Being Active

By Neil M. Beaumont

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Colin Milner is all about improving quality of life through healthy and active aging. In 2001, on the UN’s International Day of Older Persons (October 1st), the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) was born out of Colin’s frustration about society’s myths around aging.

Having recently turning 55, and now considered eligible for a seniors discount himself, Colin can look back on what he has accomplished in the last 15 years with the ICAA, which now boasts over 10,000 members.

I met Colin 38 years ago while playing rugby for Steveston High School in Richmond, BC. Colin was driven back then and was a hard target for the opposing team to tackle when he possessed the ball.

He has carried that tenacity throughout his life and, at the helm of his organization, brings like-minded professionals and groups together to share and educate people about the concept of healthy aging within the seven dimensions of wellness: emotional, vocational, physical, spiritual, intellectual, social and environmental.

The ICAA was created to bring awareness to the changes that occur throughout one’s life, whether self-induced or as a result of forces beyond our control. The organization helps members better understand these changes and how to respond to them, ahead of time, so the result of these changes is managed, reduced or prevented.

“An example of this is the fact that we lose close to 50 per cent of our strength between the ages of 35-70, if we are inactive,” says Colin. “This simple fact has a significant impact on our quality of life, our ability to function, maintain our independence and work. It also impacts the costs of healthcare, caregiving, etc. Many issues are based on the ripple effect theory.”

The ICAA’s goal is to reduce or eliminate the ripples that occur throughout people’s lives. To achieve this, each individual needs to be an active participant in these changes.

“What concerns me is the inability of those around me to see that we all age, and that laying the foundation to end ageism and improve services and products to better meet the needs of the older consumer is good for us ALL,” says Colin. “We are all aging right now, the question is how well? There are 90-year olds in better shape than some of our children. Creating a life-span approach to health, well-being, finance and health literacy could go a long way to providing us all with a better path to health and well-being.”

Born in 1961 in Kingston, Jamaica, Colin moved to Richmond in 1973 and went to McRoberts and London before landing at Steveston. During this time, his love for sports was ignited, playing soccer, cricket and rugby.

“That’s really what I enjoyed doing,” he says, “wanting to become a soccer pro. That did not work out, but training for soccer is how I got into the fitness and wellness industry, at the age of 21.”

Colin started as a weight-training instructor, then sales person, then managed health clubs and spas for about seven years before leaving to open his first business, Club Direct. This was Canada’s first fitness business magazine, which he ran for about five years. Following that, he became the VP of Sales and Marketing for Keiser fitness equipment, and the President of IDEA Health and Fitness before launching the International Council on Active Aging.

“I was selling fitness equipment that was tailored to older adults in retirement communities and fitness centres,” says Colin. “Each had an interest in serving the older adult, but did not know where to go to get information on healthy aging. I waited for someone to launch an organization to address the unanswered questions. No one did, so I did.”

In addition, Colin has a soon-to-be 104-year-old grandmother who has always been an inspiration to him. “She is an example of what is possible, if you put the effort into your lifestyle. Plus, the massive research on exercise and aging that was being done back then was being done on the equipment I sold. The research showed you are never too old to improve your abilities.”

Colin says the ICAA will continue to be an advocate for the older adult. How they do this will change as society does. To ensure the organization remains relevant, they will adapt to change and evolve to address areas such as technology’s impact on aging well, and how infrastructure is built to meet the needs of an older population, to name a few.

“Our goal is always to be ahead of the curve,” says Colin. “Change is happening, so we know we need to be where our members need us to be so they can achieve optimal success.”

Colin says the ICAA exists to enable people to “enjoy the ride.”

“Too often we leave this toward the end of our lives, expecting to live the life we want in retirement. Don’t wait, do it now, as you only get one kick at the can and tomorrow is not a guarantee,” he says. “At the heart of this would be to stay physically, socially and cognitively active every day. Also, whatever you do put in your very best effort.”




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