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Improving the state of aging in America

By: Julie Ann Soukoulis
August 31, 2018
Navigating the aging journey

 Do today’s seniors take better care of themselves than a decade ago? What are the indicators and what can older adults do to stay healthy and active today?

Home Instead Senior Care has found that reviews on this issue are mixed. Statistics show that more people now than ever schedule mammograms, colorectal screenings and cholesterol checks, which is good news. The number of people who smoke has dropped as well, which is another promising sign. You hear about more active aging once people retire. We hear of more people “un-retiring” themselves and going into very fulfilling second or third careers.

There are approximately 45 million Americans who are 65 and older. In 2030, when the last baby boomer turns 65, more than 20 percent of the U.S. population will be an older adult. On average, a 65-year old can expect to live another 19 years. For most older adults, good health ensures independence, security and productivity as they age.

But with that said, more than one-third of US deaths remain preventable. Three behaviors—smoking, poor diet and physical inactivity—were the root causes of nearly 35 percent of U.S. deaths in 2000. They are the behaviors that often underlie the development of the nation’s leading chronic disease killers: heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes.

Moreover, “The National Report Card on Healthy Aging,” revealed room for improvement in the areas of oral health, obesity, flu and pneumonia vaccination, fruit and vegetable diets and hip fracture.

And in addition to the individual incentive we all have to stay healthy, from a national standpoint, there are economic incentives to do, as well. The cost to provide health care for older Americans is three to five times greater than it is for someone who’s younger than 65. By 2030, the study projects that the nation’s health care spending will have increased by 25 percent. Proper diet and exercise are plainly two key players in keeping ill health at bay, as are not smoking and staying current with health screenings and vaccinations. Other research indicates that companionship is also a critical component to healthy aging. Having someone to talk to and socialize with makes for a happier and healthier person. 

If the element of elderly companionship is missing from a senior’s day-to-day life, consider contacting Home Instead Senior Care. Our specially trained home care CAREGivers are screened, bonded, insured and perfectly equipped to help seniors continue to live independently. They serve as trusted friends and as companions who can provide help around the house and motivation for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Another recent study reveals that only about a fourth of the variations that determine how long we live can be attributed to genetics. The other three-fourths appear to be associated with risk factors that can be controlled with personal choices. That’s a good incentive to start thinking of the support an aging loved one could need to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

 Q. My 83-year-old father is always joking about the fact that he’s “on his way out,” but he actually comes from a very long-lived family. Our dad is in quite good health for his age and does seem to take care of himself. When he makes comments like that, though, sometimes I think he’s just depressed since my mom died.

Research confirms that longevity does seem to run in families. Studies also indicate that not only are children of centenarians more likely to reach 100 years of age themselves, they are far less likely to suffer from various life-threatening illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, according to The Centenarian.

Family genes tell only part of the story, though. In a study, researchers at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston revealed that only about a fourth of the variations that determine how long we live can be attributed to genetics. The other 75 percent appear to be associated with risk factors we can control.

For example, the study found that lifestyle choices by men in the early elderly years — including weight control, regular exercise and not smoking — go a long way in determining those that will live to reach age 90.

So even if genetics are not in one’s favor, there is much that aging adults can do to protect themselves. If you think your aging loved one may be depressed or needs medical advice, suggest to them to see their doctor.

If loneliness is the issue, why not help your aging loved one to connect with others who could share their life. Help them reconnect with friends and hobbies from earlier days. Join a local active senior center or community center, possibly a mentoring opportunity in your community for retired folks. Possibly volunteer for a cause that he or she feels passionate about. The Rohnert Park Garden Club meets monthly at our Home Instead office. Why not ask your aging loved one what they were once passionate about as a hobby, then google it in their area to find where they can engage in these activities that meet their current abilities?

Home care companions serve as great support to older adults and can assist those who require more hands-on help around the home. CAREGivers also could provide the encouragement aging adults need to eat right and keep exercising and engaging socially. Making the kinds of healthy choices that we can control will help us to live longer.

Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, to educate and encourage aging adults and their family caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’s love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.