Perspectives on Aging
According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, by the year 2010, there will be over 40 million people in the United States over the age of 65.1 You or someone you know may fall into this category.
As we age, we need to be aware of the truths and myths about aging. This is also the case for our family members and those healthcare professionals that take care of us. For example, here are some statements that most think are true, but are actually FALSE.
- Memory loss is a normal part of aging.
- Older adults have the highest suicide rate of any age group.2
Therefore, we must be aware of perceptions about growing older. Education is key to changing attitudes and influencing perceptions of aging and older people.
According to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (July 2002), there are certain predictors that can lead to successful aging. They are:
- Regular physical activity
- Social engagement
- Freedom from or effective management of chronic illness
- Feeling of self-worth.
Although everyone may have different views of what “successful aging” is, according to a study by the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging, the best indicator of aging successfully was not physical health, but attitude!
Calls to Action!
In order to address national health issues, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have established initiatives to help reduce behaviors that influence premature death and disability. Some of these are:
- Address health disparities among older adults
- Encourage people to communicate their wishes about end-of-life care
- Encourage physical activity by promoting changes to the physical environment
- Increase screening for colorectal cancer
- Prevent Falls3
Healthy Decisions, Healthy Actions
Finally, did you know that 70% of functional disabilities attributed to the aging process may actually result from our own unhealthy decisions and behaviors?4 In order to stay healthy as we grow older, we must focus our efforts on several health promotion, disease prevention, and risk reduction areas:
- Physical activity
- Tobacco use
By focusing on these key areas, we can grow older in a healthy and happy manner.
Compiled from Dr. Evelyn Fitzwater’s Gero Gems, which is a monthly publication of the Center for Aging with Dignity and is intended to raise awareness of aging and related issues affecting health care and social service professionals, and our society as a whole.
1Population Information, Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics.
2Excerpts from quiz developed by the Center of Aging Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
4 Chronic disease overview, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (1999).
For more information:
Go to the Senior Health health topic.