Over the past 12 months, as a family medicine practitioner, I have been doing house calls. I have visited and completed hundreds of health assessments for people aged between 65 to 95. And here what I have observed about the healthiest of seniors. The fittest of the elders have few or none chronic medical conditions. They take no more than 3 medications compared to the 14-18 medications that average senior citizen takes. The healthiest of seniors have optimistic outlook and no signs of dementia. Also, I have noticed 4 other commonalities among them.
1) These healthy seniors usually have a higher education–at least a college degree or higher. And that makes sense because with higher education they enjoy higher incomes which leads to improved quality of life through ability to buy healthy foods and have less stressful life due to lack of finances.
2) They are physically fit–I am yet to meet a healthy elder who is overweight. Being of a healthy weight prevents a whole cascade of health problems–high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, etc. Being at a healthy weight explains an absence of chronic medical conditions and therefore, lack of need for medications to manage them.
3) Healthy seniors have some kind of spiritual practice–either they are involved in church or have other sources for spirituality such as meditation or spiritual literature. Having spiritual pursuits increases emotional and psychological resilience which reduces stress and as a result leads to a better health.
4) They are mentally active. They read, surf the internet, watch TV, follow political and cultural events. They are generally intellectually curious which leads them to seek mental stimulation. Studies have shown that being intellectually stimulated decreases the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Based on these observations, for aging gracefully, one should strive to achieve higher education, be physically active, have spiritual practice and be mentally involved with the world.
Senior Care Facts
- Today there are 40 million adults aged 65 and older in the United States; by 2030, that number will rise to 72 million.
- Every day in the United States, another 10,000 people reach the age of 65.
- Some type of disability (e.g. difficulty in hearing, vision, cognition, ambulation, self-care, or independent living) was reported by 15 million older adults in 2009.
- For those over age 80, assistance is needed by 29% of individuals. (American Society of Consulting Pharmacists)