Living to 100 and Beyond The SeniorScape™
A friend sent me the Sunday April 2, 2023 Boston Globe Article by Raiani Romani entitled: “Want to Live to 150? The World Needs More Humans”
stating that the world has a problem with underpopulation. While I have never approached the topic of living to an advanced age from the underpopulation point of view, I have openly discussed my concerns with
antiaging, reversing aging platforms, advocates and the preponderance of aging research for the purposes of helping us live to advanced ages.
The issue of aging is not singular to the U.S. but rather a global concern. This as evidenced by the fact that the United Nations Open Ended Working Group on Ageing, is now in its 13th year. The upcoming meeting is scheduled to take place April 3-6, in NYC.
My concerns are rooted in my professional experience as a gerontological speech/language pathologist and dementia care specialist for over 40,000 hours in long term care. It’s no secret that the U.S. long-term care industry overall does not to a credible job of providing adequate care, dignity, respect, and quality of life to the millions of people who reside in nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities.
Advances in science and medicine are allowing us to live longer, but not necessarily healthier. Our increasing care needs, underlying conditions/ comorbidities, are a tremendous cost to the American economy. That, among other issues, leads people to say we cannot afford older people, that they will eventually bankrupt our federal coffers. However, beyond the financial cost to the economy, there is also the greater cost if people live in despair, without respect, purpose, or quality of life.
The article rightly states that despite the increase in life expectancy there hasn’t’ been an increase it what it terms the “health” span. While there is a field of medicine dedicated to the health and care of older adults, known as geriatric medicine, aging isn’t characterized as a medical disorder. This fact comes with some disastrous results. As the article states, “people today generally spend half their lifetime in declining health”. The era of the pandemic bore out this fact, where people with comorbidities were more susceptible to dying of the virus.
The article points out that 90 percent of deaths in developed countries are attributed to conditions related to aging: including cancers, heart disease, dementia, and severe infection. By 2029, U.S. will be spending $3 trillion, total half of its annual federal budget, or three times today’s military budget on these conditions. For people ages 65 and above, this includes care related to Alzheimer’s disease and retirement pensions. Looking at it internationally, By the year, 2050 Japan is on course to lose 20M people, yet in Brazil the senior population is expected to triple. It’s also widely known that about 50M Americans, mostly women, are unpaid caretakers for older adults. This equates to approximately $500B annually.
The statistics bear out this statement as well as costs to the economy where 35% of health care spending goes to 8.7% of people with five or more chronic conditions compared to those without them. Spending is almost 2.5 times more for people with only one chronic condition.
Chronic diseases are the leading cause of illness, disability and death in the U.S. and are responsible for the nation’s $4.1 trillion in annual health care costs.
According to research by The American Diabetes Association (ADA)
In March 2018, the total estimated cost of the cases of diagnosed diabetes was $327 billion in 2017 which includes $237 billion in direct medical costs and $90 billion in reduced productivity. According to cdc.gov and yalemedicine.org, 96 M people age 18 and above have prediabetes which leads to type 2 diabetes, 80% of whom are unaware they have the condition. Of adults 65 ad above, 26.4M people account for this number or 48.8% of that age group.
While the article goes into more depth in terms of underpopulation, it raises important points about the number of older people, their needs, and the idea that as the older population increases the younger population may become marginalized. However, the article Extinction ofExperience by George Rogers in the same section, discusses the growing concern that the only windows into the world experienced by children is based on information they get from a screen.
One of my favorite examples of how this does not relate to real time experience is a scene from the film Good Will Hunting. The scene takes place in the Boston Gardens. The character played by Robyn Williams tells the character played by Matt Damon citing with sonnets from Keats and Shakespeare prose, that he knows nothing about the experiences described by those words.
The richness of experiences does the most justice when conveyed and shared by persons who have lived them. Therefore, for me the important and necessary side of the coin about reversing aging, antiaging, etc. is the value we place on older adults. The opportunities they are afforded, the importance they represent to society, and the quality of life and life with purpose they experience.
There is a larger ethical question to addressing the question of reversing aging or the prospect of living longer. That is, while we may love the older adults amongst our family and friends, as a society if we do not value older adults, if they continue to be marginalized, disenfranchised, undervalued, segregated, and disregarded, what is the point of them living longer. Therefore, if we are to increase life expectancy, we must also consider the degree to which we value, offer quality of life, quality of care and life with purpose.
Additionally, if indeed we are to live longer, it seems best practice to embrace strategies to live as healthfully as we possibly can. I actually see it as a moral imperative and, I dare say, even a civic responsibility. I call this developing a Wellness Action Plan or Longevity Care Plan and is based on the IMpathy® Project.
To find out more about how you can develop your IMpathy® Wellness Action Plan or Longevity Care Plan email;