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Sam Asano's Let's Invent: Exercise can make 'golden' years enjoyable

November 12. 2017 9:17PM

The reader response response to last week’s installment about life’s little irritations we Golden Lives encounter was quite overwhelming. I can categorize them roughly into two class of complaints.

One class is surprised to find that they find these tasks to have become difficult or outright impossible in the worst cases. As people advance in age, all aspects of physical and mental faculties decline. But deterioration of these abilities does not happen all at once. As seniors live daily, mostly in an aging in place environment, they continue to discover their declining ability to do various daily chores.

This group often writes in with some obvious anger. The anger they express is often an amalgam of complex emotions consisting of surprise that they can no longer easily do it, anger that this is happening to them without warning, and wondering why nobody told them that it would happen.

The second group consists of those who have given up fighting and are quietly resigned to accept their fate of declining physical and mental faculties. The problem with them is that they feel the issues are too overwhelming, and they are simply too stunned to respond or do anything about it. It is like a little boat against a raging 40-foot sea. We will capsize, and let that happen.

Then there is a large third party, which doesn’t write in, so it isn’t possible for me to answer their comments. They are the silent group. But I know this group is the majority of the aging population today. So, let’s talk about them.

They are the silent majority of aging Americans, perhaps up to 80 percent of the 50 million aging as of 2017. Let’s just say 40 million people 65 and over. These people are either in the assisted living environment such as nursing homes and other similar situations, aging in place or living with their younger generations still. The major problem is that they are not health conscious to the point that they exercise daiy. They are not constantly paying attention to their health by monitoring various physical data.

The internet is full of helpful advice to maintain one’s health. Exercise is not that one day you join a gym and start a rigorous routine with a physical trainer directing you at all times. That might be one way to regain one’s health, but the strenuous effort always gets dropped soon as it is too hard to do.

What solves the third-party issue — the large majority who don’t want to do any exercise really — is to make exercise easy and fun to do. Japanese women today live 10 years longer than American women. Why? Because they walk a lot. And walking steadily is an easy task. It is a healthy exercise as it involves no harsh upward incline, no drastic drop in height and no pounding on knees.

However, we Americans are accustomed to look for a parking spot nearest the door of the retail store we want to visit. And we will spend 20 minutes driving around the parking lot just to find a spot near the entrance.

Obviously a drastic change needs to happen if we want our aging Golden Lives to live longer with a higher comfort level and with a happier disposition in general. By higher comfort level, I mean less pain to do things, and less surprise for sudden inabilities.

We need to start a national and voluntary movement to practice exercise for aging people. But the practice itself needs to be somewhat entertaining. I have been aware that many of the physical exercise programs have been either boring, forced-upon-you, or too strenuous to follow. That should be changed to “entertaining.” Is it really possible?

Let’s say American Medicare “A” spends $31 billion a year for the hospitalization of people by falls. Falling is the largest non-disease cause of Medicare expenditures. If we add the other expenses associated with home care, the amount would really reach $50 billion a year.

And $50 billion is a lot of money, no doubt. That comes to $1,540 per person living in this country. There has to be some way to reduce this expenditure significantly.

The world is changing. The aging sector is rising. We need to restructure our society as fast as the change is occurring.

Shintaro “Sam” Asano of New Castle was named by MIT as one of the 10 most influential inventors of the 20th century. Write to him at

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