Actively Aging

Actively Aging

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Oldsters Soon to Outnumber Youngsters

The world is about to see a mind-blowing demographic situation that will be a first in human history: There are about to be more elderly people than young children.
For some time now, demographers and economists have observed that the proportion of elderly adults around the world is rising, while the proportion of younger children is falling.
But within a few years, just before 2020, adults aged 65 and over will begin to outnumber children under the age of 5 among the global population, according to a chart shared by a Bank of America Merrill Lynch team led by Beijia Ma, citing an earlier report from the US Census Bureau.
To keep reading this article, click here.

Friday, December 30, 2016

We're Living Longer, But Are We Living Better

People are living longer lives than ever before. Some predict that the majority of children born after 2000 will live to age 100 or more. But will our longer lives be better lives? Are we, as individuals and society, preparing to live our longer lives well? And is the opportunity to live a longer, better life equally available to everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, or income?
Not yet. Our work lives, our social programs, and our individual choices reflect demographic patterns of half a century ago—a time when the average life span was much shorter than it is now. 
It's time to evolve. 
To keep reading this article, click here.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

What Happens When We All Start Living to 100?

For millennia, if not for eons—anthropology continuously pushes backward the time of human origin—life expectancy was short. The few people who grew old were assumed, because of their years, to have won the favor of the gods. The typical person was fortunate to reach 40.

Beginning in the 19th century, that slowly changed. 

Since 1840, life expectancy at birth has risen about three months with each passing year. In 1840, life expectancy at birth in Sweden, a much-studied nation owing to its record-keeping, was 45 years for women; today it’s 83 years. The United States displays roughly the same trend. 

When the 20th century began, life expectancy at birth in America was 47 years; now newborns are expected to live 79 years. If about three months continue to be added with each passing year, by the middle of this century, American life expectancy at birth will be 88 years. 

By the end of the century, it will be 100 years.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Silver Tsunami: Can Our World Sustain 9 Billion People by 2050?

The world’s population is topsy-turvy, and its exponential and uneven growth could have disastrous consequences if we aren’t ready for it.
 Humanity recently hit a benchmark, a population of 7.9 billion in 2013. It is expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, and 9.6 billion by 2050. If that weren’t enough, consider 11.2 billion in 2100.
 Most of the growth is supposed to come from nine specific countries: India, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria, the United States, and Indonesia.  
It isn’t fertility that is driving growth, but rather longer lifespans
To continue reading this article, click here.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Stages of Living

That greatest of all playwrights William Shakespeare wrote in As You Like It:

ALL the world ’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His Acts being seven ages. At first the Infant,        5
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining School-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the Lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woful ballad        10
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a Soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard;
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the Justice,        15
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances,—
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered Pantaloon,        20
With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,        25
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness, and mere oblivion,—
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

In the 20th Century, while those sub-stages still existed, most people in the Western world recognized a 3-stage, fixed existence. These were:
  1. education
  2. work and family
  3. retirement
Bu as the 21st Century arrived, with men and women both living much longer than ever before in history, experts began to realize the need to rewrite the social script that had worked during the Industrial Age.

Most observed that the outdated, 3-stage, chronological life course model had two major flaws.

First, it had created a highly age-segregated society, in which each phase of life was associated with a particular task. The young study, the middle-aged work, and the old rest or volunteer. Not only did that mean that generations had little interaction with one another fostering misunderstanding and unease, but it was difficult for anyone of any age to find a holistic balance between family, work, community, and educational opportunities.

Secondly, this old life script had way to much action in the first 2 stages and not nearly enough in the 3rd stage.

In Senior Moments, we'll be exploring several new alternatives to our life cycle that will better capture the realities of contemporary society.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Rise of the 100s

How old is old?

Well, I think most people agree that if you live to be 100 you are old.

But that could be changing in the future.

The U.S. Census Bureau is anticipating that there will be at least 1 million centenarians living by 2050. Why heck, if I'm still living then I would be knocking on the door at 98.

That estimate has many scientists debating the idea of maximum life span potential.

"Maximum life span potential means how long humans could live if all environmental influences were optimal and accidental causes of death were avoided. In other words, the only thing on your death certificate would be old age," says Laura Carstensen, author of A Bright, Long Future and founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity.

Currently, that age is 125. But there is great debate about if it can be extended. Jean Louise Calment, a French woman, is the oldest documented living person in recorded history. She died at 122.

The life span question is also the focus of a famous bet on aging.

In January of 2001, two scientists each contributed $150 to a trust fund, which is anticipated to be worth $500 million when their bets end in 2150. Their game: Predict what the world record for longest life will be by 2150. One bet on 130 and the other on 150.

So what happens if the betters aren't around to collect the winnings themselves? The agreement they made stipulates that the jackpot would then be paid to the heirs of the winner.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

What Is Aging?

Aging begins the day we are born and continues until the day we die. However, many people think of aging as a synonym for our later years as in the phrase old age.

Scientifically, aging is a biological occurs process that occurs in cells throughout the body. Many scientists believe that aging is the product of an accumulation of damage caused by normal wear and tear on cells. Under that way of thinking, the longer you live the more cellular damage occurs.

But that is being reexamined.

As Laura Carstensen says in her book A Long Bright Future, "If our bodies were cars, you could say that now we're driving them long after the factory warranties have expired. No other generation has kept their parts in service this long before, and little is known how they'll perform once they've had 80 or 90 yearsto accrue engine buildup."

"In a way, we've overshot evolution," Carstensen says.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Longevity is Here, But It Isn't Yet Equal Around the World.

Currently, for the first time in history, old age is no longer going to be the exception, but the rule.

However, unless changes are made, longevity will not occur equally around the world.

In fact, the current divergence of life expectancy between developed and developing countries is astounding.

For example, life expectancy in Japan is currently 79 for men and 86 for women. Fewer than 1 percent of Japanese children die before age 5.

However, in Sierra Leone, life expectancy is 29 years for men and 42 years for women. In that African country, nearly 27 percent of children die before they reach age 5.

So what accounts for such drastic differences? There are 4 main culprits. They are:
  1. lack of health care 
  2. underdeveloped infrastructures to purify water and food
  3. high rates of complications during pregnancy and birth
  4. the spread of HIV/AIDS and other deadly infectious diseases.
The good news is we have the science and knowledge to change that. The questions is whether we have the political will to spend the money it will take.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Where Clinton, Trump Stand on Older Adult Issues

There are only four weeks left until America chooses its next president—Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump. 

Where do the two major party candidates stand on issues of concern to older adults and the aging network? 

Here's a breakdown from the NCOA (National Council on Aging)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Fact or Myth: Growing Old Is Equal for Everyone

Those who will be turning 65 in the next 20 or 30 years will have an advantage no generation in human history has ever had - strength in numbers.

However, it appears as if we may seeing the beginning of 2 old ages emerging - One is for the affluent and healthy and the other is for the poor an disabled.

Being poor not only reduces the quality of life; it reduces the amount of years you can expect to live.

The life expectancy between the most affluent and the least affluent has almost doubled in the past 20 years, from 2.8 years at the turn of the century to 4.5 years today.

For example, affluent white women on average live 14 years longer than poor black men in America.

So in the coming years, not only will we have to adjust our society for an aging population, we will have to work to make sure that aging can be done with as much equality as possible.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Fact or Myth: Older People Drain Our Resources

There is no question that longevity is growing. The global population of older people is expected to triple by 2050, when 1.5 billion people will be over the age of 65.

Some doomsayers have predicted that this aging tsunami will drain the planet of our natural resources. But other experts have said this won't be the case.

Those optimistic experts admit that population growth will be a problem but people actually living longer isn't the problem.  Since most of the population growth will be in currently under-developed areas of Africa, parts of Asia, and the Middle East, the true issue is that this new gift of longevity is unequally distributed around the world.

Obviously, there will be a need to focus and change in these under-developed parts of the world, but that can be accomplished.

In the more developed western world the scarcity myth is driven by two opposite scenarios. In the first, older people will take up space while consuming resources that should be shared by everyone younger. The flip side is that older people will be too productive, that is they will refuse to retire and keep younger people from getting the jobs they need to survive.

However neither of these scenarios need to become the reality. For example, supplemental programs of assistance such as Social Security and Medicare can be revised in light of the new longevity. Studies are indicating that having people work longer is not only beneficial to their sense of meaning, but also provides a boost to the economy. An aging population will also increase the need for expanded services such as health care.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Fact or Myth: Everyone Should Retire By 65

For more than a Century now, most people have expected to be retired by age 65. However, very few people know why 65 is considered the standard retirement age.

Actually, the idea of a set-age retirement comes from Germany in the 1880s and was prompted by fears that Marxist, Socialist, and Communist ideas would take over the country. Chancellor Otto von Bismarck proposed a first-of-its-kind social insurance program where the government would pay older workers after they left the work force.

At first, the age was set at 70. It was changed a few later to 65. At the time both ages were shrewd choices since life and work were hard and few people lived past age 75.

In the 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt imported the idea to the United States. At that time, American life expectancy was drastically less than today, so government officials were rightly convinced that the system could be easily financially maintained.

However, today, with advances in health care, we are beginning to see more and more citizens living into their 90s and 100s, meaning those who retire at 55 or even 65 can be living on 4 or even 5 decades of savings, pensions, and/or Social Security benefits.

Obviously, this had led to a questioning of whether the current system as designed is sustainable. The answer is that is isn't unless changes are made. Also, new studies are showing that older people need meaning in their lives that some can best obtain through working longer, even if that work is on a flex-time, part-time, or volunteering basis.

According to released results, 88 percent of Americans ages 65 to 75 are healthy enough for modern work, which, for the most part, is far less strenuous than work in the past. In fact, those same studies show that 60 percent of people over age 85 don't suffer health problems that would prohibit them for continuing a reduced work load.

But with healthy longevity increasing, retirement is the only stage of life that has been elongated.

But you can expect this to be changing.

Experts on aging say that redesigning a better end-of-work-life scenario is one of the crucial challenges facing modern nations in the new few decades.

"Our old age will be different from our parents' and our  grandparents'. In fact, its' not going to be like anything American society has even seen before," says Laura Carstensen, the founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. "With a little creativity, we could could craft work lives that are far more satisfying and less conflicted than the ones we have today."

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Fact or Myth: Your DNA Is Your Destiny

While the DNA you inherited from your ancestors does play a role in how long you will live, scientists currently believe that your longevity largely hinges on 7 lifestyle choices. They are:
  • not smoking
  • not abusing alcohol and/or drugs
  • getting regular exercise
  • maintaining your weight 
  • having a stable marriage or relationship
  • having a good education and continuing to learn new things
  • developing successful coping mechanisms for dealing with life's problems
How do you rate yourself on these lifestyle choices?

Monday, September 12, 2016

When It Comes to Aging, Don't Drop the Soap

They told me one day I would feel old, but I just refused to believe them.

Age 30. Then 40 - 50 - 60, now 64. Nope, not old.

Grey hair. White hair. Thinning hair. Definitely more hair in my ears and my nose than on the growing bald spot on the back of my head. Still didn't feel old. Besides, that's what small scissors are for.

An expanding stomach. Creaking bones. Getting up at night to pee. Still no significant difference. 

Hey, I thought, maybe I'm impervious to aging and its supposed ravagings. 

But then today all that changed.

I had to face the fact that maybe I really am old.

What happened, you ask? 

Well, I still use bar soap. 

And, according to research from the market firm Mintel that was reported today, younger adults think a dispenser of liquid soap is easier to use, less messy (no slimy soap dish to clean) and more hygienic. 

Not only are they thinking that, they're showing their anti-soap-bar feelings as consumers.

Bar soap sales are down 2.2 percent from 2014 to 2015, even though overall sales for soap, bath and shower products increased by nearly 3 percent during the same period. 

Usage of bar soap is also slipping and sliding, with the percentage of households using the traditional bar dropping from 89 percent to 84 percent between 2010 and 2015.

And the generational and gender findings were clear. 

Older men made up the only group clinging to their bars of soap. Women and younger body washers of both sexes were abandoning their old bars for new fancy plastic bottles of liquid soap.

The study reported that while 60 percent of those age 65-plus were happy to keep using bar soap to wash their face, hands, and other body parts, just 33 percent of those ages 25 to 34 were still grabbing the bar.  

It also showed that men are also more willing to use bar soap than women. The survey found that 53 percent of men were willing to wash their face with bar soap, compared with 36 percent of women.
I heard all this disturbing news while I was listening to Sirius XM in my car (and yes, I admit the report was on the Classic Vinyl oldies rock channel). Shaken, I rushed home to my apartment to check out the veracity of the findings on my computer.
The internet did supply more detail. For example, the younger people were using the liquid soap because they were convinced that it had fewer germs in it.
But soon I found a buried paragraph that showed I didn't really have to abandon my green Irish Spring Soap - the only soap for really virile, really manly men.
An epidemiologist told The Huffington Post (and, since one of my former students Kate Sheppard is a staff reporter there, I know the HP would never print a falsehood) that while germs likely do live in the damp “slime” of bar soap, they’re unlikely to make you sick.
And, my new favorite scientist added, rinsing the soap under running water before lathering with it should solve any problems.  
Immediately, my first aging fears melted like a tiny bar of my beloved Irish Spring left too long in a running shower. Not only was I not old, I was still smarter than those young whippersnappers with their dubious soap safety claims.
Liquid soap was like arranged playdates and bone-marrow appetizers. There was no need for any of it.
But as I stood up, feeling much more erect and youthful than I had just minutes ago, I did make one vow. 
In case any of those sneaky, germ-phobic young people were planning to take away my soap, they would have to pry it from my spotted, wrinkly hands as I stood naked in my shower.
And trust me, that's a sight no one under 60 (and few above it) would ever want to see.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Fact or Myth? Older People Are Miserable

Of course, no large group of people can accurately be reduced to a stereotype. Any time you are talking about such a group and you use words like all or none chances are extremely high that you will be wrong.

This holds especially true when you are talking about older people. Over the centuries, an idea has sprung up that people who reach a great number of years on the planet get crotchety, unhappy, sad, and lonely.

The misery myth is a firmly held belief by many. Part of that idea might have arisen because prior to the middle of the 20th Century life was much harder, and those few that survived into their later years were worn down by the daily struggles for existence.

Today, however, study after study is showing that the truth is actually the opposite of the myth - in terms of emotions, older people are actually experiencing their best days in later life.

Here are some important findings in what is being termed the Paradox of Aging:
  • mental health generally improves with age. Older people as a group suffer less from anxiety and depression than their younger counterparts.
  • older people experience fewer negative emotions than people in their 20s and 30s.
  • when negative feelings do arise, older people don't linger on them the way most younger people do. 
  • as we get into our senior years, our perspective changes and we begin to alter our evaluation what is worth our time, attention, worry, and wrath and simple pleasures expand in importance
  • while older people do narrow their social circle to just their most valued friends and family, this reduction makes them say they are more satisfied with their relationships.
  • older couples report they argue less, either because they have resolved their most troubling differences or learned to work around them.
  • grandparenting, which combines many of the joys of being around children you love without the responsibility for their constan care, is another source of satisfaction often cited.
  • older people worry less about what others think about them and instead are more selective about whose opinions really matter to them.
In her 30 years of studying aging, psychologist Laura Carstenstein, director of the Stanford Center on Longevitiy, says these positives mirror her findings.

"That is not to say that old age is an epoch of unrelenting warmth and good cheer. it has its share of hardships and disappointments," Carstestein says in her book A Long Bright Future. "It's just by the time people get to their later years, they're more attuned to the sweetness of life than to its bitterness."

Friday, August 26, 2016

Could Reading Be the Secret To a Longer Life?

This article 1st appeared in Sixty and Me.

Remember when teachers told you reading was good for you? They were right. And now reading is even associated with living longer. Researchers at the Yale University School of Public Health have discovered that book readers have a “significant survival advantage” over those who don’t read books.
The findings of the Yale study are now appearing in Social Science and Medicine. They how that people over 50 who read up to three-and-a-half hours a week were 17 percent less likely to die over the 12 years of follow-up. Those who read more than that were 23 percent less likely to die than non-readers.
Of course, even the most avid readers are sometimes at a loss to know what to read next. And readers who are just getting started with intensive reading need to know where to begin.
So with those issues in mind, here is a list of 12 ways to select books or of varying what you are reading.

Pick a different theme for each month and then read books based on that theme

Your theme could be as serious as a literary look at the nature of good and evil or as frivolous as books with brown, orange, and yellow covers (for the Fall season).

Pick a new genre that you’ve never read

I was never a reader of mystery books until the 90s when I saw a list of mystery books that then-President Bill Clinton was reading. Today some of those authors like George Pelecanos, Michael Connelly and James Lee Burke are among my favorite writers.

Pick an author and then read his or her entire catalog

My friend Eddie Supernavage has been doing that for years and has completed all the works of authors as diverse as Soren Kierkegaard and John Gardner.

Pick up books on a topic you’ve always wanted to learn about

Select books on a problem you are interested in and become an autodidact. I’m doing that right now with my research on aging and the Baby Boom generation. My wife is specializing in memoirs of women in Muslim, Asian, or African cultures.

Try A to Z reading

Pick a category of books, such as biography. Head to your local library. Start going down the rows, selecting the first couple of books that appeal to you about people whose names begin with A.

Check out book review sites

Reading websites such as Amazon or Goodreads offer you suggestions for new books to read.

Try a Smorgasbord Book Night

Have a group of friends over for tea (or something stronger) and a bit of tasty talk about reading. Have each friend bring a book that they have covered to disguise its title. Put all the books in a basket. Each person then takes a book home, reads it, and tells about it at your next session.

Take a look at book lists

Check out Nobel Prize Winners or The 100 Best Books Ever. Select titles from the list you’ve never read.

Talk to book experts

Head to your local library or your local bookstore. Staff there will be glad to work with you to come up with interesting recommendations.

Choose a good book that will lead you to another

Purchase a book that will show you how one good book can lead to another. I have used bothThe Prentice Hall Good Reading Guide and The Lifetime Reading Plan for years.

Find a book fair in your area, look at the titles there

Of course, you can buy the books, but if you want a cheaper option either jot down titles that intrigue you or take a picture of the cover with your smart phone and then borrow the books from the library.

Use current events to widen your reading

Right now, the most intriguing election in my lifetime is underway in America. That event suggests many reading choices. For example, you could read about politics, or presidents, or past elections, or ceiling-shattering women or business tycoons.
Of course, no reading list is ever exhaustive. Do you have any other good ways to help readers choose books? Have you used any of the ways on this list? What books are you reading at the moment?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

You're Not Over the Hill Until You Start Believing You're Over the Hill

This article 1st appeared in Sixty and Me

How old is really old?
Apparently, the answer depends on the age of the person responding to the question.
Intuitively, this makes sense. Take a moment and think back to when you were 15. How did you view a person who was 20? Now return to your current mindset. How do you view a person who is 5 years older than you today?

What About Age Stereotypes?

Approximately 30 percent of those surveyed admitted to having made assumptions about people based solely on their age.
When it came to describing aging stereotypes, the most common generalizations focused on an older person’s poor driving ability, physical slowness, and stubborn view on things.
Younger people were most often accused of being too dependent on modern technology, appearing self-centered, and wanting everything immediately without earning it.
Despite beliefs to the contrary, for the most part, all age groups didn’t see themselves treated inappropriately or disrespectfully based on their age.
Interestingly the youngest respondents felt most victimized by age discrimination. The breakdown for experiencing perceived inappropriate treatment were Millennials, 17%; GenXers, 7%; and Baby Boomers, 13%.

How Are We All the Same Regardless of Age?

In the research, there were several beliefs and priorities that all the generational respondents agreed on. This included continuing to learn new skills regularly and feeling that aging is about living, not dying. All ages agreed that both experience and wisdom come with age.
They all claimed that the biggest limitations due to aging centered around physical abilities, fashion choices, and the ability to find a job. Thinking people are more likely to lie about their weight or their income than age.

Finally, There is That Great Equalizer

Not surprisingly, that would be sex.
While respondents in all age groups claimed they were engaging in sex several times a month, the vast majority would prefer to have it more often than they were.
Guess it all just goes to show that there is equality when it comes to what happens behind closed doors and drawn curtains. No matter what age we are, we’re more alike than we are different. Or at least that’s what we want people to think.
What age do you consider “old?” Do you agree that being considered “over the hill” is really a mindset that changes with age? Did you find it interesting that Boomers felt less inappropriate treatment based on age than Millennials?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Welcome to the New Old Age

If you look around you can see it. There are a lot more older people than there used to be.

Demographics support that view. Longevity is indeed increasing.

For most all of human history, life expectancy was about 20. But with slow advances, by the beginning of the 20th Century, it had doubled to 40. Now, just 116 years later - actually a blink of an eye in evolutionary terms - it is approaching 80.

Today, there are more than 50,000 centenarians in the United States. That's approximately 3 times as many as there were in 1999.

And, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of women and men over 100 years of age will likely exceed 1 million by 2050. A few experts are convinced that one-half of the baby girls born in 2015 will live for at least a century.

While at 64, I still have 3+ decades to hit 100, I have witnessed that longevity in my own times. When I retired from teaching in 2011, the state of New Jersey was paying pensions to 9 former teachers over the age of 100.

So what does this mean?

Well, first it is obvious we will have to get rid of a lot of our former ideas and preconceptions of what it means to be old. Many of the institutions we operated in the 20th Century - family, education, work, financial markets, housing - will all need to be drastically altered.

There is no guidebook for this. It is an unprecedented first.

But barring unforeseen cataclysmic events, longer lives looks to become the norm, not the outlier.

One of the main reasons for this blog is to explore how to best take advantage of what Ph. D psychologist and founder of the Stanford Center on Longevity Laura Carstensen calls "the fabulous gift of our super-sized lives."

Following the innovative, groundbreaking work of Dr. Carstensen and a host of other experts in the aging fields, I'm sure we will discover much as we explore this Brave New World of Aging.

I hope you'll hang around for the whole journey and encourage others to join us.