In 2011, the first wave of the baby boomer generation celebrated its 65th birthday. Since then, the number of individuals over the age of 65 has reached 46 million and is projected to reach 74 million by 2030. On average, Americans reaching the age of 65 today can expect to live an additional 19 years. In the past decades, the federal government, states, communities, and families have significantly improved from the contributions and experiences of older Americans, but there are also challenges in meeting the needs of the growing population of Americans who are 65 and older. The media coverage of the issues that older adults face has never been greater and we can use this moment to redefine what it means to experience healthy aging in the United States.
What are some common facts about health in seniors?
As people get older, they experience certain physiological changes in their body as a natural part of aging. Physical changes due to aging can occur in almost every organ and affect seniors’ health and lifestyle to some degree. Some diseases and conditions become more prominent in the elderly and psycho-social issues can sometimes play a role in their physical and mental health.
As people grow older, the need for a balanced diet and regular exercise become even more apparent. Numerous studies link them to better health outcomes in seniors and an extended lifespan. A series of routine screening tests and preventive measures are also recommended for the elderly. Important preventive measures at home alongside with proper care can improve the safety and health of seniors.
Geriatrics is the medical sub-specialty dedicated to the care of the elderly. Physicians who specialize in this field are known as geriatricians.
What changes occur in the body as we age?
A number of changes occur in the body to different degrees as we age. These changes are not necessarily indicative of any disease but they can be challenging for the individual. Even though the aging process cannot be stopped or reversed, being aware of these changes and adopting a healthy lifestyle can reduce their impact on overall health.
Many diseases in seniors can be prevented or slowed down with a healthy lifestyle. Osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressures, diabetes, high cholesterol, dementia, depression, and certain cancers are some of the common conditions that can be positively affected in seniors through diet, exercise, and other simple lifestyle changes.
Social issues can have a significant impact on both the physical and mental health of seniors. Some of the major contributors to social and psychological problems for seniors are loneliness and inability to cope with change.
Apart from physiological changes, social components of well-being are as important to healthy aging as physical aspects. With almost 15% of women 65 and older and 10% of men 65 and older exhibiting clinically relevant symptoms of depression. It has been observed that solder adults are at risk for social isolation. In 2015, one out of five men and more than one out of three women 65 and older lived alone in the United States and the likelihood of living alone increases with age.
Increasing older adults’ access to and use of clinical preventive services is part of improving their overall health and well being. As part of the White House Conference on Aging, the CDC launched a free online course offering continuing education credits to physicians, nurses and other health professionals on making falls prevention a routine. This is expected to have a real impact on the care seniors receive in the years to come.
Home and community based services are associated with improved physical and mental health for the elderly. While policies and programs can make healthy options available, personal home care assistants and caregivers need all the information they can find to make health choices for seniors.