December 20, 2023

What is Healthy Aging?

Healthy aging is a holistic approach that emphasizes the importance of maintaining physical health, mental agility, and emotional stability as we grow older. This concept is not merely about prolonging life, but about enhancing the quality of life and preserving independence during our later years. Recognizing the importance of this, HealthyLifetime is a dedicated program aiming to promote and foster a lifestyle that supports healthy aging and resilience, providing guidance and resources to ensure a robust and fulfilling journey through life’s later stages.

Healthy and independent aging is of paramount importance due to several reasons. Foremost, it contributes to the overall well-being and quality of life of older adults. By focusing on maintaining good physical health, older individuals can sustain their mobility and autonomy, reducing dependence on others and fostering a sense of self-sufficiency. This physical independence is closely tied to mental health, as it promotes self-esteem and reduces the risks of depression and anxiety.

Moreover, in the context of a rapidly aging global population, healthy and independent aging can significantly reduce the pressure on healthcare systems. It can curtail the necessity for long-term care facilities and frequent hospital visits, which not only benefits older individuals but also has broader societal and economic benefits. This highlights the crucial role that organizations like HealthyLifetime play in promoting awareness and providing resources to support healthy and independent aging.

HealthyLifetime’s Belief

Our Declaration of Independence: 

  • People, as they age, deserve to live a healthier, longer, and more independent life.
  • Adults want to learn better self-care and management of their own lives, they just need to learn how.
  • People should be supported, encouraged and celebrated as they learn new skills for a better, more independent life.
  • Independence should be affordable and available to everyone.
  • Based on years of comprehensive scientific research on how to live independently longer, THIS IS NOW POSSIBLE.

At the heart of HealthyLifetime’s endeavors is the resolute belief that everyone has the right to a healthier, longer, and more independent life as they age. This conviction stems from an understanding that aging is a natural progression of life, and there should be no compromise on the quality of life, irrespective of age. The team at HealthyLifetime is committed to driving this change, making a meaningful difference in the lives of older adults, and shaping societal attitudes towards aging.

Inspired by this belief, HealthyLifetime has launched the Nurse Intervention Program, a novel initiative aimed to support healthy aging in the community. By harnessing the skills and expertise of trained nursing professionals, this program offers personalized care plans, regular health monitoring, and preventive healthcare education to older individuals. The goal is to empower older adults with the knowledge and resources they need to maintain their health and independence. For more information on how organizations can improve patient aging, visit healthylifetime.org/healthylifetime-institute.

The Independent Living Index (ILI)

The Independent Living Index [ILI] is a composite measure of life dimensions HealthyLifetime™ uses as indicators of a person’s ability to live independently with vitality and resiliency to meet life’s challenges.

independent-living-indexThe ILI includes the following life dimensions:

  • Social engagement and support
  • Perceived health now and in the future
  • Health habits including smoking, use of alcohol, quality of food choices,
    exercise, and sleep quality
  • Daily functional capabilities such as cooking, doing chores, managing finances, transportation
  • Presence or freedom from physical and emotional symptoms
  • Confidence in meeting life’s challenges, resilience, and independent agency.

Each dimension is derived from scientific evidence that strongly correlates to morbidity, mortality, ‘quality life years,’ and/or longevity.

Improving your Independent Living Index (ILI) score at home involves conscious efforts across a range of lifestyle aspects. 

  • Start by adopting a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains to enhance your health and vitality. 
  • Regular physical activity, even simple exercises such as walking, gardening, or yoga, can significantly boost your physical capabilities and overall health. 
  • Prioritize quality sleep, aiming for 7-9 hours a night, to ensure optimal cognitive functioning and emotional well-being. 
  • Staying socially engaged is also crucial; keep in touch with friends and family, or join community groups to stay connected. Loneliness and social isolation increase the risk for premature death by 26% and 29% respectively. More broadly, lacking social connection can increase the risk for premature death as much as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, according to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community, Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation.
  • Lastly, engage in resilience-building activities such as mindfulness, meditation, or cognitive-behavioral techniques to nurture your ability to meet life’s challenges with confidence.

How HealthyLifetime improves ILI

HealthyLifetime is committed to improving the Independent Living  Index (ILI) of its clients, thereby enhancing their ability to age healthily and independently. To validate the effectiveness of its programs, the organization launched a pilot program. The results were astounding, with participants demonstrating an average increase of 15.2% in their ILI scores. These improvements were a testament to the efficacy of the organization’s initiatives, clearly indicating that HealthyLifetime’s programs are instrumental in facilitating healthier, more resilient, and independent lifestyles for older adults.

Notably, these improvements were not limited to the physical aspects of health, but also encompassed cognitive and psychological dimensions.

 Participants reported significant improvements in their cognitive function, behavioral patterns, and overall resilience, all of which are critical aspects of independent living.

Furthermore, the organization’s initiatives were found to have significant economic benefits as well, with an estimated reduction in the costs of medical services (i.e, unplanned clinic, ER, and hospitalizations) of $1,328.17 per client. In a recent New York Times article, it was highlighted that the United States spends an average of about $13,000 per person per year on healthcare. Despite this substantial expenditure, the U.S. has the lowest life expectancy among high-income countries, standing at 79.3 years old. In contrast, Japan boasts an impressive life expectancy of 87.6 years, coupled with an annual healthcare spending of $4,700. This stark contrast further emphasizes the pressing need for effective healthcare programs. The positive impact of HealthyLifetime’s initiatives not only addresses the economic aspect but also aligns with the broader goal of promoting health and independent aging.

What HealthyLifetime Offers

HealthyLifetime provides a structured methodology that is evidence-based and designed to improve clients’ health outcomes. The program employs highly trained nurses to deliver personalized care, both in-person and through digital platforms. The nurses are equipped with the knowledge and skills to help clients make informed health decisions, monitor their health status, and guide them in achieving their health goals. Additionally, HealthyLifetime offers professional consulting services. These services help organizations implement health promotion strategies, enhancing the well-being of their members while reducing healthcare costs. For a comprehensive understanding of who we are and what our mission is, please visit https://healthylifetime.org/about-us/ 

Final Thoughts – What is Healthy Aging?

In conclusion, fostering healthy and independent aging is fundamental to enhancing the quality of life for older adults. By focusing on critical aspects of health such as diet, physical activity, cognitive function, emotional well-being, and social engagement, it’s possible to significantly improve one’s Independent Living Index (ILI). HealthyLifetime’s evidence-backed programs, personalized care, and professional consulting services are committed to facilitating these improvements, empowering individuals to lead resilient, independent, and fulfilling lives as they age. For more detailed information on how HealthyLifetime can help you or your organization, we invite you to visit our website to learn about our consulting or program offerings.

By: Kathleen Potempa, PhD, RN, FAAN
University of Michigan, School of Nursing HealthyLifetime™ Program Executive & Scientific Director

By: Marna Flaherty-Robb, MSN, RN, CNS
University of Michigan, School of Nursing HealthyLifetime™ Senior Researcher

By: Margaret M. Calarco, PhD, RN, NEA-BC
University of Michigan, School of Nursing HealthyLifetime™ Senior Researcher and Program Services Manager

Edited By: Hayley Christensen, MBA
University of Michigan, School of Nursing HealthyLifetime™ Marketing Communications Specialist

Elderly couple having fun with hula hoops for healthy aging
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