Average life expectancy continues to increase, and today’s older Americans enjoy better health and financial security than any previous generation.However, rates of gain are inconsistent between the genders and across age brackets, income levels and racial and ethnic groups. Some critical disparities also exist between older Americans and older people in other industrialized countries. These and other trends are reported in Older Americans 2008: Key Indicators of Well-Being, a unique, comprehensive look at aging in the United States from the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics.
“The ‘greatest generation’ made enormous gains in health and financial security, although the gains were not shared equally,” says Richard Suzman, Ph.D., director of the Behavioral and Social Research Program at the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health. “We’ll be tracking their children, those just reaching their 60s, to see whether those gains can be sustained or even improved.” Suzman cautions that there could be problems, however. For example, he notes that increased rates of obesity among today’s middle-aged could threaten the health of these adults as they age.
“The sheer size of the baby boom cohorts is certain to affect our health, long-term care and pension systems,” says Benjamin E. Sasse, Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, Department of Health and Human Services. “As we look ahead, it is imperative that we collect and analyze quality data to help policymakers plan for the future of these programs so important to aging Americans.”
In spite of all the studies that show being fat, as you age, can help you survive some catastrophic illnesses, fat threatens your health. Tell that to my grandmother who was moderately fat and survived lung cancer (with one lung), a couple of strokes, and lived to the age of 86. Tell that to my grandfather who was moderately fat and survived heart problems and cancer and lived to the age of 90. Tell that to my other grandmother who was fat and survived hypertension and heart problems and lived to be 85. They were all born around 1900-1910 and didn't have the benefit, when they were young, of all we've learned in the last 50 years (all 3 of them have been dead for at least 15 years).
Health Status - Americans’ longevity continues to increase, although life expectancy at age 65 in the United States is lower than that of other industrialized countries. While older people experience a variety of chronic health conditions that often accompany aging, the rate of functional limitations among people age 65 and older has declined in recent years.
The percentage of people age 65 and older who are obese, as with other age groups, increased between 1988-1994 and 2007-2007, from 22 percent to 31 percent. However, over the past several years, the trend appears to have leveled off.
I think there's a misprint here, the 2007-2007 should probably be 2000-2007, which makes the increase in obesity correspond to the decrease, in 1998, in BMI standards for overweight and obesity. It bears repeating, and repeating, that when standards are lowered arbitrarily, of course the number of people exceeding that lowered standard is going to increase, without those people having done a damned thing other than exist.
Health Care - Health care costs, particularly for prescription drugs, have risen dramatically for older Americans.
* Between 1992 and 2004, average inflation-adjusted health care costs for older Americans increased from $8,644 to $13,052. Costs varied by race and ethnic group, income and health status.
* In 2004, as in the previous 4 years, over half of out-of-pocket health care spending (excluding health insurance premiums) by community-dwelling older people was for purchase of prescription drugs. By 2004, prescription medications accounted for 61 percent of these out-of-pocket expenses. Out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs are expected to decline because of the savings available through the Medicare prescription drug program.
* The implementation of the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefits is included in the Indicators volume for the first time. From June 2007 through September 2007, the number of beneficiaries age 65 or older enrolled in the program increased from 18.2 million to 19.7 million, with two-thirds selecting stand-alone plans and one-third in Medicare Advantage plans.
Does anyone see the relationship between the rise in cost of drugs for older Americans and the pharmaceutical companies coming out with new drugs/combination drugs that don't work any better or even as well as older drugs (Vytorin, anyone)?
I'm all for innovation and new drugs, if they are more effective than older drugs. But to put a new drug out there that doesn't work any better (and may be even less effective or have worse side effects than current drugs) just because that older drug is going generic and you're going to be making less money off it, is money-grubbing corporate greed. It's expensive to develop new drugs, I understand that. Research and testing aren't cheap, but when their trials tell them early on that a drug isn't going to be any better than what's already on the market (and they know what most of the side effects are for that one), why the hell do they have to keep pushing to develop that drug that isn't going to work any better, may not work as well, and may have worse side effects? Is big pharma so lacking for profits that they can afford to overlook health outcomes for the people who will take those new drugs just because big pharma can afford to propagandize the hell out of the drug and doctors don't have the time or inclination to read up on it to see if it really will help their patients better than existing drugs?
My take on all of this:
In spite of the fact that fat people aren't dying off in droves at younger and younger ages, they're still pushing the fact that obesity has increased since 1997 (gee, could it be that the standards for obesity were lowered in 1998 that is driving this humongous increase in fatness?) and that it's eventually going to lower our life expectancy (even though that isn't happening yet, and probably won't). Because we aren't #1 in life expectancy in the world anymore, it has to be caused by something, and fat is a good scapegoat, even though we're not dying off at younger and younger ages (in fact, life expectancy is increasing). Why are other countries ahead of us now in life expectancy? Could it be that they have finally reached (or surpassed) us in monetary wealth and all the benefits that brings? Could it be that they have caught up with us (and in some cases, passed us) in the quality of their health care? Could it be that more countries are now enjoying the same (or better) standard of living that we have had for so many years? Do we really begrudge them that higher standard of living?
I don't know what the reasons are for life expectancy in the US not being the highest in the world, and I don't think it really matters. I don't want to live forever, life isn't a race to see who lives the longest and dies with the most toys and best looking body. Life is a journey to be traveled, enjoyed, and lived as best you can with what you've been given (and it's up to you to decide what that "best" is, not some government entity that thinks Big Brother knows best). For me, I plan on living my life hard, fast, and filled with fun and love. If that means going to my grave fat and looking like something the cat dragged in, so be it. At least I will have lived!
I think the medical establishment, in general, has gone way overboard with their desire to stamp out all disease. I don't think it's possible to eradicate from the face of the earth every disease known to mankind. Mother Nature is one smart old gal, and as soon as you get rid of one, there's a mutation of it or a new disease is discovered to replace it. By insisting that everyone has to enjoy optimum health at all stages of their lives (and the standards for that optimum are being lowered all the time, now we have to be as healthy and fit as a 20 year old man at his best), they are setting us up for failure. I'm sorry, when I was 20, I was fit and in the best shape of my life. But everyone ages, and as I've aged, everything that I've gone through in my life has contributed to the changes in my body. Like death and taxes, it's inevitable. You can't stop change (it's the only thing that stays the same), change is what makes life interesting and worth living. By insisting that everyone must live up to this ideal of health and beauty, you advocate getting rid of diversity. It's diversity that creates the great moments of life, the great books, movies, inventions, innovations, artistic creations that enrich our lives and make them worth living. Do we really want to live without all the contributions every person can make? Do we want to live without the inventions and innovations that can be discovered/created by thin/fat/in-between people? Because it's not just the thin people that are smart and creative and innovative, it's also the fat people, and the not-so-fat people, and the thin people, and the not-so-thin people, and all the people at all their sizes/shapes/colors/sexes/religions/beliefs/etc/etc that make this world such an interesting place to live.