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Canadian Boomers Get Aging Report Card

 

Today’s aging boomers are much better behaved, when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle, than their middle-aged counterparts of 25 years ago. But they are not aging any better than their forebears, says Andrew Wister in his new book, Baby Boomer Health Dynamics (University of Toronto Press).

Dr.Wister, a social demographer who is chair of the Department of Gerontology at Simon Fraser University, says Canadians’ Achilles heel is their weight. “Comparing the baby boomers today with persons their age 25 years ago, smoking has declined by half; sedentary and infrequent exercise had dropped by 40 percent, and heavy drinking is down by two-thirds,” explains Wister. “But obesity has doubled in only 15 years.”

So what’s going on here?

“The cause is changes in the quality and quantity of food consumption beyond which exercise levels have been able to counter, such as the super-sizing of fast food,” Wister says. Today “twenty-five percent of the energy we burn comes from the other food group of the Canadian Food Guide, including pop, chips and desserts. Twenty percent of all meals are eaten outside of the home, many at fast food restaurants; 27 percent of people eat at least one meal in their car a week.”

Given that research suggests midlife behaviours have important implications for the late years, Wister’s study serves as a timely wake-up call.