Healthy Aging Becoming More Common

Older Americans Faring Better Than Past Generations -- but Will the Boomers Do the Same?

From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 13, 2007 -- America's population isn't just getting older -- it's aging more healthfully than in the past, CDC researchers report.

But the U.S. still faces some challenges to healthy aging, report Ellen Kramarow, PhD, and colleagues in the journal Health Affairs.

Kramarow's team works at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. They rounded up data on the health of people aged 65 and older in the U.S.

On the bright side, the researchers found improvements on "nearly all major indicators: longevity, self-reported health, and functioning" in routine daily tasks.

For instance, life expectancy is at a record high of nearly 80 years, mammography and vaccination rates among elders are higher than 20 years ago, and medical advances are helping people live longer.

But the picture isn't totally rosy. Persistent gaps in race, sex, and health remain.

"African-Americans generally lag behind other groups on most measures of health," and "men continue to have lower life expectancy than women," write Kramarow and colleagues.

The researchers also voice concern about America's growing girth. The nation's obesity boom -- which includes people of all ages -- may hinder the positive trends in healthy aging.

Finally, the findings don't show whether older Americans are staying mentally sharp as they age. "This is an important gap in our knowledge of elderly health trends," write the researchers.

(How long have your parents and grandparents lived? Talk about your health and lifestyle on our Active Aging Support Group message board.)

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on September 13, 2007


SOURCES: Kramarow, E. Health Affairs, September/October 2007; vol 26: pp 1417-1425. News release, Health Affairs.

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