Jul 28, 2009
Jul 21, 2009
Expect to See This More Often, Scientists Say
The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star, Norfolk, VA
Number of people worldwide today who are 100 or older. Estimated number of people who will be 100 or older in 2050. Estimated growth of the world's population that is 80 and older, by 2040. By Hope Yen
The Associated Pres
It's starting to get crowded in the 100-year-olds' club.
Once virtually nonexistent, the world's population of centenarians is projected to reach nearly 6 million by midcentury. That's pushing the median age toward 50 in many developed nations and challenging views of what it means to be old and middle-age.
The number of centenarians already has jumped from an estimated few thousand in 1950 to more than 340,000 worldwide today, with the highest concentrations in the United States and Japan, according to the latest Census Bureau figures and a report being released today by the National Institute on Aging.
Their numbers are projected to grow at more than 20 times the rates of the total population by 2050, making them the fastest- growing age segment.
Demographers attribute this boom to decades of medical advances and improved diets, which have reduced heart disease and stroke. Genetics and lifestyle also play a factor. So, too, do doctors who are more willing to aggressively treat the health problems of people once considered too old for such care.
"My parents are 86 and 87 and they're going strong, with my dad driving all over the place, so I've already told my financial planners that I'm going to live to at least 96," said Susan Ryckman, 61, as she walked around New York City . "As long as I'm not mentally and physically infirm, I'd like to live as long as I can," she said.
Japan, known for its low-fat staple of fish and rice, will have the most centenarians in 2050 - 627,000, or nearly 1 percent of its total population, according to census estimates.
Japan pays special respect to the elderly and has created a thriving industry in robotics to cater to its rapidly aging population.
Italy, Greece, Monaco and Singapore, aided by their temperate climates, also will have sizable shares of centenarians, most notably among women.
In the United States, centenarians are expected to increase from 75,000 to more than 600,000 by midcentury. Those primarily would be baby boomers hitting the 100-year mark. Their population growth could add to rising government costs for the strained Medicare and Social Security programs.
"The implications are more than considerable, and it depends on whether you're healthy or sick," said Dr. Robert N. Butler, president and chief executive of the International Longevity Center, a New York-based nonprofit group specializing in aging. "Healthy centenarians are not a problem, and many are. But if you have a demented, frail centenarian, they can be very expensive."
Butler predicted a surge in demand in the United States for nursing homes, assisted living centers and other special housing, given the wave of aging boomers who will be at increased risk for Alzheimer's disease. He said federal and state governments may have to re-evaluate retirement benefits, age limits on driving and Medicare coverage as they struggle to redefine what it means to be old.
"We don't have a major coordinating figure such as a White House counselor to reach across all departments, and we need one," Butler said.
Wan He, a Census Bureau demographer who co-wrote the aging report, said families also will face more pressure. She noted that because of declining birth rates, there will be fewer family members to provide support if an older parent gets sick.
"For the current middle-aged people, it will be comforting to think they can live past 80," she said. "At the same time, we might see 70-year-old 'kids' taking care of their centenarian parents. It's a very stressful job, it's not paid, and it can have a lot of psychological influences for the caretakers."
Census estimates show:
* Come 2017, it will be the first time there will be more people 65 and older than there will be children younger than 5.
* The population of people 80 and older is projected to increase 233 percent by 2040, compared with a 160 percent increase for people 65 and over and 33 percent for the total population of all ages.
* Childlessness among European and U.S. women age 65 in 2005 ranged from less than 8 percent in the Czech Republic to 15 percent in Austria and Italy. About 20 percent of women 40 to 44 in the United States in 2006 were childless.
* Due to low birth rates, Japan's median age will increase from 37 in 1990 to 55 by 2050. The median age for the world during that same period will rise from 24 to 37, slowed by younger populations in Latin America and Africa.
* The median age in the United States will edge higher from 33 to 39 during that period, kept low by higher rates of immigration.
In the United States, experts say rising rates of obesity for people who are more sedentary or eat too much junk food could take a toll on life expectancy. AARP and other groups are trying to promote healthier lifestyles.
AARP is conducting a 10-month pilot project in Albert Lea, Minn., aimed at extending the life spans of residents by two years. The group is working with the city to make it easier to get around on foot or bike, develop social networks and provide more healthful fast-food options .
A recent Pew Research Center poll of 2,969 adults found that Americans, on average, would like to live to 89; the current life span is 78. One in five people would like to live past 90, while 8 percent would like to pass the century mark.
Jul 11, 2009
5 ways to age gracefully
Jul. 5--Despite its reputation, aging doesn't have to be a miserable process. Though some factors -- our parents and the genes we inherit from them -- may be out of our control, we can greatly influence how we enter the golden years by doing simple things, aging experts say.
As it is, Americans are living longer than ever -- the average man can expect to survive 75.2 years. Women have a life expectancy of 80.4.
But if you want to make it to 100 -- or even 120 -- you have to want to live that long.
"Having a positive attitude toward aging is often overlooked," said Erdman Palmore, 79, a professor emeritus of medical sociology at the Duke University Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development. Because of ageism, Palmore said, "many elders fear aging, deny it, and behave in stereotypical ways by becoming inactive and attributing ailments to 'aging' instead of trying to overcome them."
In addition to the usual anti-aging suggestions -- get more sleep and stop smoking -- the following five strategies can help boost your resilience. We can't guarantee you'll live to 100, but try these to make the journey more enjoyable.
1 Find a purpose. It will naturally bring you in contact with others and decrease isolation, which can cut years off your age. Helene Weinberger, 86, volunteers at the Menorah Park Center for Senior Living in Cleveland, where she inspires residents to write their local politicians. Clarice Morant of Washington, D.C., who died in June at 106, took care of her ailing brother and sister -- both in their 90s -- when she was 100. "Research shows that those who stay more socially active -- getting together with friends and family, joining clubs, volunteering -- live longer and maintain better cognitive and physical functioning," said Teresa Seeman, a geriatrics researcher and professor of medicine and epidemiology in the UCLA Schools of Medicine and Public Health.
2 Make exercise your job. First, redefine "exercise." Any movement is beneficial; you don't have to go to the gym four days a week, said John Rowe, who leads the MacArthur Foundation's Initiative on An Aging Society and co-wrote the book "Successful Aging." Even a fairly moderate 30-minute walk, several times a week yields 70 percent of the benefits of aerobic exercise, Rowe said. Family physician Don Kennedy, who specializes in geriatrics in Florida, tells his patients to head off to exercise in the same way they used to leave for work: same time, every day. "Keep it simple, do it for at least 20 minutes and prepare whatever you need to do the night before," he said. Movement is also critical nutrition for your joints. To sneak it into your day, opt for the less-convenient ways of getting things done -- walk whenever you might drive or take the stairs instead of the elevator.
3 Spread your meals, not your waist. Maoshing Ni, known as "Dr. Wow" on the television show "Sex and the City," tells clients to eat five or six little meals rather than two or three big ones. "It's portion control; that way you never over-eat," he said. "If you eat more frequently, your metabolism will naturally speed up." By the same token, Ni said, skipping meals or eating large ones causes the metabolism to slow. Obesity causes osteoarthritis and is the greatest risk factor of high blood pressure and stroke. "Under-eating promotes longevity and slows down the aging process," said Ni, a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine. You don't have to be a vegetarian, but eating less red or processed meat can also help reduce your risk of death, according to a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
4 Embrace your inner otter. Lin Wellford, 58, was kayaking on a Florida river several years ago when she saw a group of otters frolicking. Otters, she realized, know how to have fun and seek out adventure. "I was more like a beaver -- always on task, bustling through my days and guilty if I was not accomplishing enough," she said. Once she made an effort to be more like the fun-loving otter, people began mistaking her grandchildren for her own kids. Grandchildren -- and younger people in general -- can have a significant anti-aging effect, Wellford has discovered. There's no better way to stay young than to nurture friendships with younger people, she said. They can benefit from your wisdom; you'll be invigorated with vitality and enthusiasm.
5 Get balanced. If you're worried about falling, it could be a red flag that you're headed for one. A hip fracture shortens your life expectancy by six years, said Dr. William Meller, an expert in evolutionary medicine. Mind-body exercises such as yoga and tai chi are excellent ways to improve balance to prevent spills, and they increase flexibility and strength. And, according to yoga philosophy, it's the flexibility of the spine -- not your birthday -- that determines your age. Moreover, we lose 1 to 2 percent of our strength each year, which makes us less active. In addition to improving strength, tai chi (or meditation in motion) has been shown to improve immunity, cardiac function, sleep quality and balance, said Yang Yang, director of the Center for Taiji and Qigong Studies in New York. A bonus? "Tai chi practice improves awareness -- of ourselves and of the rest of the world -- which leads to a tranquil and happy life," said Yang. "There is a famous saying: 'Smile one smile and you are 10 years younger, add more worries and you add gray hair.' "
Jul 7, 2009
Slow Aging with BlueBerries
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jul. 3--Millions of people enjoy blueberries because they taste good and are versatile enough to be part of many different menu items. Blueberries, however, are also nutrient-rich and offer a host of health benefits, one of which may be slowing down the aging process.
This isn't to say that blueberries can turn back the hands of time, but they may help slow down some of the typical side effects of aging, most notably diminished mental capacity. In a USDA Human Nutrition Research Center laboratory study, researchers fed blueberry extractions to lab mice. The extractions were the equivalent of a human eating one cup of blueberries per day. The mice were then run through a series of motor tests. The mice who were given the blueberry extractions performed better than the control group on motor functions and memory. They also showed an increase of exploratory behavior.
The antioxidant components of blueberries that give them their vivid colour help reduce oxidative stress, as observed after looking at the brains of the treated mice. Oxidative stress is damage to cell membranes and DNA from free radicals. Antioxidants are known to find and eradicate free radicals. Oxidative stress is thought to be a main culprit in many of the dysfunctions and diseases common to aging.
The research on mice bodes well for people, primarily because the senior population in so many countries continues to grow. By 2050 it is estimated that more than 30 percent of the population will be over 65. It's likely that these individuals will be interested in looking and feeling their best for years to come.
Because of their neurological, motor-function link, blueberries may be essential to reducing the severity of neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer's and other dementias.
Apart from anti-aging properties, blueberries and their antioxidants can help with general health as well. There have been links to diets rich in blueberries and urinary tract health due to reduction of the adhesion of bacteria. Plus, blueberries may play a role in preventing certain cancers and cardiac issues.
Individuals interested in adding blueberries to their diet can do so in many ways. Whether enjoying blueberries atop cereals, on muffins or simply straight out of the refrigerator, incorporating servings of this fruit into a diet can be beneficial and delicious.