Actively Aging

Actively Aging

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.