Ten years ago at the age of 70, Kentucky native and author Jim Owen says he was a mess. “About three times a year, I’d injure my back to the point of excruciating pain. My knees were shot, my right rotator cuff was frozen, I was at least 25 pounds overweight and I had very low energy. When I’d pass a mirror, I’d stop and look into it thinking, ‘How did I end up like this? I’m an old man.’ I started thinking my best days might be behind me, and that’s not something I was willing to settle for. I wanted to enjoy life with my beautiful wife, Stanya. When my doctor told me there was nothing to do but do nothing for three months after my last injury; I’d had enough. I knew I had to do something.”
A lifelong voracious reader, Jim thought he would spend his recovery time researching senior fitness in preparation for his wellness journey. “What I discovered was instructional fitness books for seniors don’t really exist. Eighty percent of all fitness-related material is aimed toward young people who want beach bodies. I didn’t care about having a perfect body. I wanted to feel good and age well.” Realizing that there are physical realities that come with age, Jim set out on his own path of discovery and transformation, and in the process he’s become a passionate crusader helping older adults live longer and better by embracing a more active way of life.
Now, in the best shape of his life, Jim who is 80 has recounted his experiences in his book, Just Move!: A New Approach to Fitness After 50, which is a step-by-step guide that can be tailored to any level of physical ability, helping older people ease into fitness even if they haven’t exercised for years.
When the book was released, the Just Move! Campaign was launched simultaneously. According to Jim, the campaign is “a public health effort that aims to help older adults live longer and better. It’s based on clear scientific evidence that being physically active can lower risks of serious disease. It can also help older adults preserve brain function, better manage their weight, and reduce the stress levels that compromise health and contribute to harmful behaviors.”
Evidence of Jim’s abundant energy and exuberance is easy to note when he speaks of what’s next for the Just Move! Campaign. “I am producing a film. In June 2019, we began work on The Art of Aging Well, a documentary film directed by Emmy-award winning Jim Harvey of Harvey Pro Cinema. The 30-minute documentary will air on KET Sunday November 1 at 2pm ET. It has aired in Colorado and Wyoming and will be airing on PBS stations across the country this fall. “I couldn’t be more excited and honored to have this film airing in my home state of Kentucky. Now more than ever, seniors need to know they can take simple, positive steps to boost their health and immunity. My film shows it’s never too late to take charge of your future, and I hope it will inspire Kentuckians to make their health a priority this winter.”
The Art of Aging Well aims to change the attitude and behavior of older Americans who may think it’s too late or even impossible to adopt a healthier, more active way of life. It emphasizes how simple lifestyle choices can enable seniors to actually slow the aging process. “Lifestyle, not genetics as many believe, is the biggest risk factor for serious chronic disease. It is also the one risk factor within our control.”
Rather than focus on delivering healthy aging messages through lists of long-term health risks and “shoulds and must-dos,” the film demonstrates the benefits of embracing a healthy way of life by looking into the real lives of older adults who are actually thriving.
BY BOBBE CROUCH
Photo by Melissa Donald