8 things you probably don’t know about longevity

The Knight Seminar ended almost a week ago, but I’m just beginning to digest all the information that came at me from experts in fields ranging from demography to neuroscience to end-of-life care. Here are eight quotes that struck me as particularly relevant to this project: 

1. “We have gained on average 10 biological years of life since our grandparents’ era.” — Abigail Trafford, Washington Post health editor

2. “Living close to home is going to be increasingly important, to maintain business connections.” — William Frey, senior fellow, Brookings Institution

3. “As we turn 80, brain imaging shows frontal lobe changes that improve our ability to deal with negative emotions: anger, envy, fear. There’s less social anxiety, and fewer social phobias.” — Gene Cohen, M.D., director, Center on Aging, Health and Humanities, George Washington University

4. “A female child born this year will have a 50/50 chance of living to 100, according to reputable demographers — and of staying healthier. Chronic ailments are occurring later; surgery is keeping people functioning, and human bodies aren’t breaking down as fast as they used to.” — Richard Adler, principal, People and Technology; research associate, Institute for the Future

5. “We Americans are beginning to work longer. The retirement age dropped steadily, then, somewhere in the 90s, began to turn around and go up again.” — Richard Adler

6. A lot of people’s plan is to keep working, but you can’t always ‘work till you drop;’ many workers will retire before they expect to or before they’re ready, to care for someone who gets sick, for example. Nearly 4 in 10 people retire due to poor health, to care for a family member, or a job loss.” — Cindy Hounsell, president, Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) 

7. “Women who are no longer working will need at least 100% of their pre-retirement income. Some say 110%.” — Cindy Hounsell

8. “For more than 40% of older women living alone, Social Security is virtually all that they have. This group is 4 to 5 times more likely to be poor than married couples. Many older women end up in poverty for the first time in their lives. (The poverty threshold for single person over 65 is set at $9,800.)” — Cindy Hounsell

That’s only a tiny taste of the take-away from “Longevity: America Ages.” Along with optimism about the quality of late life was not-so-good-news like the fact that “Fifty percent of people over 85 have some measurable degree of dementia.” (Richard Adler again). Some facts weren’t particularly relevant to octogenarians in the workforce but knocked my socks off anyway, like this one:

“Here’s the dirty little secret of health care: medical care accounts for about 10% of your health status. All the rest — factors like stress, environment, genetics — determine the other 90%.” — Marilyn Moon, vice president and director of the health program, American Institutes for Research

More facts and figures available upon request.

Comments

Hey Ashton

Good for you posting these initial thoughts from the seminar and encouraging the rest of us to take all that info kicking around in our brains and DO SOMETHING WITH IT.

I personally loved hearing the piece of information you have as the kicker, from Marilyn Moon, because it made me feel like we have more power and control over our own health. If only 10 percent depends on the medical industry, we can control a lot of how healthy we are as we age by eating right, exercising, keeping our minds stimulated and making sure we retain close personal relationships, all of which, hopefully, helps keep stress levels lower.

Thanks for the email.

Alison Boggs

please send in a link to whatever you end up writing. it's such a rich subject. I feel like i'm just beginning to digest a 20-course meal. but i don't want to go to the gym . . .

Nice blog, Ashton. And I am going to have someone pursue that McCain piece, with the 75-plus crowd in mind. I'll send you a link if and when it runs.... David

Ashton,

Thanks for starting the ball rolling among our talented group. Aging has its downside and that's a powerful part of the cultural view of it right now, as so many speakers kept telling us (just get out the door and walk to avoid frailty!). But I'm ready to sign up right now for the emotional gains that Gene Cohen talked about: more creativity, less reactivity.
PS. Come visit this lone freelancer at www.marciaznelson.com (there's a link to my blog).

I'm with you, Marcia. That's what my next post will be about — an 89 year old i interviewed in Santa Fe who embodies both the emotional and the creative attributes he talked about, and is a folk artist to boot. (remember, he held that up as a late-in-life creative genre?)

checking out your site nerxt. hey, on the internet everyone's a lone freelancer!