Redefining “old”

This is a re-post from The Telegraph, a UK news source. It’s about how the current generation of “older adults” are redefining what aging and what old means. This has been a hot topic in the field of Gerontology over the past decade or so, and there is a growing popular opinion that “old” doesn’t begin until age 75, whereas it currently is defined as starting at age 65.

65 year olds are considered “young-old” by Gerontology definition. This definition is based on former UK retirement age programs. The United Nations defines “old” as starting with age 60, and the WHO has even defined “old” as starting at age 50 for certain studies on aging in Africa (where life expectancy is lower than in Western countries). And, of course, if you ask people who are younger than 25, many of them will say that “old” starts in your 30s or 40s – ah, the follies of youth!

The interesting part is that in recent years, people are living healthy and active lives well into their 70s or 80s, and many are not retiring until after age 65. This is causing us to redefine “old” not only based on retirement ages, but also on the lives that people are living.

Popular Gerontology definitions of “old”:

Young-old:  ages 65-74

Middle-old:  ages 75-84

Oldest-old:  ages 85+

I am always a little happy inside when I hear people say, “I’m old” and I get to tell them that by definition, the earliest that one is considered old is age 65. Especially when they are under age 60. And I think they are a little happy inside to hear that as well 🙂

Middle age now lasts until 74 as baby boomers refuse to grow old

Old age does not begin until 74, researchers suggest in a new report which looks at the real impact of an ageing population

Old age does not begin until 74, researchers suggest in a new report which looks at the real impact of an ageing population

Old age does not begin until 74, researchers suggest in a new report which looks at the real impact of an ageing population Photo: Alamy

Surprising results from a study on weight and dementia

While obesity is correlated with a host of health problems (cardiovascular, damage to joints, increased risk for diabetes), this April, 2015 study published in The Lancet shows that it may protect against dementia.

Different results than we had previously thought to be true…. now the next step is to figure out why weight plays such a role in the development of dementia?

Compared with people of a healthy weight, underweight people (BMI <20) had a 34% higher risk of dementia. Furthermore, the incidence of dementia continued to fall for every increasing BMI category, with very obese people (BMI >40) having a 29% lower dementia risk than people of a healthy weight.

You can read more about this in an article by The Guardian, which states:

Many other studies have shown an association between obesity and an increased risk of dementia. These findings demonstrate the complexity of research into risk factors for dementia and it is important to note that BMI is a crude measure – not necessarily an indicator of health. It’s also not clear whether other factors could have affected these results.

Or from The Telegraph, which includes:

Dr Liz Coulthard, Consultant Senior Lecturer in Dementia Neurology, University of Bristol, added: “We do know that obesity carries many other risks including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and increased rates of some types of cancer. So maintaining a healthy weight is recommended.”

What can you do to prevent dementia?

This article from Best Alzheimer’s Products is similar to my other post on 10 things to lower your risk of developing dementia. It goes a bit more in depth and gives more options than my other post. I hope it gives you some new insights and some inspiration to be proactive about your health!

Can we prevent Alzheimer's disease

Can We Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?

Is Alzheimer’s a disease of choice?

Certainly none of us would consciously and deliberately choose Alzheimer’s disease, but by the same token, none of us would choose heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or a host of other diseases that are life threatening or otherwise impede our quality of life. And yet, many of us make those choices every day! It is not that any of us actively embrace the disease; indeed, many of us never truly consider the risks. But we often adopt a lifestyle that increases our chances of developing cancer or heart disease, certain respiratory diseases, and who knows what else? The question then becomes, can we prevent Alzheimer’s disease by changing some bad habits?

How Can We Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?

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10 things to lower your risk of developing dementia

Worried about developing dementia? Wondering what you can do to lower your risks? This post is for you! Below, I have listed several things that everyone can do to lower their risk for developing dementia through a healthy lifestyle. While doing these activities is no guarantee that you won’t develop dementia, they will lower your lifestyle-related risks. YOU CAN take your health into your own hands!

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Key terms in Healthy Aging

I came up with this list of definitions used in Gerontology (aging studies). I made this during my internship with WHO Age-Friendly Cities, as a guide. To my knowledge, they didn’t do anything with this list of terms, so I am sharing it here.

Age effect  A difference due to chronological age or life-course stage.

Age grade  Use of age as a social category to group people by status-the expectations for when the transition from one role to another should occur.

Age stratification theory  Underlying proposition is that all societies group people into social categories and that these groupings provide people with social identities; age is one principle of ranking, along with wealth, gender, and race.

Chronological age  Number of years a person has lived.

Continuity theory  A more formal elaboration of activity theory; uses a life-course perspective to define normal aging and to distinguish it from pathological aging.

Convergence theory  A theory of aging that views old age as a great leveler, which reduces inequality that was evident at earlier stages of the life-course.

Convoy model of social relations  A theoretical model stating that each person moves through life surrounded by a group of people to whom he or she is related through the exchange of social support; dynamic and lifelong in nature.

Coping  A state of compatibility between the individual and the environment so that the individual maintains a sense of well-being or satisfaction with quality of life.

Countertransition  A life course transition produced by the role changes of others.

Life-course  The interaction between historical events, personal decisions, and individual opportunities; experiences early in life affect subsequent outcomes.

Life-course framework  An approach to the study of aging that combines the study of the changing age structure with the aging experiences of individuals.
Period effect  The impact of an historical event on the people who live through it.

Role  The expected behaviors associated with a given status; also a status and the behaviors associated with it.

Role allocation  Processes by which roles are assigned to individuals and the dynamics of role entry and exit.

Role conflict  An inability to meet competing demands of two or more roles; occurs when two or more roles are partially or wholly incompatible.

Role reversal  Reversal of parent-child role, with the child becoming the decision maker.

Role transition  Role changes individuals make as they leave school, take a job, marry, have children, retire.

Self-concept  The organized and integrated perception of self; consists of such aspects as self-esteem, self-image, beliefs, and personality traits.

Social clock  The age norms that provide a prescriptive timetable, which orders major life events.

 Note the difference between

  • Universal ageing – age changes that all people share
  • Probabilistic ageing – age changes that may happen to some, but not all people as they grow older including diseases, such as type two diabetes
  • Chronological ageing – numerical
  • Social ageing – cultural age-expectations of how people should act as they grow older
  • Biological ageing – an organism’s physical state as it ages
  • Proximal ageing – age-based effects that come about because of factors in the recent past
  • Distal ageing – age-based differences that can be traced back to a cause early in person’s life, such as childhood polio

Aging and the Life-course

Report on life-course theory

I was asked to attend a WHO meeting on life-course theory as part of my internship with the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Europe. While I was there, I was working on the topics of eHealth and the Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities (and trying to bridge the two). I was working in the Division of Non-communicable diseases and health promotion – Ageing, disability and long-term care. The team I was part of worked on the full spectrum of life, from before conception to aging, all with a focus on health promotion and reduction of non-communicable diseases.

This particular meeting was a brainstorming session on how the WHO is using the life-course perspective to address health promotion. I was particularly excited to attend because of my background in psychology and gerontology, where life-course theory has it’s roots.

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Healthy Aging: What can you do?

This afternoon, I went to a lecture on healthy aging in Tårnby, Denmark. The theme was “Healthy aging – what can you do?

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Healthy aging is on the agenda in these years and older adults are encouraged to be active and live healthier. But to what extent is our health something someting we are in control of? What can you do yourself? And what factors can you not do much about?

Hear about the subject from two different angles: from the anthropological and from the biomedical.
1. Social communities and the perception that health is something that you can – and should – check. From postdoc Henrik Hvedegaard Mikkelsen from the Department of Anthropology and the Center for Healthy Aging at the University of Copenhagen
2. Training and protein rich diet – and the aspects of health, we cannot do much about. By Associate Professor Lars Holm of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen

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5 things you should know about aging and LGBT

New National Study: Five Things You Should Know About Aging and LGBT People

Posted: 10/06/2014 11:40 am EDT Updated: 12/06/2014 5:59 am EST 
You can read the original article on Huffington Post.

Much has been written about the growing number of older people in this country (as the baby boom generation rapidly ages), as well as the incremental shift in favorable policies and attitudes toward certain segments of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) population. However, less public attention has been placed on the intersection of these two trends: how LGBT people experience aging, beginning in midlife all the way through later life.

A new research reportOut and Visible: The Experiences and Attitudes of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Older Adults, Ages 45-76—sheds new light on these issues. Based on a 2014 nationally representative study of more than 1,800 LGBT people and more than 500 non-LGBT people, Out and Visible extensively describes how LGBT people feel and experience areas such as healthcare, finance and retirement, support systems, housing and more. The study was commissioned by SAGE and led by Harris Poll.

Here are five things this new study reveals about LGBT older people’s experiences with aging.
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