and Realities of Aging 2000
New England Centenarian Study
Our Front Page . . .
to Successful Aging
is Successful Aging?
Study Successful Aging?
"The future is a lot like the past
. . . only closer"
-- Dan Quisenberry,
This book has ignited
much discussion and interest. Many criticize its medical orientation, and
its lack of attention to several factors such as populations who are not
able to maintain healthy lifestyles. However, the widespread circulation,
marketing, and reading of this book has caught the attention of many that
might not ordinarily be interested in aging issues. The findings of the
MacArthur Studies, the research basis for the book, bring us all to a more
positive and hopeful attitude about being able to age successfully.
Several myths the authors
identify and refute are useful in setting the framework for this site.
Myths debunked by Rowe and Kahn include:
"To be old is to be sick."
(Only 5.2% of older persons are in nursing homes, down from 6.3% in 1982.
In 1994 of Americans 75-84 years, 73% reported no disability. Moreover,
after 85 years 40 percent were fully functional. Even among those over
95 years, disability is decreasing.)
"You can't teach an old
dog new tricks." (Older persons can and do learn new things well and this
learning can be long lasting. However, if they are not challenged, they
will perform less.)
"The horse is out of the
barn." (The effects of overindulgence in alcohol, fatty foods, smoking
and lack of exercise can be modified. The risks associated with obesity,
smoking, high blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and
decreased physical functioning decline almost immediately, regardless of
age or length of time the abuses occurred. Likewise, the benefits begin
right away despite the age, time or initial damage.)
"The secret to successful
aging is to choose your parents wisely." (As we grow older, genetics play
a less important role while environmental influences increase. Generally,
about 1/3 of physical aging and one half of mental function may be attributed
"The lights may be on, but
the voltage is low." The basic need for affectionate physical contact persists
throughout life. Earlier studies found almost 2/3 of 68-year-old men were
sexually active and this declined to 25% at age 78 due primarily to health.
Sexual activity in older women declines primarily due to unavailable appropriate
partners. It is anticipated that current studies will show greater sexual
activity overall with age. See section on Intimacy.
Successful aging should
be a topic of interest for all of us. We are living longer and healthier,
and most of us can expect to live into our eighties. Curent research and
book publications are drawing attention to how we can age well.
"The elderly don't pull
their own weight." (Older adults are increasingly choosing to delay retirement.
Many are changing their career paths. Still others who have retired choose
volunteer work on a regular basis. The unpaid service of volunteerism is
difficult to quantify and does not often command the respect of paid work,
but is dramatic in its contribution to society.
The MacArthur Studies were
the basis for Successful Aging by Rowe and Kahn (1998).
A study, Myths and Realities
of Aging 2000, by the National Council on the Aging (NCOA) has refuted
stereotypes and attitudes about and by older adults.
Thomas Perls and Margery
Hutter Silver reported the results of their study, The New England Centenarian
Study, in their book, Living to 100: Lessons in Living to your Maximum
Potential at Any Age (1999).
Several facts and trends
related to aging successfully have inspired research efforts and gained
the attention of businesses and the public. These projections compel us
to find out how we can age successfully!
13% of our population is
over 65 years. In 2040, this proportion will grow to 20%.
Today, four out of five
persons can expect to live at least 65 years, three times as many as in
For those who reach 65,
there is a greater than 50% chance to live past 80 years. (Women at 65
can expect to live an additional 19.2 years, and men, 15.5 years.)
Life expectancy is now 76
years, compared to 47 years in 1900.
In a study by Brandeis University
70% of women over 65 years reported their health to be good.
The "old-old" -- over
85 -- are the fastest growing segment of the population, now 10% of those
over 65 years.
Today's 85 year-olds are
likely to live past 90 years.
Recently in the Journal
of the American Medical Association (2/4/98), a study found that 80-year-olds
would rather live longer in their current state of health than a shorter
life in excellent health. This surprised family surrogates who predicted
a choice of shorter life of higher quality.
There may be as many as
60,000 centenarians living today and by 2040 this number will at least
The incidence of chronic
disease in older adults is declining.
and Realities of Aging 2000
More than 90% of non-instutionalized
persons over 70 years are able to perform one or more activities of daily
living (ADLs), according to a recent study.
In March 2000 the National
Council on the Aging (NCOA) reported the results of a survey of more than
3000 adults of all ages. These findings presented a startling contrast
to NCOA's 1974 Myths and Realities survey. These 2000 "realities"
refute many of the myths about older adults that have persisted. In fact,
these findings shed a new and more positive light on the attitudes of younger
persons about older adults and older adults about themselves.
The following surprising
and optimistic findings help answer the question, "Why Study Successful
84% of all aged Americans
reported being happy if they lived to 90 years.
Most Americans characterize
the present as the "best years" of their lives.
66% of all ages -- 44% of
those 70 years and older, and 33% of those 80 years and older -- felt these
were their best years.
Most persons of color over
65 years considered these the best years of their lives (60% of African
Americans and 57% of Hispanics).
A "specific" age no longer
indicates the onset of old age or the time of retirement.
The concept of middle age
extends past 70 years (45% of those between 65 and 69 years and 1/3 of
those over 70 years consider themselves to be middle-aged.
More than 3/4 of persons
under 65 years feel that older adults deserve more respect and benefits.
While younger persons perceive
problems such as loneliness and financial woes more significant to older
adults, worries of crime, finances and personal health actually diminished
over the past 25 years among the older population.
New England Centenarian Study
Three quarters of persons
over 65 years report that 75-year-old men and women are potentially "sexy"
and validate the importance of sexual relationships in later life.
Several lessons to be
learned from this study give us reason for an optimistic view of later
A positive attitude about
age: seeing it as an opportunity, NOT a limitation.
Most of us have the genetic
potential to live 85 years. Prudent health measure will better our chances
of living to 100 and make the most of our "healthy" years.
Exercise, especially weight
resistance, is significant to our health and "feeling well."
"Use it or lose it" is not
an old cliche' -- keeping mentally active and seeking different and new
activities is key to a successful old age.
Moderate eating -- take
in low fats and sugars , be generous with fruits and vegetables, and take
For more information on
recent studies, go to:
(Perls and Hutter Silver,
Site Administrator: Lois