Health Conscious Seniors Can Mentor Health Conscious Kids

The gym that I go to every morning is closed for a few weeks, while they update their facility with new exercise equipment. Thoughtfully, the manager arranged for members to workout at a nearby community center exercise room in the interim. The other day I went there, and all of a sudden it hit me how seniors can use their own interest in health, exercise, good nutrition, and preventive medicine to cause positive change among younger generations.

I came to this conclusion as I started riding the exercise bike in the community center gym. As with any gym, there were regulars; people who are there day after day. At this community center there were several people in his/her 80s who came every morning. As I continued on my ride, it became clear that the queen bee of the group was a feisty lady about 80 who was in incredibly fit shape. I hopped on the bike as I did every morning, but soon after I began riding I noticed she was eyeing the exercise bike. Apparently, I arrived just a few minutes before her regular time and every minute I pedaled was disrupting her schedule.

I can’t quite say that she was giving me the evil eye, but before long it became clear I was not to pedal one minute longer than the 30 minute limit when someone is waiting. She pointed to the sign. I signaled that it was no problem, and I climbed off at 30 minutes and one second. She proceeded to get on, and pedaled into better health. I actually applauded her devotion to her exercise program.

As I walked out of the exercise room I saw there was a dance room, with a class for seniors in full swing. People seemed happy, limber, and looking fairly fit. There was no obesity in sight.

I flashed on visual images in my mind from a recent vacation to the Midwest (note: I am not picking on that region).There were many, many people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who were overweight. With so many restaurants and ice cream shops, you could see why. Their food choices were all about fried foods and carbs. Rarely did you see anyone eat fruit or vegetables, and the portions of what they did eat were huge.

So tell me if I am on the right track. Isn’t it top-of-mind among seniors these days to eat right and exercise to do what you can to live well and feel good? It’s not about running a marathon or swimming a mile, but it’s about walking each day and swimming even just a bit. If I am right, why can’t these seniors suggest and inspire better health behavior among their adult children and grandchildren? Can’t grandma and grandpa be models for how to live a long, healthy life?

I understand retirement may bring more time to focus on health, but the younger generations should more fully understand the benefits of allocating time to this way of living. Can’t you, in a not too pushy way, mentor your daughter or son to put more focus on this too? Maybe urge them to come visit and take regular walks with you, a dance class, or swim a few laps?

Go to any airport or a big shopping mall and you’ll see America has a looming health problem. Obesity is rampant and diabetes is epidemic, even among children. If the health and exercise bug has bitten seniors, like the queen bee at my community center, can’t that passion flow back to the younger generations that need it too?

Think of your own family and consider if there is a positive way to have those youngsters learn from you once again. It could save or lengthen their lives.