Old age - it happens
The physician writer, Atul Gawande, has written a great article on how we age in The New Yorker. Let's face it, we are all going in the same direction..every one of us! Here are a few tidbits from Dr. Gawande's article:
* The average life span in developed countries is 80 years. (At the time of the Roman Empire, the life expectancy was 28 years!)
* Only six percent of longevity is inherited from your parents. By contrast, up to 90% of how tall you are is explained by your parents' height.
* By the age of 50, half of the average person's hairs have turned gray. This happens because the stem-cell reservoir that replaces the scalp's pigment cells gets used up.
* The amount of light reaching the retina of a healthy 60 year old is one third that of a 20 year old.
* There is no single, common cellular mechanism to the aging process. The process is gradual and unrelenting.
* In 1950 people over 80 were 1% of the U.S. population. In 30 years, there will be as many people over eighty as there are under 5.
* People are putting aside less in savings for old age now than they have since the Great Depression.
* The risk of a fatal car crash with a driver who is 85 or older is more than three times higher than with a teenage driver.
* The biggest health risk for elderly people is falls. The three primary risk factors for falling are poor balance, taking more than 4 prescription meds and muscle weakness.
* The U.S. is not prepared for an aging population. We look for new medical gizmos (joints, stents,pacemakers, pet scans, organs)to feed our fantasy that we can be ageless. Medicare, the insurer for the elderly, does not cover the cost of geriatrics and scores of medical centers across the country have shrunk or closed their geriatrics units.
* Applications to medical training programs in adult primary care medicine and geriatrics are plummeting.
Gee, as I read these facts, I must admit it looks rather depressing. The good news is we are living longer and healthier. Even with the unrelenting aging process, the majority of senior citizens are active, involved, and some, like in the video, are proudly singing that great "Who" song My Generation