For Americans, life expectancy has been increasing. The fastest-growing segment of the population is the 85-and-older age group. While that sounds wonderful, there are challenges facing aging people.
Despite advances in health care, many older people have chronic, incurable, and progressive diseases. The most widespread health conditions affecting those 65 and older include arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, pneumonia, dementia, and osteoporosis. Accidents, especially falls that result in hip fractures, are also common. These medical issues often result in the need for assistance with activities of daily living.
Older adults are at increased risk of being socially isolated or lonely. They retire from jobs, children move away, friends and spouses pass away. The grief that follows the loss of a spouse can last many years and cause anxiety, illness, and depression.
Fortunately, recent studies suggest that healthy, successful aging is achievable. Many factors, including genetics, the environment and lifestyle choices affect how we age.
Illnesses like diabetes, congestive heart failure, and some forms of dementia can be delayed or even prevented. Even loss of muscle strength is partly preventable. And most importantly, a positive attitude seems to help overcome illness and personal loss.
What are some steps to successful aging?
Adopting and maintaining healthy habits and a positive lifestyle; Avoiding cigarette smoking; Having no more than one alcoholic beverage in a 24-hour period; Exercising regularly with weight-bearing, aerobic, and balance activities; Maintaining a comfortable weight; Getting regular medical checkups; Enjoying hobbies and interests, particularly social activities such as dancing, Tai Chi, card games, etc; Strengthening relationships with family and friends; Engaging in educational activities to challenge the mind; Taking advantage of nearby resources such as community support and local senior centers.