The percentage of older persons in the United States is expected to double over the next 20 years, growing to an estimated 72.1 million persons by the year 2030. As Americans grow older, they'll face a number of age-related issues, both physical and mental.
Over the past decade, there has been increasing interest in how to define - and achieve - the idea of healthy aging. The landmark goals of healthy aging tend to fall in three categories: social engagement, physical health, and mental health and cognitive skills.
The MacArthur Study of Successful Aging found a number of factors that seemed to contribute to healthy aging. Participants with the better lung function were less likely to show physical decline in older years. Those who had a regular exercise routine, either moderate or strenuous, were only half as likely to show physical decline as those who did not engage in regular exercise.
Social activities were also an imporant factor in healthy aging. Those who participated in social activities or groups seemed to experience the same protective benefits as those who exercise. Engaging in work or volunteer activities also seemed to slow physical decline. The study also found that participants who had chronic conditions when they started the study also benefited from the effects of exercise and socialization. Cognitive function was also positively impacted by physical impact.
Dr. Art Frenz, clinical psychologist in Endicott, NY
Dr. Kathleen Colling, a nurse community consultant in Broome County
Donna Gavula, master trainer with the Stepping On program, Broome County Health Department