Sometimes we write about subjects that just might make you want to turn the page. Or run screaming from the room. At least at first glance. Aging could possibly fit that description. But stick with us on this one. Between now and the middle of the century, the aging population of America will be one of the most important stories anywhere. From both a personal and a policy perspective, the rapidly growing number of people between 65 and 100 plus will affect the way you think about health, diet, exercise, education, and finances—to say nothing of the broader social impact on everything from Medicare spending to housing patterns.
Consider that a 60-year-old who is contemplating retirement today could well have 30 or more years of productive living ahead of him. What does that suggest about second careers, continuing education, and the need to keep yourself in shape? Making it to 100, and not just surviving but thriving, will no longer be the rare occurrence that merits feature stories in the local newspaper.
A workout. This month we look at some new thinking about getting old. We assess the medical developments and latest research on what works to keep you, your family, and your friends active and vibrant for much longer than you may have thought possible. And yes, some of it involves exercise. It becomes more clear all the time that regular exercise benefits an aging body and mind in multiple ways. What's different today is the realization that you might need that mind and body a lot longer than you assumed.
Of course, the world is not about to become a senior utopia. There are significant concerns that come with aging. Top among them is that care for the elderly is the most expensive part of the nation's soaring healthcare costs, and it's going to grow. Seniors who receive Medicare today have it very good. But can that tenuous bargain last? The ongoing health reform debate has plopped the issue of limiting care in front of the public. Don't be fooled by the demogogic cries of "death panels!" This is a legitimate and troubling issue that, as Bernadine Healy writes, will have to be dealt with as soon as Congress's messy work is signed into law. If we end up with some version of universal care, as seems likely, then does that mean that everyone is entitled to all the care he or she needs and wants? Or does somebody set limits based on cost and efficacy? We've heard only the opening salvos of that controversy.
For many families, the toughest decision of all is whether to put an elderly parent into some kind of care facility. We offer practical advice along with our ranking of the nation's best nursing homes. A greatly expanded and searchable list is available at www.usnews.com/nursinghomes.
What are your thoughts about aging—your own or society's? Do you want to live past 100? How do you keep young? Should we allocate more resources to seniors? Please post a comment below or drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.