Office for the Aging


Senior Centers Help Battle Obesity

September is national Senior Center Month, giving centers everywhere an opportunity to showcase the many great programs and services they provide.

This is also a good time to have an honest conversation about battling obesity in older populations with exercise and nutrition and how your local senior center can help.

"Obesity is preventable through a healthy diet and exercise, and 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 adult's 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."

According to the New York State Department of Health, 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.

The percentage of New York State adults who are overweight or obese increased from 42% in 1997 to 60% in 2008.

The percentage of obese adults in New York State more than doubled from 10% in 1997 to 25% in 2008.

Obesity among children and adolescents has tripled over the past three decades. Currently, a third of New York's children are obese or overweight.

Health care to treat obesity-related illnesses and conditions cost the United States an estimated $150 billion and New York State more than $7.6 billion every year.

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