There is a growing sentiment in society today that age is just a number. As our expectations for growing old change, a new mantra is emerging to support this view: “Age be damned.”
At the root of this shift are the scientists who dissect every aspect of growing old—from the impact that lifestyle modifications have on disease management, to preventive strategies that help us age well. These unsung heroes, and their findings, enable us to develop and provide solutions that can reduce many of the challenges and obstacles associated with growing old. Their efforts drive recommendations and demands for new models and social contracts that promote older adults’ abilities and contributions. And their findings encourage us to recognize the benefits of a more cohesive, inclusive society. This growing body of research is not only shifting views and expectations of what is possible over the life course, but redefining the life course as well.
The World Health Organization’s director general shares the new way of thinking. “When a 100-year-old man finishes a marathon, as happened last year, we know that conventional conceptions of old age must change,” said Margaret Chan in her World Health Day message in 2012. And change they are.
A new survey from AARP shows that people in their 60s (69%) and 70s (69%) are not letting problems with their physical health hold them back from what they want. Those in their 40s (58%) and 50s (63%), however, find this a bigger issue.
Still, “89% of older adults and 84% of younger adults say they’re confident they can maintain a high quality of life throughout their senior years,” reports a 2014 survey conducted by the National Council on Aging, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, UnitedHealthcare and USA Today.
The question is: Is this raw optimism based on facts or denial of facts?