The aging of America poses significant public health opportunities and challenges. In Michigan, the fastest growing population is those over the age of 85, followed by the diverse, complex and relatively healthy Baby Boomer population of people 60 and older. This growing group of older adults will represent the largest population of older adults, many of which will live longer and with more health, wealth, education and autonomy than any previous generation. In addition to the potential benefits that aging bestows, such as greater life satisfaction, most will encounter threats to health in the form of disease, disability, loss, and or financial security.
The aging of the population is perhaps one of the most complex and far reaching phenomena of modern times. The demography of a large, growing, and older and aging population has implications for current and future generations in regard to social, cultural, economic, and political trends. It is not uncommon for Americans to highlight the challenges and difficulties of late life, let alone the ‘burden’ of caring for people as they age. However, there are an array of less acknowledged benefits that may accompany individuals as they age as well as the larger communities in which they live.
Health promotion is one way that society can best ensure that all people, regardless of age, and perhaps even the most aged, attain and retain health and wellness across the life span. Through health promotion, public health practitioners enable people to increase and maximize capacity to improve individual health. At the population level, health promotion can become both the sword and the shield in the fight to prevent late life declines in health and wellness.
National & Local Initiatives
A number of state and local programs in Michigan have highlighted the role of health promotion in cultivating, maintaining and managing health and wellness across the life course and into late life. In 2014, Gov. Rick Snyder delivered a special message  to the Michigan Legislation acknowledging the needs of Michigan’s aging population. He also requested action on behalf of state and county offices to assess and better serve the needs of all Michigander’s but with special attention to older adults. In response, the state has launched a new website (http://www.michigan.gov/aging)  that serves as a clearinghouse for aging related services and support. In 2015, the Michigan Cancer Consortium published the revised Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Plan . The plan highly emphasizes the need for health promotion in the way of health education, training, and prevention for patients and providers. Specifically, the plan underscores the need for vaccinations, including HPV, to prevent cancer and disease in later life. Colorectal screening for older, at risk adults, and age appropriate cancer information and education materials are further health promotion strategies identified in the plan.
Perhaps one of the most innovative and strategic health promotion programs can be found locally, through Tandem365 . The organization seeks to empower older adults with chronic and complex health conditions, to enhance overall health while reducing costs. The model has health promotion at its core by facilitating empowerment, collaboration and community involvement. Participants are supported by an integrated team of professionals and volunteers that provide sustainable and efficient person centered services that help prevent declines in health, maintain overall wellness, and facilitate independence and life satisfaction.
The richness and diversity within public health and health promotion is ample fertilizer for the growth of an equally robust and healthy population dominated by older adults. Those who obtain education and experience in health promotion and public health will be well positioned to serve the public and to add to the greatness of health and wellness across generations.
What YOU Can Do!
1 Read Gov. Snyders Address: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/osa/140602_Special_Message__Living_Well_Aging_Well_Final_Formatted_457949_7_472337_7.pdf
2 State, Living Well, Aging Well website: http://www.michigan.gov/aging
3 Michigan Cancer Consortium, cancer Plan: http://www.michigancancer.org/CancerPlan/ComprehensiveCancerControlPlan-2016-2020.html
4 Tandem 365: http://tandem365.com/