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Preventing illness, maintaining our health as we age, part 1

September 18, 2008
Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Whether you are personally aware of it or not, we have entered the "brave new world" predicted many years ago by science fiction writers.

The "new world" we have entered is the era of longevity in the United States and worldwide. This reality has political, social, economic and health consequences that are not yet fully understood.

What we are becoming very well aware of is that we will live longer lives and that four- and even five-generation American families will become the norm in the near future.

We are also aware of the fact that, because of the arrival of the "boomers," beginning in 2011, the anticipated numbers of senior citizens and their future life spans over the next 50 years will be unprecedented. The projected increase in years for men and even more so for women is extraordinary, particularly when this increase is juxtaposed to the already added 28 years of life expectancy experienced by Americans over the past 100 years.

Now that we have talked about some good news, let's take a look at a reality that gives us a better overall perspective of the importance of preventing illness and maintaining our health as we age. Without effective preventive measures and improved personal health management, senior health care costs will financially cripple our current health care system.

According to statistics found in "The Consumer's Guide To long-Term Care," Americans over the age of 65 represent 13 percent of all hospital care and better than 50 percent of all physician work hours.

There are, however, positives signs on the horizon, first, seniors' disability rates are on the decline in the United States. Since 1980, there has been a nearly 15 percent decrease in the prevalence of chronic disability and institutionalization among people 65 and older.

What does this mean in user friendly terminology? A drop in disability translates directly into actual costs savings since it is seven times more expensive to care for a disabled senior citizen versus a healthy one.

A second reason for optimism according to information taken from The American Health Assistance Foundation is that boomers are, generally, healthier than their parents.

Early diagnosis and better treatment methods of chronic diseases, behavioral changes in diet and exercise, and the health consumer empowerment have each played a significant role in contributing to our optimism.

Another sign of positive change is that both science and technology are progressing and contributing to a better understanding of disease (especially age-related diseases) and the execution to both diagnose and treat them. Well that's it for today; I truly hope that you have enjoyed reading. Thanks, as always, to the many people who continue to make positive comments on this column. If you have any questions and suggestions for future columns, please call me at North Country Home Services, Inc. 483-4502, or e-mail me at dklebes@nchs-intranet.com.

Next Time: Preventing illness, maintaining our health as we age, part 2.

 
 
 

 

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