December 31, 2010
from PreventDisease Website
Half of all the people who have ever survived to the age of 65 are living today.
The mainstream media loves to report on how our extended lives are an amazing achievement for humankind.
And yet there's a paradox:
There isn't going to be enough money for
all these idle old people, we're constantly told; pensions are
inadequate and our social care needs will ruin us. And
if we're terrified for society at large, we're also terrified for
This month alone, there have been several headlines:
An analysis of government data has found
that while life expectancy has steadily increased over the past
decade, the prevalence of heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes
has also increased, and disability has grown as well.
Some statisticians consider anyone over 50 an older person; if that is the case, then many of us are going to be old for half our lives. Lumping everyone together and talking in alarmist terms about the "aging population" seems rather neurotic, especially as we know that people actually become more diverse as they age.
In truth, it's not populations that age, it's people, and they do it at different rates and in very different ways.
You wouldn't think so, though, from the way that older consumers are ignored by marketing and advertising. Compared with the effort that goes into segmenting young consumers, identifying ever more nuanced tribes, the over–50s are dismissed as a homogeneous and not very interesting lump. Occasionally, there is some attempt to distinguish the young-old from the old-old, but neither group is seen as worth much effort.
Is insurance really the only thing older
people aspire to spend their money on?
Life, it has been said, can only be lived forwards but can only be understood backwards.
The presence of large numbers of older people offers an opportunity for a better perspective on our lives.
It is not really a paradox, of course, that we are obsessed with aging at the same time as being scared of it.
We associate getting older with decline,
so no wonder we want to believe that 60 is the new 40. It would be
more helpful to think of it as the new 60. At least as interesting
as the scientific research into various founts of youth are
the neurological advances now demonstrating that there really is
something in the idea that you gain wisdom as you age.
We need to stop listening to doctors tell us about how our bodies work and start listening to ourselves.