RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Health plays a huge part in how we experience life, and determining current health situations can help lead to a longer and happier life. But what about healthy aging?
“I think the key to healthy aging is listening to your body,” said Airman 1st Class Randal Marks, 86th Medical Support Squadron medical laboratory technician and frequent gym-goer. “A healthy metabolism, immune system, energy levels and even mental health will promote healthy aging, which aims to extend one’s healthy life expectancy. What makes it so important is, if you don’t listen to your body and ignore signs and symptoms, it can cost you your life.”
As Americans live longer, growth in the number of older adults is unprecedented. In 2014, 14.5 percent (46.3 million) of the U.S. population was aged 65 or older and is projected to reach 23.5 percent (98 million) by 2060, said Sandra Colby and Jennifer Ortman, authors of Projections of the Size and Composition of the U.S. Population: 2014 to 2060.
“We tend to think about five years ahead, rather than 30 years from now,” said Staff Sgt. Alexandria Hoper-Leandry, 86th Logistics Readiness Squadron outbound cargo noncommissioned officer in charge.
There is an organization called Healthy People, which provides science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans. Increasing the proportion of older adults who are up-to-date on a core set of clinical preventive services, increasing the proportion of the healthcare workforce with geriatric certification, and other goals are a part of Healthy People 2020’s initiative.
“Feeling, looking, and performing the age that you actually are is aging gracefully,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Maze, 786th Civil Engineer Squadron structural craftsman. “You don’t want to be 30 and physically feel 50.”
Improving the health, function, and quality of life of older adults are specifically Healthy People goals, but it’s one that everyone should be aware of.
Physical activity can help prevent disease and injury. However, fewer than 60 percent of older adults engage in physical activity and strength training, according to the Institute of Medicine, Committee on the Future Health Care Workforce for Older Americans, and Board on Health Care Services in Retooling for an aging America.
Some common chronic conditions include heart disease, cancer, and diabetes mellitus, the chances for which increase when the aging process isn’t healthy.
Emerging issues in the health of older adults are person-centered care-planning, monitoring of health conditions, fair pay and compensation standards for formal and informal caregivers, minimum levels of geriatric training for health professionals and enhanced data on certain subpopulations of older adults.
“The World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,” said Capt. Miriam Seville, 86th Aerospace Medicine Squadron nutrition program coordinator. “But how do we achieve this as we age? It requires reducing stress whenever possible, eating the healthiest foods most of the time, being physically active on a regular basis, and engaging in a variety of positive social activities that add value to our lives, as well as to the lives of those around us.”