Active Aging, The Process Of Being An Active Adult with Colin Milner

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Colin Milner
Colin Milner

Please join us as we sit down with Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging and founder of the active-aging industry in North America. Milner is also a leading authority on the health and well-being of the older adult, and has been recognized by the World Economic Forum as one of “the most innovative and influential minds” in the world on aging-related topics.

An award-winning writer, Milner has authored more than 300 articles. He has been published in such journals as Global Policy, and the Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics. He also contributed a chapter to the World Economic Forum book Global Population Ageing: Peril or Promise?

Milner’s speeches have stimulated thousands of business and government leaders, industry professionals & older adults worldwide.

Whether Fortune 500 companies or governmental organizations, Colin Milner’s efforts have inspired a broad spectrum of groups to seek his counsel, include amongst these:

World Health Organization
World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Aging
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
White House Conference on Aging
US Department of Health and Human Services
US Administration on Aging
National Institute on Aging
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
The Canadian Minister of State (Seniors) and (Finance)
Canadian Special Senate Committee on Aging
European Commission
Informal Meeting of the European Union Ministers of Sport
National Health Services – Scotland
WEF Think Tank: Preparing for Prosperous Longevity in Asia
World Economic Forum Expert Networking
Shanghai Forum
4th International Strategy Conference on Safety and Health at Work
Vancouver Olympic Committee
BC Ministry of Healthy Living and Sport
Deloitte Life Sciences & Health Care
Ernst and Young
New Balance

Colin Milner received the CanFitPro Association “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his contributions to the Canadian fitness industry. He is also recognized as one Canada’s Top 100 Health Influencers, and as a “Who’s Who” in the US Fitness Industry. Milner’s tireless efforts have leading-edge publications, television networks and radio stations seeking his insights. Among these outlets are: CNN, US News and World Report, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Dow Jones Market Watch, Money Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, WebMD, The National Post, Globe and Mail, Parade Magazine, and Fox Business Radio.


Hanh Brown: [00:00:00] Well, Hey, good morning, Collin. How are you? 

Colin Milner: [00:02:01] Good morning.

Hanh Brown: [00:02:02] So I have read several of your articles and posts. They’re very insightful. So tell me about your journey and how you got started to where you are now, which is the international council or the act of aging.

Colin Milner: [00:02:15] You know, it’s interesting because my journey to the international canceling activate Aging’s launch in September or October 1st, 2000 and. One actually started with my quest to become a professional soccer player. And I had visited my Homeland of Jamaica at the age of 21, put on a few pounds and had to take those pounds off.

[00:02:40] For training camp. So I joined a fitness club and when I became a member of that fitness club and I got healthier and fitter after too much partying and Jamaica, you know, I got offered a job at the club itself. So that was where my journey on the fitness and health and wellness path started. And it took me about 18 years of running health clubs being part of, one of the large fitness manufacturers to make my way to the older adult part of the business.

[00:03:15] And, you know, health and wellness is a significant business within the U S and the world. And when I was with a company called Kaiser fitness equipment, A lot of the research that was being done in the early 1990s was being done on our equipment to see what impact it could have on the strength and abilities of older adults.

[00:03:38] And it was that, that perked my curiosity, because we were seeing incredible gains for people who were very weak. Now could go from a Walker to a cane, to them, walking to them, dancing with their grandkids at their weddings. And that I found that transformational. And it was at that time that I decided to leave Kaiser and go to another association with the intention of impacting.

[00:04:07] The health and wellbeing of older adults globally make the long story, much shorter things. Didn’t work out there. So on my 40th birthday, I resigned and on my drive home, I came up with the idea to launch the international council on active aging. And our goal is very simple. We wish to change the way people age, because the reality is as much as we speak inspirationally, we still have a lot of challenges when it comes to how well we are aging.

Hanh Brown: [00:04:39] No, there’s so many components to understanding the dynamics of the aging process. There’s the biological, physiological, environmental, psychological behavior, and the social process and gray hair is just a start.

Colin Milner: [00:04:55] Yes, they are. The key is to remember that as individuals we’re multi-dimensional, our interests are multi-dimensional and the solutions and opportunities are multi-dimensional as are the challenges.

[00:05:09] So we need to look at the whole person and not just one area.

Hanh Brown: [00:05:15] So I’m in my mid fifties. So let’s say I’m seeking ways to improve my aging process first. How do you assess a person? Because I’m sure there is not one solution that fits all. And then what would be your recommendation?

Colin Milner: [00:05:29] You know, first off question is how well are you aging.

[00:05:32] If you are on six or seven different drugs, you are frail. You’re having a challenge walking. Then you have a challenge in front of you and not one that is insurmountable is just simply one that requires more of a restorative approach, as opposed to, if you are an older athlete, who’s running a marathon who maybe you take a drug because you have diabetes, but that hasn’t slowed you down or hypertension, and that hasn’t slowed you down.

[00:06:02] So, you know, the answer to the question is very individualized. We all age at a very different time. Rates and in very different terms, based on our health, based on our lifestyles, based on our upbringings culture, economic circumstances, the list goes on. So when you’re looking at aging, I think one of the things we need to step back and look at is really the individual as well, posted across the population.

[00:06:29] Now that’s very difficult when you’re talking to government because they looked at across population. But the rest of us, that’s why things like person centered care person centered wellness, all of these different things are becoming front and center because we realize one size fits all solutions.

[00:06:48] Really doesn’t fit all. Right. 

Hanh Brown: [00:06:53] So everyone has their own journey in the aging process. In personally, I believe it’s contingent on their roots, their makeup, coacher, demographic income, and so forth. And I think mostly their attitude has a lot to do with it, how they value themselves and how they see the culture or expectations of them.

Colin Milner: [00:07:15] Well, very true. I think our greatest enemy is ourself. And when we say to herself that we cannot do things, it’s the start of the end. In my mind. I cannot do this. I cannot travel. I cannot walk up that mountain. Instead of saying I can, and I will find a way to do that. And what we know is that if we have negative perceptions of the aging process, it can take between six to seven and a half years off of our life in general, just simply thinking negatively about it.

[00:07:49] And that is a travesty because that’s all within our control.

Hanh Brown: [00:07:55] I personally feel the adage. You are only as old as you feel is very true. Your attitude about aging has a very noticeable impact on your overall health. The way we think about ourselves and talk about and write about the aging may have a direct.

[00:08:14] Effect on health. See, everyone will grow older. And if you have negative attitudes towards aging, I think that will carry throughout your life. That can have detrimental and measurable effect on your mental, physical, and cognitive health.

Colin Milner: [00:08:29] I think it is slowly changing because there’s a lot more of us, but I still think, you know, in general, what we have is we have a culture that looks at older people as a burden.

[00:08:41] We have a culture that looks at older people as not contributing to society, a culture that looks at older people is frail and it requires caregiving. And the reality is the opposite. Only about 20% of the population needs assistance with a variety of different. Health issues that impact their ability.

[00:09:06] So most of us are doing just fine. Many older adults are still in the workforce contributing whether it is through care, giving a loved ones or of their grandchildren. That’s an economic impact. Whether we realize it or not, they are paying taxes like everybody else, many are going back to school. So I think our thinking of growing older needs to change, what does it mean?

[00:09:35] You know, Sarah Harper of Oxford university in the UK says that we need to rethink the way we define old because old really is when you are frail and you are close to death, the rest of it is. A process of being an active adult,

Hanh Brown: [00:09:54] absolutely. Being an active adult means that you are continuing to thrive, engage in, develop yourself, you know, one way is through exercise.

[00:10:04] It allows you to be socially engaged. It improves your mood, your strength and mobility and mental capacity. To me, exercise can help improve all aspects of your life, including cognitive functioning, physical strength, and social interaction.

Colin Milner: [00:10:19] You have a new life stage of being a part of active adult. And the question is, what do you do with that life stage?

[00:10:26] We have this extended time that we’ve all talked about for a long time. Yeah. If you have your additional 30 years plus of extended lives that we’ve gained since the turn of the 19 hundreds question is how do we earn our health span to then be able to live the life that we would like to live?

Hanh Brown: [00:10:46] That’s a crucial component, determining how you want to plan out to live the later third or fourth part of your lives.

[00:10:55] And that’s a big deal. Work with what you have with your current capacity and continue to thrive.

Colin Milner: [00:11:02] Sure. I mean, that’s one of the reasons why the world health organization has changed the definition of healthy aging from the absence of disease to maintaining our functional abilities, because most of us nowadays are living and thriving with some form of condition.

[00:11:19] Almost everyone over the age of 65 has at least one chronic health issue. So those issues aren’t preventing most people from doing the things that they want to do. What will prevent you from doing many of the things is if you can’t get up out of your bed, if you can’t get up out of a chair, if you are unable to maintain your functional capacity to move, then your life changes significantly.

Hanh Brown: [00:11:45] So we need to have a functional assessment. These findings will surface issues of functional declined so that you can address them before it declines, further focus on exercise and physical activities. I think that will have a huge impact on your physical, cognitive, and social function. Perhaps consider getting into a strength training program to maintain or improve your overall functional abilities.

[00:12:14] Yup. In a senior living communities, a CCRC, you will see a progression of hell from independent to assisted care.

Colin Milner: [00:12:22] So, you know, I mean the senior living community market is a prime example of the transitions that we go through, especially. Continuing care retirement communities, or they’re now called life plan communities, where many people move in that in an independent state or status.

[00:12:41] And some of them over the period of time, we’ll go from independent, too frail to dependent and then, you know, to palliative care. And then of course, as we all will to another place and that’s just life. Requesting is how do you minimize that time towards the end of life in ill health and live as much of your life in the other parts of the community in independent living or even assisted living because assisted living doesn’t mean that you aren’t able to function.

[00:13:17] It just means that you need assistance with various activities of daily living.

Hanh Brown: [00:13:22] So, what is your take on the attitude towards care versus hospitality? I understand we don’t want to only focus on the issues around the decline of health and its care. We also want to focus on the healthy living and the hospitality of senior living.

[00:13:41] So what is your take on that?

Colin Milner: [00:13:42] It’s changed significantly. When I went into senior living communities and was talking about fitness, they’d run me out of the community because they were afraid it would kill their residents today. Almost every single community has some kind of fitness program within it.

[00:14:02] What we know is based on the research by the international council on active aging, that it between now and 2023, about 59% of senior living communities. This isn’t long-term care. Everything from active adult communities to assisted living, see themselves moving from a share based model with wellness.

[00:14:26] To a wellness based model with care. That’s a huge shift.

Hanh Brown: [00:14:32] That’s very true.

Colin Milner: [00:14:33] So it’s going to be exciting to see what happens there. And the focus really is on helping people to move in. Earlier who were healthier and to maintain their health and wellbeing over a longer period of time, as opposed to just simply being there for someone when they have acute issues towards the very end of their life.

[00:14:56] It’s not saying that that. Service goes away because it’s a vital service. But our goal is that the need for that service is minimized.

Hanh Brown: [00:15:05] Let’s say when someone is in their thirties and forties, someone debts proactive in aspiring to have a brain healthy lifestyle. What do you recommend?

Colin Milner: [00:15:17] You know, it’s funny.

[00:15:18] I sat down with a surgeon general many years ago. I flew out at the very last minute to interview him on dr. Richard Carmona. And he said something to me, that’s always stuck with me. And that was, we want to. Really glamorize all of this, but it comes back to some very simple things. And that is to be healthy, whether it’s your physical health or your mental health, many of the things are the exact same, and that is get exercise.

[00:15:47] You want to make sure you get proper sleep. You want to minimize the amount of alcohol that you have. You want to make sure that you’re not smoking. You want to reduce stress. You want to be with the ones that you love, you want to be socially connected, you know, a lot of the same things that impact our physical health impact, our mental health and our cognitive abilities as well.

[00:16:13] So if you’re doing those for your physical capabilities, you’re going to benefit from. A cognitive standpoint as well.

Hanh Brown: [00:16:22] Absolutely. I love that. What is good for the heart? It’s good for the brain. I think the culture wants to glamorize and make dieting into a style, a trend, a fad, glamorous and sexy and so forth.

[00:16:37] I believe fundamentally, we’re talking about very few key components, which I believe are sleep. Eat properly exercise, engage socially, manage your stress. And of course let’s not forget spiritual.

Colin Milner: [00:16:52] And that’s where part of managing your stress. The question is then how do you do that? Do you use meditation in a connecting yourself to the greater world or being with oneself?

[00:17:06] From a spiritual standpoint is crucial to that. Reducing your stress levels as is the rest of your strategy to reduce that. But I think one of the things that we need is resilience and acceptance,

Hanh Brown: [00:17:19] absolutely resilience, acceptance, and honoring yourself because you got to know that you’re worth to do all of that.

Colin Milner: [00:17:26] very much so.

[00:17:27] And that all comes back to, you know, what’s your purpose? Why am I here? What do I want to do? How am I going to get the most out of my life and what can I contribute to society so that I leave legacy?

Hanh Brown: [00:17:40] Absolutely. The five components that we discussed earlier. So I want to know your take on it. Are those expensive.

[00:17:47] I mean, as far as sleep, eat properly exercise, uh, socially engage, manage your stress, spiritual development. How hard is that to achieve. And you said expensive,

Colin Milner: [00:17:59] you can do all of that with $0, just simply walking in the grass, stopping and meditating that doesn’t cost you a dime. Walking is exercise. That doesn’t cost you a dime.

[00:18:13] You may have to pay for it. Shoes, but hopefully we all have shoes in the first place. And if we don’t then figuring out how to get those becomes a bigger issue, or I think you have a bigger issue than just figuring out the walking. Things like minimizing alcohol, you’re actually saving money as opposed to, so it’s not costing you money.

[00:18:35] You’re saving money. Same with giving up tobacco, the one with nutritious meals. If you stop and think and educate yourself, you can eat nutritiously just as well as you can on a very low budget, as opposed to. What you do with fast foods, as an example, it just takes you to stop think and realize what I put in my mouth is not only going to impact my energy level.

[00:19:04] Now it’s going to impact my health and wellbeing long-term and the long-term costs of that is significant.

Hanh Brown: [00:19:12] Oh, absolutely. The long-term costs of that is huge.

Colin Milner: [00:19:15] Yeah. Anyone can do it. It really comes down to one thing, a desire to do it.

Hanh Brown: [00:19:23] Well, I believe commitment, discipline and desire, uh, are all very important.

[00:19:30] Again, it comes back to how much do you honor yourself? Cause you gotta know that you’re worth it. People generally believe that healthy equals expensive. I personally don’t necessarily believe that one part of the problem is that we confuse healthy with Alder labels that do increase the cost such as organic or gluten-free.

[00:19:52] Unless you have a diagnosed medical condition, you can have nutritious diet without worrying about the extra labels. The key is eat more of the whole foods and fewer of the process.

Colin Milner: [00:20:03] what you need to do is actually just stock think. Create your budget, understand the foods you’re putting in your body, understand what the costs are.

[00:20:14] And also the implications. Most of the times we don’t think of the implication is we have a cheese stuffed pizza versus a Cascadia that maybe is. Chicken and rice.

Hanh Brown: [00:20:28] Yes, it is about being creative and mindful of all the extraneous additives, which I believe they are hollow, meaning it has low nutrients and high fats.

Colin Milner: [00:20:39] Exactly. And that’s where the definition of healthy diet versus unhealthy diet.

Hanh Brown: [00:20:47] Maybe problem isn’t that healthy food is expensive, but that the hyper process sugary salty edited lad and food is so cheap in of course, eating a healthy diet could mean lower healthcare costs later on in life. So maybe a healthy diet is a money saver after all.

Colin Milner: [00:21:06] Absolutely. And I still do each and every day I have the choice of do I go and play pickleball, which is my new found love. And how often do I play four? Or how many hours do I want to play it for? When do I want to play it? Or do I go for a bike ride or do I go for a walk or do I go to the gym? Those are all choices, deliberate choices.

[00:21:29] And it’s a really easy to say no. And I travel a lot. And because of that, you know, a lot of times I am in areas that sometimes you don’t have all of the things that I would love to be doing. And that’s when you have to look at other options, what can you do inside your hotel room? As an example, because you’re in the middle of nowhere in for many people that let’s say, for instance, if I’m living in an area that isn’t ideal, maybe it’s a little dangerous.

[00:22:03] I can still do things by being active in my own apartment. The question that always arises is do you want to be, and if you want to be, then you will find a way if you don’t want to be. The barriers will always pop up quickly.

Hanh Brown: [00:22:24]The same barrier that you impose on yourself or naturalists for your healthy eating habits.

[00:22:30] It’s the same barriers that you impose on many aspects of your life. In other words, if you’re making excuses, it’s not just in your healthy food choices, you’re likely going to be making excuses and many other parts of your life.

Colin Milner: [00:22:45] You know, my mother told me something many years ago and it’s always stuck with me and that is stop whining.

[00:22:52] The world doesn’t want to hear a Wiener. The world wants to hear someone who is living life. We can all whine all day long. All we have to do is listen to the news and it will depress the heck out of you. And we’ll want to whine about it. Wining never gets stuff accomplished. Now a Wiener may say it does because things may change because they complain so much.

[00:23:18] But in life, there is many things that we failed to do simply because we choose not to.

Hanh Brown: [00:23:27] exercising may not start out is fun or motivating. If you keep at it, you’ll reap its benefits. It will improve your body’s functioning in so many ways. You know, it increases your resistance to fatigue. Your muscles are stronger, you become more flexible, more endurance, and I think it will make your daily physical tasks more efficient.

[00:23:52] And you’re likely to be less at risk of injuries, such as lower back problems. And mostly, you know, it will manage your weight and help you get to the weight that you want.

Colin Milner: [00:24:03] Most of us. Aren’t overly excited about exercise. And especially, let’s say for instance, if you go to a gym, let’s just use that as an example.

[00:24:11] So you’d go to the gym and you’re, you’re on a treadmill to nowhere. It just keeps moving and moving, but you feel like you’ve not gone anywhere, but to your point, the simple question is why are you doing this? And if the reason for you doing it is great enough. You’ll do it. And for most of us we use fitness or exercise as a vanity or do it from a vanity aspect instead of a health aspect.

[00:24:41] And I think that that’s where for a lot of people, it falls down because that only stays so long because you’re tired. I’m not going to go. Versus realizing the health impact that it actually has for you. And that’s where for older people, the vanity part. Yes, that’s still there, but the health benefits are what really drives most of them to exercise.

Hanh Brown: [00:25:06] For me when I don’t exercise, my mind gets really sluggish and I get really moody.

Colin Milner: [00:25:11] Yeah. I think most of us are.

Hanh Brown: [00:25:13] So please explain about your services at the international counter and active aging.

Colin Milner: [00:25:19] Sure. You know, the international council on active aging as a member association. We’re in 57 countries. And what we do is we provide education, information, resources, tools to help individuals and organizations who were working with older adults to do a more effective job so that the older adult themselves can is our mission is change the way that they age.

[00:25:47] There’s a whole movement towards aging. Well, now, and the question is what do you, as a professional do to embrace that? And when you do, we’re there to help you do a bang up job.

 Hanh Brown: [00:26:02] So what is your email and website?

Colin Milner: [00:26:04] So the website is And my email is Collin. C O L I N Milner, M I L N E

 Hanh Brown: [00:26:21] What other wisdom on aging? Can you share with us?

Colin Milner: [00:26:24] Well, I think aging is a personal journey and the key is to find out early on, or as early as you can, what you want that journey to look like. There’s nothing worse than at the end of your journey having regrets. So I think if you can establish what that journey is going to look like, and then what you need to do to make that happen.

[00:26:47] So let’s say for instance, if you say, okay, by the age of 80. I would like to have done this. And I would like to be doing this at the age of 80, you work backwards and you figure out what are the steps that are going to be needed to help you move forward to achieve each of those. I think most of us don’t plan our lives and then our lives run out and we go, Oh, something happened here.

Hanh Brown: [00:27:15] Ver true, setting goals to live a healthy lifestyle.

Colin Milner: [00:27:17] My biggest thing would be plan your life. Don’t let it just happen. Plan it, embrace it, get the most out of it because you only come around once. Well, I guess, depending on your beliefs, but most of us believe you only come around once. So make the best of it.

Hanh Brown: [00:27:34] Well, good talking to you, Kalyn and thank you so much.

Colin Milner: [00:27:37] Alrighty. Well, you have a fantastic day and thank you for the opportunity.

Hanh Brown: [00:27:44] Thanks so much for joining us.




Colin Milner’s Links:



International Council On Active Aging:

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