By J. Manuel Cordova, M. D.
Later Years: “The Great Gold Time “
After Age 65, the more wonderful and miracle era approaches us. Although the older adult sometimes experiences physical, mental, or psychosocial losses, continued growth and creative expression mark the lives of many elderly people. They are signs of healthful aging elderly. Older adults are taking college courses and are involved in Elderhostel. They make contributions through tutoring, teaching, counseling, and advocating for political and social action.
Some experts believe that there is a creative peak at age 65. Sometimes older adults just need someone to encourage them to pursue latent interests or rediscover forgotten talents or capacities that were set a side when family and job occupied much of the day. Increased knowledge of resources available within the community will sometimes stimulate interests and encourage new avenues of self-expression.
The aging process begins the moment you are born, and never ceases; daily you are aging, all around this life is in aging process, objects (metal, wood…) By age 65, however, people vary a great deal in how old their bodies appear and how much they have changed. There are 60–year-olds who look like 45-year-olds and 60-year-olds who look like 75-year-olds. These differences occur because people differ greatly in their genetic makeup, in their health history and their environments, including personal nutritional and exercise habits customs and patterns of sleep and stress.
It is not possible to predict with precision what will happen to you in your 60s, 70s and 80s because you are different from your wife, your parents, your neighbors, and everyone else. However, we can develop a description of the typical human lifespan by examining statistics concerning older people.
Aging is a mystery, in the sense that cancer, heredity, development, and infection were once mysteries, and cognition still is; a process so poorly understood that we cannot yet be sure how to go about seeking an explanation.
The impact of aging on health and well-being dwarfs any single category of illness, because aging is itself the principal risk factor for most important diseases of a later life.
I will try to talk about statistics and certain physical changes that are to be expected during aging process with a brief overview of what is now known, or suspected, about the basic biological processes of aging: what aging is, what aging does, why aging occurs at all (from an evolutionary perspective), and what a general biochemical perspective seem likely to contribute to age associated decline. Finally, we take a look at independence status and consider how it can be maintained for maximal health of mind and body.
Our life-expectancy is changing. Many years ago, people did not live through what we call the middle years (40-65), let alone beyond age 65. Disease was rampant, medicine was primitive, and nutrition was poor. A women born in 1842 could expect to live to age 42; for a man born the same year, the life expectancy was 41 years old. A woman born today can expect about 78 years of life, and a man about 73. This difference seems to be due to a combination of biologic, genetic, and environmental factors that are still not fully understood. In the United States each day, about 5,000 people reach age 65 and about 3,600 people age 65 or older die. The net increase of 1,400 people a day is changing the makeup of that society. In the USA, little more than 26 million people are now age 65 or older.
(To be continued)