WISTER, Andrew V.

Author Tags: Health

As chair of the Department of Gerontology at SFU, Andrew V. Wister wrote Baby Boomer Health Dynamics: How Are We Aging? (UTP, 2005). Citing obesity as 'the new tobacco,' Wister concentrates on smoking, unhealthy exercise, obesity and heavy drinking and speculates on the impact of baby-boomers on the health care system in the next ten to 30 years.

[BCBW 2005] "Health"

Baby Boomer Health Dynamics
Press release (2005)

Today's aging baby boomers are much better behaved, when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle, than their middle-aged counterparts of 25 years ago. But, for one paradoxical reason, they are not aging any better than their forefathers, says Andrew Wister in his new book, Baby Boomer Health Dynamics: How are we Aging?

Wister, an internationally respected gerontologist and chair of Simon Fraser University's gerontology department, says Canadians' Achilles heel is their weight. "Comparing the baby boomers today with persons their age 25 years ago, smoking had declined by half; sedentary and infrequent exercise had dropped by 40 percent, and heavy drinking is down by two-thirds," explains Wister. "But obesity, defined as persons with a body mass index of 30 or higher, has doubled in only 15 years, which has not been offset by only modest improvements in physical activity."

Using several parameters for analyzing population health, such as life experiences and leisure-time physical activity, Wister analyses six national Canadian health surveys (late 1970s to 2001) to unravel the exercise-obesity paradox. "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," reasons Wister. "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."

Baby Boomer Health Dynamics: How are we Aging? concludes that today's boomers may bust society's health budget if they do not reign in their waistlines. "People aged 40 to 60 years now comprise about one third of the Canadian population," notes Wister. "Metaphorically, this pig in the python has the potential to influence society, especially population health and health care, in fundamental ways. The compression of morbidity will be less important in the future than the changing landscape of chronic illness, for example the rise in diabetes, asthma and certain cancers."

The University of Toronto Press published Wister's book, which is available through the SFU Bookstore and various Lower Mainland retailers.