Looking forward to old age

August 26, 2010 by  
Filed under AGING

Is there something positive about aging? We have previously tackled the topic of aging being considered a disease to be dreaded that needs treatment. In our current society, youth is revered and staying young as long as possible is the goal of many. But there are some upsides to being old. According to Stanford University researcher Laura Carstensen, there are so many things that older people can do better. They may not be up to running a marathon or taking on the catwalk but they are much, much better in “regulating their feelings and working on their social relationships” than the younger generation. This is despite age-related lapses like mild memory loss and cognitive impairment.

“It seems that wisdom, or being able to solve practical problems of everyday living, improves. So a lot of what we think of as being smart in life involve processes that get better with age, not worse.”

says Dr. Carstensen in a lecture at the National Institutes of Health.

In fact, the escapades and tragedies of young celebrities (Lindsay Lohan, Brittany Murphy, and Tiger Woods) may occupy the headlines but there are those who have survived and transcended the wildness of their youth to become wise. Sir Sean Connery turned 80 this week and Clint Eastwood is still directing The wild rockers of the 60s have mellowed down but still jamming and rocking in their 60s and 70s are Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Mick Jagger and their fans of similar age still rave about them (see NYT article Turn 70. Act Your Grandchild’s Age). But are these guys the exception rather than the rule?

“[The 80s is] …now seen as an active time of life: you’re just past retirement, that’s your time to explore and play mentally”

Experts are concerned that these stories of still active and kicking septuagenarians may give a false picture of old age. They say there the risk “that in celebrating the remarkable stories, we make those not playing Radio City, and certainly those suffering the diseases that often accompany old age, feel inadequate.”

Mindset is important in aging.

One mindset, according to Anne Basting, the director of the Center on Age and Community at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee:

“[The 80s is] …now seen as an active time of life: you’re just past retirement, that’s your time to explore and play mentally

The flipside is, according to S. Jay Olshansky, a demographer at the University of Illinois at Chicago:

“There will be an increase in frailty and disability because people are living longer…[ increased risk of stroke and Alzheimer’s] “is going to be the price they pay for extended longevity.”

Your choice?

I’d say, let us be pragmatic and take all these with a grain of salt. I remember a couple of years back when England’s queen mother turned 100, my husband’s grandma commented: “If she had cleaned all the windows in her house all by herself, she wouldn’t have lived this long.” Well, our beloved grandma will be celebrating her 90th birthday in a couple of weeks and she is still cleaning her windows all by herself.

Life expectancy figures

November 18, 2009 by  
Filed under AGING

birthday_cakeLife expectancy is better than ever, at least in developed countries, according to the most recent statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) from 2007

Japan tops the list in terms of life expectancy at birth with 79 years for men, 86 years for women, and an overall life expectancy of 83 years in 2007. Not far behind are Italy, Switzerland and San Marino with an overall life expectancy of 82 years. Below is a list of countries whose population is expected live up to 80 or older:

  • Japan – 83 years
  • Andorra, Australia, Italy, Iceland, Switzerland and San Marino – 82 years
  • Canada, France, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and Israel – 81 years
  • Cyprus, Belgium, Austria, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Malta – 80 years

The United States did not make it to the top 25, with a life expectancy at birth of 78 years.

On the other end of the spectrum are the following countries:

  • Sierra Leone – 41 years
  • Afghanistan – 42 years
  • Lesotho and Zimbabwe – 45 years
  • Chad and Zambia – 46 years
  • Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Uganda –  48 years
  • Burkina Faso, Burundi, Mali, and Nigeria – 49 years

The two lists above clearly show that life expectancy is highest in highly developed countries. A person born in Japan is most likely going to live twice as long as somebody born in Sierra Leone. Another trend to be seen in the figures is that life expectancy is increasing in high income countries but not in the low income countries.

German and Danish researchers report that 75% of children born in those countries with high life expectancy (e.g. 80+ years) will live up to the age of 75 if the health conditions stay as it is now. If health conditions improve and life expectancy continues to rise, children born since 2000 in rich countries can live up to 100.

This means that in rich countries, despite problems with obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic illnesses, people are living longer.

So why are people in rich countries living longer? The answer lies in better health care and advances in medical treatments.

This may sound great, especially for us who live in rich countries because it seems like we are finally winning the battle against aging and diseases. However, there are some downsides to this good news.

 According to the study authors:

“Increasing numbers of people at old and very old ages will pose major challenges for health-care systems. Present evidence, however, suggests that people are not only living longer than they did previously, but also they are living longer with less disability and fewer functional limitations.”

According to Richard Suzman, an aging expert at the U.S. National Institute on Aging:

“We are within five to 10 years of a watershed event where there will be more people on Earth over 65 than there under five. Those extra years need to be financed somehow and we need to start thinking about it now.”

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Arthritis, Growing Old and Knee Buckling

October 18, 2007 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

Knee buckling or the sudden “giving away” of the knee is common in older people, particularly in people with severe knee arthritis or after knee surgery.

It has actually became some sort of a joke that if your knee is already buckling that that is a sign of getting old.

Which may actually be true because the condition has been found to exist in the older population even if they don’t have sever knee arthritis of didn’t have knee surgery.

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine conducted a study in order to identify the factors associated with knee buckling and found the following:

  • the condition occurred just as often among men and women
  • the condition was more common amongst middle-age and older persons

The researchers recruited 2,351 community-dwelling adults, 36 to 94 years of age who had participated in 2 other population-based studies conducted in Framingham, Massachusetts.

None of the participants had rheumatoid arthritis or had undergone knee replacement surgery.

The team questioned the participants about knee buckling in the past 3 months, knee pain and stiffness in the past month and physical function activities related to lower limbs, such as climbing stairs.

They measured the strength of thigh muscles and also took knee x-rays to check for osteoarthritis and sometimes did magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

They then analysed the data and found that 278 (12%) adults reported at least 1 episode of buckling in the past 3 months; of these, 13% fell during the episode.

The conditions such as knee pain, quadriceps weakness, radiographic osteoarthritis, and limitations of physical function have been found more common among patients with knee buckling than those without knee buckling.

BUT, more than half of those with buckling had no osteoarthritis – making knee buckling not just associated with osteoarthritis.

So knee buckling may just be associated with aging- thereby making climbing of the stairs difficult to the middle-aged and older adults.

Findings of the above study have been reported in an article appearing in the 6th October 2007 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

What exactly does middle-age mean these days? 30s? 40s? Considering that if the average mortality today is age 65 to 75 – mid 30’s is middle age.

So, who said that knee-buckling is a sign of growing old?! 30s isn’t old. Right?

But apparently, you may be in your 30s, but your knee may just buckle. Actually, knee buckling is happening to me but for an entirely different reason.

But that is an totally different story altogether.

SO, how old are you? Does your knee buckle? DO tell.

Source: News-Medical

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.