your healthy health span. But you have to EARN it. It won’t just happen or be given to you. It’s dependent on what YOU do. And you only need to do Five Simple Things.”

  1. Maintain a proper BMI, Body mass index.
  2. Watch what you eat
  3. Limit alcohol
  4. Exercise regularly
  5. Avoid smoking.

Staying healthy means you have more choices, independence, and options. So should you decide to consider a living center, look for one focused on wellness. It can make all the difference in how long you live… and how healthy you live.”

Colin and I agreed on the exciting possibilities for the future. People who live healthier longer. Happier senior years physically, mentally, and emotionally because they live with active engagement.

At least 80% of the control is ours. Less than 20% of our future ill-health is genetics. 

So we who believe in and are involved in wellness can help make a massive change in global health. All we have to do is share the message of Active Aging - living engaged. We are assisting people in getting up and taking the first step forward.  

For further information on ICAA and Active Aging, visit https://www.icaa.cc/.


Judith Culp Pearson is a World Wellness Weekend Ambassador and a Wellness Copywriter Marketer. You can reach her at https://jcpwellnesscopy.com/.

Previously published globally via World Wellness Weekend. www.wellmap.org

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