Like most health fairs, it attracted the over-50 crowd, but I also noticed a few babies and small children in attendance. Most of the 20 to 30-year-olds were volunteers. The event focused on living healthy, with programs devoted to exercise, dancing, movement of all types, eating well and planning your future.
I spoke with a man in the retirement living industry who said that his company promotes healthy living to keep people in their own communities longer, since they have maxed out their units and don’t plan on building more. It made me think about when I might need such services, and I started to wonder if there would be a place for me to go. The thought reinforced my intention to plan ahead and do everything I can to stay healthy. We have been told that Social Security will run out before the Baby Boomers can benefit from it, as will Medicare, mostly because there won’t be enough younger people to support the aging population. It follows that there won’t be enough caretakers to help an aging population that outnumbers them.
I thought of the 97-year-old physician from Japan who felt our retirement age of 65 was based on statistical data from 50 years ago when the average lifespan was 67. He thought that since we now live well into our 80s, we should revise our retirement age to late 70s or older. I always felt that I would want to work until I die, since I like my work and feel it is my “excuse” to be with others. Plus, I don’t think I can afford to stop working with the economy the way it is. Nevertheless, I want to be one of those fortunate people who can choose whether or not to retire, and not be forced into retirement for health reasons or because of someone else’s decision.
Thousands of people attended this event, and I had encounters with friends, past patients and people seeking proactive solutions for themselves and others. My husband commented to an old friend that he looked younger and healthier than the last time they had met. It turned out this friend had given up a 5-pack-per-day cigarette habit and had also quit drinking alcohol. An old high school classmate who made a mid-career change was much happier as a result, and looked young and vibrant. Many retirees looked young and active and were still engaged in community activity as well as physical exercise, but admitted they couldn’t take the stress of their jobs anymore. Many people sought pain relief solutions and numerous booths promoted various products or services. One massage therapist commented to me that a person has a lot of choices if they are willing to change their lifestyle habits, which is also a belief I share and one that the health fair also promoted.
I hope this type of event continues so it reaches more people and reinforces the idea of “lifestyle change.” It should also be geared to younger populations, especially school kids and young adults, while they are able to change the course of their lives and can start including healthy habits that delay the onset of degenerative changes. Then people will live longer, healthier and more productive lives.