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2008 World Congress on Active Aging

Reflections from the 2008 World Congress for Aging and Physical Activity

By Claudine Aherne, Managing Director, Vida Wellness, United Kingdom

2008 World Congress
2008 World Congress

We delegates filed through the light-filled atrium, past a beautiful ancient tree, up the escalators and into the large, state-of-the-art conference hall. We found our seats, prepared ourselves and made diligent notes as Kiyoji Tanaka, Ph.D., told us about increasing "vital age" with a sound programme of diet and exercise. We listened intently as he told us about how to increase our "human-being power" by switching on our "health channel," bathing in warm water, dancing, and looking for inner peace. (This was accompanied by some more widely known recommendations for healthy aging, including eating less salt and more fibre, drinking less alcohol, and losing weight).

The location was Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan and the date was July 29, 2008, the last day of the World Congress for Aging and Physical Activity. Our speaker, Tanaka, was the chair of the organizing committee of the 7th World Congress, the first ever held in Asia.

Delegates had travelled from across the world to Tsukuba, one of Japan’s premier research universities, which is 45 minutes from Tokyo on the Tsukuba Express train. Researchers and practitioners in the field of aging and physical activity made the most of this opportunity to share research outcomes, hypotheses, and plans. The Congress consisted of four action-packed days of symposia, poster and oral sessions, keynote speakers, special workshops, and roundtable sessions. Topics covered research methodologies, epidemiological research, successful interventions, and the psychosocial aspects of physical activity.


Panel discussion at a seesion of the 2008 World Congress
Tai chi chuan performance

We learned about the value of serum 2 microglobin as a predictor for mortality in community elderly in Japan, risk stratification for fallers and the associated programme guidance, and the successful use of TV in the "Netherlands on the Move" programme. Other sessions covered health promotion research among Japanese-Brazilians living in Japan, the impact of light and moderate aerobic exercise on cognitive functioning, and the potential for genetic analysis to predict the impact of exercise on bone mineral density. Furthermore, we were inspired and encouraged by results from "El Ejercicio te Cuida," a successful Spanish referral walking programme, and by the GOLD (Growing Older, Living Dangerously) initiative in New Zealand.

The social programme included an inspiring demonstration from the Japan Society of Rhythm Movement Leaders and a tai chi chuan performance from a group of local elders. At the welcome reception we were entertained by a representation of a "toad grease vendor" from the Edo period.

His enthusiastic sales pitch for the pot of toad grease was embellished by a dramatic sword-wielding scenario, designed to demonstrate its extraordinary medicinal powers.

It was announced at a special breakfast presentation that the 8th World Congress will be held in Glasgow in 2012. Dawn Skelton, Ph.D., of Glasgow Caledonian University, and Bob Laventure, M.Ed., of the British Heart Foundation National Centre for Physical Activity and Health gave us an exciting outline of what to expect at this conference. The 7th World Congress was a great opportunity to take time together to review progress and celebrate the successes in our field to date, as well as to look ahead to the future and reflect on how we can best develop the active ageing agenda from now on. Said Sharon Hetherington from the University of Tasmania: "I have come away from the conference recharged and inspired, with worldwide contacts who all share my passion for promoting healthy ageing." We all filtered out of the Congress centre into the heat of Tsukuba, full of ideas, excited about our "human-being power" and keenly anticipating our reunion in Glasgow at the 8th World Congress on Active Aging in 2012.


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