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Healthy aging is theme of presentation on May 6 about national strategy

ATHENS, Ohio (May 3, 2004) -- One in six Americans is age 60 or older according to the Administration on Aging. Some 44 million people currently are included in this group of "Older Americans" and the number is expected to nearly double in the next 25 years. The fastest growing age group is the 85-or-older crowd; by the year 2050 this group will increase to about 5 percent of our population.

Wojtek Chodzko-ZajkoAs we celebrate Older Americans Month in May, an observance that was established in 1963, attention is drawn to the extraordinary contributions of our Older Americans and to the challenges and opportunities which will accompany population aging in the next millennium. This year the national observance centers around the theme Aging Well, Living Well. Eating better and exercising or staying active are among the health-conscious choices that more Older Americans are making. Regular physical activity can bring dramatic health benefits to people of all ages and abilities, according to a substantial body of scientific evidence. Media and medical professionals often tout the benefits of exercise for younger and middle-aged people, but scientific evidence increasingly indicates that physical activity can extend years of active independent life, reduce disability, and improve the quality of life for older persons as well. These benefits are especially important considering that 21 percent of the population over 65 has chronic disabilities and 88 percent have at least one chronic health condition, such as hypertension (49 percent), arthritic symptoms (36 percent), heart disease (31 percent) and diabetes (15 percent).

Although the need is clear, it has not yet been translated into national action. That is the aim of the National Blueprint: Increasing Physical Activity Among Adults, a major national planning document in the area of aging and physical activity that was developed in 2001. A coalition of more than 50 national organizations is involved with the project, including AARP, the American Geriatrics Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The National Council on the Aging, The National Institute on Aging, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the American College of Sports Medicine.

A major goal of the Blueprint is to identify the principal barriers to physical activity participation in older adults and to outline strategies for increasing physical activity levels throughout the population. The Blueprint identifies specific needs in the areas of research, home and community programs, workplace settings, medical systems, public policy and advocacy, and crosscutting issues. The key to success of the Blueprint lies in developing and channeling resources and working collaboratively to move the evidence about the benefits of physical activity into national action.

Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko (pronounced Voytek Hodsko-Zaiko), who is the principal Investigator for the National Blueprint Project, is internationally recognized for his expertise in the area of aging and physical activity. Chodzko-Zajko; who has been asked to speak about healthful aging in Korea, Iran, Oman, Japan, France, Belgium, Slovenia, Germany, Hong Kong and Israel; has been a guest on many television and radio shows, including NBC's "Today Show," National Public Radio, and CNN.

On Thursday, May 6, Chodzko-Zajko will be the keynote speaker at Ohio University College of Health and Human Services' Grover Lecture Series. His presentation, "Developing a National Strategy for the Promotion of Healthy Aging," will begin at 7:00 p.m. in Margaret M. Walter Hall Room 135. During the address he will speak about the need for a national strategy, the progress being made, and information about the National Blueprint Project, which is designed to support an increase in physical activity among age 50 and older adults, and ultimately to improve the health and well being of all Americans. The Grover Lecture is free and open to the public.

In addition to ChodzKo-Zajko's affiliation with the National Blueprint, he has served on the World Health Organization's Scientific Advisory Committee, which issued guidelines for physical activity in older adults, and he was the founding editor of the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity--the first journal dedicated to the scientific study of exercise and physical activity in older adult populations. He is President of the International Society on Aging and Physical Activity, an academic association of scholars in the area of aging and physical activity. Chodzko-Zajko is a professor and head of the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"The College of Health and Human Services is extremely pleased to welcome Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko to present the inaugural address in the Grover Lecture Series," said Gary S. Neiman, dean of the college. "The Series was established to present leading speakers in areas of health and human services; Wojtek's international reputation and first-hand knowledge of national efforts in the area of healthy aging will provide a memorable kick-off for this annual event."

The Grover Lecture Series honors the accomplishments, achievements, and distinguished tenure of two outstanding Athens-area individuals who are closely linked to Ohio University--Brandon T. "Tad" and Ann O. Grover. The legacy of their family name is a part of the University's history, including Grover Center, which the College of Health and Human Services calls home. Through their own actions and involvement, they have further distinguished their legacy of volunteerism and philanthropy.

The College of Health and Human Services at Ohio University offers outstanding educational opportunities in a variety of areas, including nationally recognized programs in physical therapy, audiology, and speech-language pathology. In addition, the College provides outreach services to the University, community and region, including clinical services, child care, and recreation and wellness programs.

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Media Contact: HHS Director of Communication Linda Lockhart, (740) 593-1433 or LockharL@ohio.edu  

Editors: A photo is available at www.hhs.ohiou.edu/html/images/Woytek_Chodzko-Zajko.jpg

Caption: Woytek Chodzko-Zakjo, head of the kinesiology department at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a leading expert in the area of aging and physical activity, will speak in Walter Hall on May 6 at 7 p.m.

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