Starting out in Social Work in the mid-1980’s found seniors to be folks in their late seventies or early eighties. 86 and up was really old. Now it seems like 86 is almost a starting point.
Here at Boca Home Care Services we have two clients who are 103 years old. One woman and one man. He will be 104 in mid January.
Both are cognitively intact and strong. They have stopped driving and have minor impairments of vision, hearing and one uses a walker. BHCS provides transportation, shopping, cooking, laundry and companion services for safety which allows both to remain in their own home. Otherwise, their ability and interests do not belie their age.
So, is 100 the new 80?
Research supports that seniors who are overall in good health and hearty into their nineties will continue to be so – for the most part. It is routine to meet new clients in their early nineties now. They do seem to share some things in common. Although they may live alone, we are seeing more couples who are both in their nineties – that is something special – and married 5 years plus.
For those living alone, there is typically involved family or neighbors. Once home care is invited in it is usually for driving and housework more so than for personal care. These aging seniors also tend to have interests and are involved either in hobbies or going to a group activity. Many come from families where one of their parents also made it into old, old age – so they take it in stride. Others, whose parents or siblings didn’t get into advanced age groups are themselves marveling at their own age and the relatively good shape they are in. Few, (very few) smoke – or quit decades earlier. They tend to keep regular doctor appointments. They also tend to take a reasonable amount of medication but nothing exorbenant.
We are at a point in human aging which we haven’t been at ever before. It is left to the scientists, doctors and researchers to study these ever larger groups of super seniors. It will be fascinating to see documented information about any trends they share. As the boomers are now retiring, it will be interesting to say how far they can push to longevity envelope. Will we be looking at folks 109, 111 or beyond? Will Centenarians become common?
Dr. Nir Barzilai at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Institute for Aging Research (NY) has been studying longevity and healthy centenarians. Apparently longevity with good health runs in families. HE also found that they have unusually high HDL levels (good cholesterol). Both show a likely genetic predisposition to a healthy old, old age. Dr. Barzilai also found that these people seem to have genes which show a resistance to diseases like Cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and type 2 Diabetes. (www.superagers.com).
His studies could lead to the development of new medications or therapies which could mimic the “longevity genes”. And what if you don’t have these genes, but rather genetic predispositions to some of the aforementioned diseases associated with the elderly? There are many studies which point to life choices as also having an impact on how we age. It isn’t ALL about good DNA.
Research shows that how we perceive aging and having a positive rather than a depressing attitude towards aging can have measurable positive effects on our health. Additionally, it seems to go back to eating properly, keeping weight off, not smoking and some form of exercise which combined lead to better outcomes. We need to take care of our minds and bodies. This includes doing the things you enjoy, staying engaged in things and with people and keeping busy. We all need to have and maintain a sense of purpose in the world and in our lives.