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Today's research covers a number of studies about increased life expectancy and aging. These studies indicate that:
Older people are becoming functionally younger
Those studies compared to the capabilities of age-matched cohorts of old people in past 3 decades with old people of the same age today. Being 70 or 80 in 1990 was accompanied by a greater loss of physical capabilities. For example, walking speed, or grip strength, as it is the case at those ages today. This is what one would expect given the slow upward trend in life expectancy. That has continued year after year, for more than a century now. Basically, better lifestyle choices are driving this development. Nowadays, we have greater control over medical issues throughout life. And due to that, we observe improvements in treating and preventing age-related diseases.
It is interesting to see, just how much has been achieved. Even without undertaking direct efforts to target the mechanisms of aging. While the reasons for a lesser burden of frailty and mortality in late life have changed over time. Examples start from, a reduction in the burden of infectious disease across the 20th century. And they even last to a lessening of cardiovascular disease over the last few decades. The theme remains an incidental reduction in the level of accumulated damage and dysfunction at a given age. Now, we are moving into an era, in which the research and development community is actively and deliberately. Research about lifespan is targeting the underlying causes of aging.
Considerable increase in life expectancy and an upward trend of vitality
We might expect to see an increase of vigor, health, and longevity in old age.
The studies among men and women between the ages of 75 and 80 show an increase in vitality. On one hand, physically that can be seen in muscle strength, and walking speed. And on the other hand mentally, in reaction speed, verbal fluency, reasoning, and working memory. Those aging indicators are nowadays significantly better than they were in people of the same age born earlier. In lung function tests, however, differences between cohorts were not observed.
Reasons For Increased Life Expectancy
Nutrition, hygiene, and health care
The cohort of 75- and 80-year-olds born later have grown up and lived in a different world. Compared to their counterparts, born three decades ago did. There have been many favorable changes. These include better nutrition and hygiene, improvements in health care. Even education, due to a better school system, has a positive impact. Also, better access to lifelong learning and improved working life.
The results suggest that increasing life expectancy is accompanied by a grown number of healthy years. And due to better health, they may be enjoyed with good functional ability in later life.
A combination of slower aging and longer lifespan
The observation can be explained by a slower rate-of-change with increasing age. Further, this is accompanied by a higher lifetime maximum in physical performance. Or a combination of the two. These developments imply, that our understanding of older age is old-fashioned. From an aging researcher's point of view, more years are added to midlife. And not so much to the utmost end of life. Increased life expectancy provides us with more non-disabled years! But at the same time, the last years of life come at higher. And higher ages may result in an expanding need for care. Among the aging population, two simultaneous changes are happening. First, a continuation of healthy years to higher ages. And second, a higher number of very old people who need external care. So the question of the future turns out as:
How to STAY HEALTHY to enjoy an increased LIFE EXPECTANCY?
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Understand the messages of your body. And, how to act on them for your longevity.