Sun, sea and sand – for many these are the ingredients ofthe ideal retirement destination. But does a leisurely walk on the beach or fairwaycontribute to healthy aging? While these are attractive elements aging welldemands more. Choosing where to ageis a critical factor in how well wewill age. So what are the elements that can be used to assess how a region maysupport aging and well-being?
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is a unique andin-depth multi-year examination of population well-being. Conducting 1000 survey interviews per day for the next 20+ years in the United States the Gallup and Healthways partnershipprovides a real-time barometer of the nation’s well-being as measured by sixdimensions:
Life evaluation – self evaluation of today’s life situationand what is anticipated tomorrow.
Physical health— incidence of disease, feelings of fatigue,energy level, experiences with headache, flu, colds, impact of health onachieving life’s activities.
Emotional health – as measured by an individual’s dailyexperiences, e.g., smiling, enjoyment, happiness, worry, sadness, anger,learning or doing something interesting, feelings of depression, etc.
Healthy behaviors – lifestyle habits such as eating healthy,eating fruits and vegetables, exercise, not smoking, etc.
Work environment – including job satisfaction, ability touse and optimize personal skills, relationship with direct supervisor, etc.
Basic access – to those elements critical to overallwell-being, e.g., clean water, security/safety, access to a doctor, money forfood, healthcare and shelter, etc.
Combined these dimensions provide an integrated approach to complete health. Based upon a recent analysis of the Gallup-HealthwaysWell-Being Index data for Americans 65-yearsold and older the following ten regions have the highest well-being scores.
Clearly many of these regionsbenefit from sun and sea – some on the other hand do not tout weather that manywould enjoy, especially in winter. But this list is more than what might bepersonally attractive to older adults, it points to a new dynamic in the relationship between aging and regionalcompetitiveness.
The well-being concept is a strategic challenge to regions seeking to attract and retain thelucrative older adult market both inside and outside the United States. From Singaporeans retiring to islands and destinations in southeast Asia to British expat retiree communities in southern Spain, the global challenge to policymakers, businesses and those fostering regional economicdevelopment is to combine the aesthetic with the capacity to age ‘well’.
Policy-makers worldwide must ensure that there are systems, collaborationsand interventions supporting well-being to manage the health demands of olderadults, that, if left unchecked, could become a disastrous demand on thecapacity of health systems and public budgets.
As more people of ‘retirementage’ decide to stay in the workforce it is critical for employers to ensure older worker well-being to manage costs associated with chronic conditions. Likewise, many of these older workers are older caregivers requiring support to manage the personal and workplace costs of caring, e.g., presenteeism and absenteeism. Achieving these bottom line objectivesrequires more than benefits offered within company walls, but will demand the support of a comprehensive lifestyle that is reinforced by formal and informal social networks,community design, and resources that support well-being throughout a region.
Finally, throughout theindustrialized world adults over age 50 are the fastest growing cohort with thehighest concentration of disposable income – a critical market to catalyze regionaleconomic development and to fuel the regional tax base. Regions that offer warmth and well-being are likely to have acompetitive advantage over other metropolitan areas that offer something less, therebyattracting and retaining residents that contribute to the community,culture, and commerce benefitting everyone of every age.
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