June 4, 2018

A conversation with Cindy Quinn from the Texas A&M Center for Population Health and Aging about aging well.

Cindy Quinn has been actively and passionately involved in the implementation of proven health and wellness programs for healthy aging in local, regional and statewide initiatives since January 2009 with the Texas A&M Center for Population Health and Aging (CPHA). She is one of two Texas T-Trainers for Self-Management Education Programs developed at Stanford including the Chronic Disease, Diabetes and Chronic Pain Self-Management Programs and Cancer: Thriving, Surviving workshop. She is also one of the developers of the Texercise Select program and works as the Program Manager for the Texercise Select Research Program and the SUSTAIN grant, a $900,000 Administration for Community Living (ACL) grant. Her family life includes a large family with husband Dan Quinn, eight children, six grandchildren and a dog that walks her daily.


Why are you passionate about promoting healthy aging?

First off, I love getting older and the reason is that it gives one perspective. At some point, you realize the things that are of value to you and with this understanding comes great wisdom. In our society, the number of people with unique perspective is growing. We are experiencing what I call the graying of America: Our population age 65 and over has increased from 36.2 million in 2004 to 46.2 million in 2014, a 28 percent increase. The older adult population is projected to more than double to 98 million in 2060, especially as baby boomers continue to age. This changing population dynamic makes it imperative that we encourage and support ways to age well.

Is chronic disease a new problem?

Chronic disease is an ongoing health condition, something you must manage every day and something for which there is no cure. Examples of chronic disease conditions include heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes. Chronic disease is not a new problem, but it is a growing problem. In 1900, for example, mortality was much, much lower, but many of the diseases people died from were infectious diseases like tuberculosis, pneumonia or influenza and gastrointestinal infections. With miraculous medical advances, many of these diseases were eradicated and our lifespan increased. However, the rate from which people died from chronic diseases increased at an alarming rate. Heart disease, only the No. 4 killer in 1900, became the No. 1 killer in 2010, while cancer moved from the No. 8 killer in 1900 to the No. 2 killer in 2010. The increase of chronic conditions combined with sedentary lifestyles has created a stressed out, unfit and very unhealthy society.


What are some wise investments the CPHA empowers people to make?

Our work emphasizes investments in physical activity, healthy eating, stress reduction, financial planning and service. Physical activity helps people maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints to prevent falls, reduce depression and improve feelings of well-being. We know healthy eating is best for us, but can be difficult to do when we require convenience. We advise patients to slow down to eat less, rethink sugary drinks and read nutrition labels. It is vital to reduce stress and that can be done through exercise, prayer, meditation, deep breathing, mindfulness and saying no. Financial wellness is also vital for aging well: It can reduce anxiety and help people maintain independence. Among other things, we advise ignoring the taboo and talking about money, starting a retirement plan, and saving and planning for increased healthcare costs. Finally, we emphasize service. Volunteering is one of the best things for healthy aging. Research shows that it works because it gives people another passion and a new purpose in life.

How can we learn more about these investments in physical activity, healthy eating, stress reduction, financial planning and service?

The CPHA can connect you to one of these wonderful workshops. Please visit https://cpha.tamhsc.edu/ to find out more about Active for Life Workshops and other programs.