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Senior Centers Help Battle Obesity

September is National Senior Center Month, giving centers everywhere an opportunity to showcase the myriad of programs and services they provide. The 2013 theme is: Senior Centers: Experts at Living Well.

What better time to have an honest conversation about battling obesity in older populations with exercise and nutrition?

It's an important topic. One of the largest threats to older adults living a healthy and active lifestyle is obesity. According to this report published by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) in 2005, obesity is becoming an epidemic in New York. In 2008, approximately 60% of New York State's adult population was overweight, according to NYSDOH data. County by county, the numbers are staggering.

"The good news is, obesity is preventable through a good diet and exercise and certainly individuals who are already overweight or obese can reduce their weight the same way," said Greg Olsen, Acting Director for the New York State Office for the Aging. "Controlling one's weight through regular exercise and healthy eating can have a tremendous positive impact on an older adults independence, health care utilization, and out of pocket health care costs."

Many senior centers offer services that the public probably is unaware of. Senior centers are community focal points that offer a wide array of programs and services including meal and nutrition programs, information and assistance, health, fitness and wellness programs, transportation services, social adult day services, public benefits counseling, employment assistance, volunteer and civic engagement opportunities, social and recreational activities, educational and arts programs and intergenerational programs.

"We'd advise all older New Yorkers to call their local offices for the aging to find out where exercise and nutrition programs can be accessed,"Olsen said. "Senior centers are a tremendous asset to their communities, and can be integral to leading a healthier lifestyle."

Did You Know?
According to the NYSDOH, the second leading preventable cause of death in the United States are problems resulting from being obese and overweight. Failing to win the battle against obesity will mean premature death and disability for an increasingly large segment of New York residents. Without strong action to reverse the obesity epidemic, for the first time in our history children may face a shorter lifespan than their parents.

Nutrition and exercise should be combined to maximize good health. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program.