Two major studies about aging dominated the headlines this week presenting drastically opposing views on what old age has to offer — years of painful suffering or increased wellbeing and happiness?
The answer is both and, ironically, they are not mutually exclusive.
It is true, as the Global Burden of Disease study, led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at Washington University found, that living longer results in health problems that “cause us years of pain, disability and mental distress.” However, this study, which was called “the most comprehensive assessment of global health in the history of medicine,” misses the mark. There is a deeper, richer, reality to our longevity that is completely ignored by this report.
We find this in a contrasting Successful AGing Evaluation (SAGE) study from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Stanford University. When these researchers actually talked to and surveyed older adults who are supposedly suffering the “pain, disability and mental distress” of old age, they found the older the person the more likely they were to report being happy.
“It was clear to us that, even in the midst of physical or cognitive decline, individuals in our study reported feeling that their well-being had improved with age,” said principal investigator Dilip V. Jeste, MD, director of UC San Diego’s Stein Institute for Research on Aging, and the current President of the American Psychiatric Association. This counterintuitive increase in well-being with aging persisted even after accounting for variables like income, education and marriage.
The study concluded that resilience and depression have significant bearing on how individuals self-rate successful aging, with effects that are comparable to that of physical health. “Even though older age was closely associated with worse physical and cognitive functioning, it was also related to better mental functioning,“ said co-author Colin Depp, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego School of Medicine.
In a written statement, Jeste suggested the takeaway message for clinicians is that taking an optimistic approach to the care of seniors may help reduce societal ageism.
“There is considerable discussion In public forums about the financial drain on the society due to rising costs of healthcare for older adults – what some people disparagingly label the ‘silver tsunami.’ But, successfully aging older adults can be a great resource for younger generations,” Jeste said.
We couldn’t agree more.
Nathan Fischbein says
I currently am in AGING 320 student at the Erickson School of Aging, University of Maryland Baltimore County. Currently, my class is discussing the debate in society affecting the tendency to deny the inevitability of death and dying. This article serves as a relevant example of how individuals like those who published the Global Burden of Disease study may be ignoring the importance of the aging community in our society. Personally, I agree with this article in that aging individuals can serve as a great resource for younger generations. For example, aging individuals generally participate in mentoring the younger generations, sharing information of the past, and passing on key insights on life from years of firsthand experience. While aging individuals may suffer from various chronic physical and cognitive ailments, many still maintain a complex web of social importance and interaction. Although preventing the inevitable and extending life expectancy may bring “years of pain, disability and mental distress”, these years also give individuals “deeper, richer, realty to our longevity” that is often ignored. Critics highlight the fact that aging individuals represent a financial drain on society due to rising costs of healthcare, the ‘silver tsunami’, but fail to see the countless ways in which aging individuals play an important role in society.
Dahiya Naveen says
Genuine hair transplant at genuine price, Visit here: https://www.hairsciencecentre.com/hair-transplant/
Therese Moore says
I guess people today lack the knowledge about healthcare and its cost that’s why a lot of people fail to purchase insurance and just rely on federal programs once the time comes that they will need care. This practice should be avoided and people should start planning early for their future instead. They can do that by researching about long term care insurance, ltc services and everything else that can help secure their future. It also helps to explore their options on long term care insurance first and find out what policy is suitable for them in terms of their financial capacity and their future needs. You can read more here: http://www.ltcoptions.com/.
Nayoung Kim says
I am currently an AGNG 200 student at the Erickson School of Aging, University of Maryland Baltimore County. I am learning about aging issues in the class. As you mentioned, there are two drastically opposing views on what old age can bring. Living longer results in health problems that cause us years of pain, disability and mental distress. As people get older, it is clear that most of them will have some degree of decline in physical and cognitive functions. For instance, they will experience problems with memory or problem solving skill. However, it is also true that some of the cognitive functions remain stable or might even improve, as they get older. According to SAGE, they found the older the person the more likely were to report being happy. I strongly agree with this opinion. According to activity theory, when older adults stay more active and maintain social interactions they are more likely to be satisfied with their lives. That is why productive engagement among older adults is really important. Moreover, social engagement and productive roles contribute to mental and physical health and life satisfaction. I think that the society needs to have better programs and policies that would help older adults to fully engage in social activities. In addition, successfully aging older adults can be a great resource for younger generations. In order to upload wisdom of older adults onto the next generation, the young and the older generations should be offered more places and opportunities for them to share their stories. Old adults should live longer and happier lives.
FOSTERing WELLNESS says
A discussion of aging is one of the most important a physician can have with a patient. There are “real, tried and true” ways of slowing the aging process and for a time, even reversing the process. As a chiropractor, we see many from the geriatric population. We have observed the behavioral characteristics associated with staying young, acting young and feeling young. Even more, we have coached people in these behaviors and we have seen astounding results. We have witnessed more flexibility, increased strength, improved balance, better ambulation, more independence etc. The aging process is characterized by three things. 1. loss of muscle mass and strength. 2. Loss of elasticity/flexibility. 3. Loss of joint health. We believe that the chiropractic lifestyle helps people to address these three important areas that are critically linked to “younger” health.
Read this article as well to get our take.
Dr. Charles L. Foster
The writer point of view seems to hold much water. In fact for the case of Africa and Uganda in particular, Older Persons are contributing tremendously though not for payment. For example in Uganda 64% of OVCs are under the care of Older Persons, Older persons are custodians and consultants of Cultural issues, they play a role of mediation during conflict resolution and peace making among others.
However, in most cases older persons are neglected in economic economic development processes and their contribution not considered at all in the economy.
John Robinson says
Makes total sense to me too. It’s all about the meaning context we build around our experiences. In the trials of aging, if we work on its inner tasks, we more deeply appreciate the beauty of this life, the love that floods our hearts, and the gratitude for all the gifts we have received and still experience. Aging is perhaps the greatest stimulus for psychological and spiritual growth of our lifetime. As I head down this road, I value every second, every friend, every family time more and more. Thanks. John