Younger Next Year?
By Lynn Steffes, PT, DPT*
A few years ago, I attended a local Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield meeting and the keynote speaker was the previous medical director of Anthem.
He kicked off his presentation talking about health care in the United States and addressed how a paradigm shift away from sick care to health and wellness was essential. He referenced the stunning data that while in the previous 100 years we have increased our lifespan significantly we have done little to truly increase what he called our “healthspan.” Researchers offer that “You don’t want to live to be over 100 years old if the last 20 years of your life are spent in pain and sickness…We should not continue to pursue life extension without considering the health consequences of living longer lives.”1
My ears perked up as he spoke about the importance of healthcare professionals taking a proactive role in educating enrollees about certain lifestyle changes that really make a difference in their well-being as well as their cost of health care. Of course, the number one difference-maker he shared was exercise and physical activity followed by a reasonable diet. He then distributed the book, Younger Next Year for Women (Or Men), by Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge, MD.2 I listened attentively as he outlined the premise of the book and promoted that all healthcare providers should be having these discussions with their patients.
Fast-forward to my more recent passion for the role of physical therapists in lifestyle medicine.3 Physical therapists are not the only ones taking notice of this important trend! I follow chiropractic marketing literature and read a November 2019 article in Chiropractic Economics, “Healthy Aging and Senior Fitness for Your Practice” by Jeffry Tucker, DC.4 The chiropractic article offered specific strategies on creating and engaging “a vibrant 55+ (senior) culture within a practice.” Strategies outlined included “monitoring range of motion and movement” as well as working on things like squats and strength training. It struck me that this is something physical therapists do as a part of our everyday practice. The idea of physical therapists taking a lead in lifestyle medicine along with chiropractors and primary care providers is long overdue and may be an opportunity in your practice!
I ask you: Do you have conversations with your patients about the ongoing need to stay flexible, strong, aerobically fit, and agile over the course of their aging? Do you specifically advocate for our role as their physical therapist in assisting them to be “Younger Next Year”? I think some of you do! However, I think we should all implement strategies to discuss how our patients might not only experience healthy aging but could aim for being “Younger Next Year”! Could your practice promote such a program to your patients?
I reached a milestone birthday in 2019 and I can tell you that I am in an uphill battle to stay active and young! Part of my arsenal is my physical therapist Amy Snyder, DPT from PT Plus in Milwaukee. When I strain a hamstring or pinch a nerve, I never think it means that my uphill battle is over. I just think I need to see Amy to get back in the game! If you are interested in attracting and retaining your patients as well as partnering with them to be “Younger Next Year,” consider adding a specific set of strategies to your practice!
1A Call to Focus on Extension of Healthspan, Not Lifespan. Fightaging.com. https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2018/09/a-call-to-focus-on-extension-of-healthspan-not-lifespan/. September 20, 2018.
2Crowley C, Lodge HS. Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy – Until You’re 80 and Beyond. New York, NY: Workman Publishing Company; 2007.
3Introduction & Basic Skills in Lifestyle Medicine for You, Your Patients, & Your Practice Setting. Medbridge website. https://www.medbridgeeducation.com/certificate-program/17770-introduction-basic-skills-in-lifestyle-medicine-for-you-your-patients-your-practice-setting/. Accessed February 7, 2020.
4 Tucker J. Healthy Aging, Senior Fitness Program for Your Practice. Chiropractice Economics website. https://www.chiroeco.com/senior-fitness-program/. November 5, 2019.
Lynn Steffes, PT, DPT, is president and consultant of Steffes & Associates, a national rehabilitation consulting group focused on marketing and program development for private practices nationwide. She is an instructor in five physical therapy programs and has actively presented, consulted, and taught in 40 states. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*The author has a professional affiliation with this subject.