It’s time to celebrate joys of active aging

Today starts Active Aging Week in The Villages. It’s part of an international campaign that celebrates aging and promotes the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

Anyone wanting to start a new activity or become more involved in a current pursuit now have a good opportunity to explore their options this week. Today is the kickoff of Active Aging Week in The Villages. It’s part of an international campaign that celebrates aging and promotes the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. The Villages Recreation and Parks Department is hosting its own events. Twenty-one events at multiple recreation centers will be offered to get residents active from today until Friday. Villagers, with the myriad of sports, activities and intellectual pursuits available to them, have a leg up on staying healthy.

“The Active Aging week is a great fit for our community and lifestyle services we provide,” said John Rohan, director of Recreation and Parks Department. “This weeklong program is another excellent way for our residents to become engaged and experience a sampling of the endless recreational and park opportunities available to them year-round.”

The theme for The Villages Active Aging Week is Redefining Active.

With this in mind, the department has tried to “redefine active” by adding some creative and exciting events such as water-balloon corn toss, chair basketball and an Uno golf-cart challenge, Whitten said. A few other examples of scheduled activities include chair volleyball, kickball and shufflepin.

“Not only do we want residents to get out and enjoy the different activities the recreation department has to offer, we want to encourage that the wellness of every individual can come in different forms and to not be afraid to get out there, get active and get well,” she said.

All the events are free and open to Villages residents and guests with a valid ID. Sign-up is required for each event and can be done at any of the regional recreation centers.

The department has been hosting this weeklong program for seven years.

“We are always thinking of things outside of the box to get more people involved,” said Tracy Whitten, recreation facilities manager at Paradise Recreation Center, who is coordinating Active Aging Week in The Villages.

One of the activities, chair basketball, will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Lake Miona Recreation Center.

“It is brand new to The Villages,” said Michael Burleson, recreation facilities manager at Lake Miona.

The event will be similar to chair volleyball. Participants will play basketball while sitting in a chair the entire time.

“We’re definitely looking forward to introducing something exciting, new and fun to our Village residents,” Burleson said.

When choosing events for Active Aging Week, the Recreation and Parks Department sought new ways to keep residents active and landed on chair basketball as an interesting activity to include, he said.

“We just kind of want to open the eyes of the residents that there is more than just the normal exercise classes that can keep you active,” Burleson said.

The week’s events don’t just focus on being physically active. Villagers can also get nutrition tips through events such as Nutrition for Better Brain Health at 1 p.m. Friday at Savannah Center.

“It’s all about redefining active in the different areas of life,” Whitten said. “(That includes) physical, emotional, environmental, social and intellectual, so it’s just giving people different ways to do something instead of through their normal pattern.”

That idea was the basis for the week, according to Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging.

“Active aging is about being engaged in life in all different areas,” Milner said. “We tend to want to pigeonhole it into physical activity.”

That doesn’t mean exercise isn’t important, though.

“Just the process of getting out and getting involved moves us to a better quality of life no matter who we are,” Milner said. “The benefits almost seem endless.”

Milner said being active can help a person’s emotional health, reduce depression, improve cardiac health, improve one’s spiritual connection with themselves and their environment, and cut risk factors for many diseases.

“It’s transformative,” he said.

A positive attitude is key, according to Milner.

“An optimistic person will live an average of 7.6 years longer than a pessimist,” he said. “Change your attitude to ‘I can!’”

It’s never too late for someone to return to an active lifestyle, Milner said. In fact, just a bit of effort can mean a reversal of loss of strength in a short time.

Staff Writer Summer Jarro can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5404, or summer.jarro@thevillagesmedia.com. Senior writer Steve Straehley can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5228, or steve.straehley@thevillagesmedia.com.