Safely Easing into the Senior Years
Safely Easing into the Senior Years
By Jeanne Ricks, CHC www.NuDay.org
So you feel as though the calendar years keep zipping off….But wait! Did you know that persons 65 years or older represent over 12.9% of the U.S. population? That comes to about one in every eight Americans. By 2030, there will be around 72.1 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2000 ~ a whopping 19% of our population.
And here’s some more good news. Many Americans are able to age in good health and remain active participants in society throughout their lives. But now I’m going to shock you…
You probably consider our U.S. health system as the best in the world for living a long healthy life. Unfortunately, you’re wrong. Based on a stunning new report, Americans die sooner and experience higher rates of disease and injury than people in other high-income countries (a disadvantage which extends to age 75). "We were struck by the gravity of these findings," said Steven H. Woolf, professor of family medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and chair of the panel that authored the report. ‘Americans are dying and suffering at rates that we know are unnecessary because people in other high-income countries are living longer lives and enjoying better health’.
The report represents the first comprehensive look at multiple diseases, injuries and behaviors across the entire life span, comparing the United States with 16 peer nations - affluent democracies that include Australia, Canada, Japan as well as, many western European countries.
You’re probably wondering just how the US has cultivated this less than prestigious ranking. The panel’s inquiry noted several possible explanations. See which one you feel is the culprit:
Health Systems - The US, unlike its peer countries, has a comparatively large uninsured population and less access to primary care. Americans are more likely to find their health care inaccessible or unaffordable and to report lapses in the quality and safety of care outside of hospitals.
Health Behaviors - While the findings do show an upside – (Americans are currently less likely to smoke and also to drink alcohol less heavily than people in the peer countries), we have the honor of consuming the most calories per person, have higher rates of drug abuse, are less likely to use seat belts, are involved in more traffic accidents that involve alcohol, and are more likely to use firearms in acts of violence.
Social and Economic Conditions - Here too an upside doesn’t quite play in our favor, for while the average income of Americans is higher than peer countries, the US also has higher levels of poverty, income inequality and lower rates of social mobility. Other countries are outpacing the US in the education of young people, which also negatively affects health. Additionally, the panel found that Americans benefit less from ‘safety net’ programs that can buffer the negative health effects of poverty and other social disadvantages.
Physical Environments - U.S. communities are more likely than those in peer countries to be designed around automobiles, and this luxury discourages physical activity and further contributes to obesity rates.
Now, get ready for another shock…
Falls are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide.
Age is one of the key risk factors for falls. Older people have the highest risk of death or serious injury arising from a fall and this risk increases with age. 20–30% of older people in the US who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as bruises, hip fractures, or head traumas. This risk level may be in part due to physical, sensory and cognitive changes associated with ageing in combination with environments that are not adapted for our aging population.
For older individuals, fall prevention programs can include a number of components to identify and modify risk, such as:
- screening home environments for fall hazards;
- identifying risk factors, such as medication, treatment of any correctable visual impairments and implementing appropriate assistive devices to address physical and sensory impairments; treatment of low blood pressure, the health supplements Vitamin D3 and Calcium, as well as the kind of balanced nutrition to be found in our Joint Vibrance formula version 4.0 with type 1 and type 2 collagen for improved bone health.
- muscle strengthening and balance retraining facilitated by a trained health professional;
- community-based group programs which may incorporate fall prevention education and Tai Chi-type exercises or dynamic balance and strength training; use of hip protectors for those at risk of a hip fracture due to a fall.
With good nutrition, consistent movement activities, stimulating brain games, meaningful daily interactions as well as, a bit of attention to the make-up of our surroundings we can all safely ease into the senior years.