Saturday, April 28, 2012

Purposeful Aging

Something led me to think of the Andy Rooney quote I have mentioned more than once, last on November 2011, .  You know the story… Bill O’Reilly made fun of him over something and his retort was, “ I didn’t get old on purpose, it just happened.”  

When I recalled the quote yesterday it finally hit me – NO, that is not right at all Andy (he died last year).  People do NOT get old by accident at all.  So that led me to the post today.

I want to (and I will) link you to articles that were written or cowritten by the same author, John Rowe. One was written in 1987 and the other in 1996.
I love them both.  One is more technical as it discusses ways to intervene in the life course and how to test those interventions. I will summarize the abstract of the 1987 one in a moment.  Every time I talk about this article I am surprised that it was written so many years ago.  I was a young adult in (undergrad) college at the time and aging was not on my personal or professional agenda.

I returned to school in 2000 to get a  post baccalaureate certificate in Gerontology.  I did end up working with an older population after seven years in the child abuse/neglect field.  It always seemed to me that we (the country, public health) started to talk about aging then (greying of America) – the year 2000, and in the decade that followed the conversation switched to successful aging.  It seemed to me.

But Rowe began this dialogue long before and it is high time we started to listen.  I consider this blog as having everything to do with aging – but not like Andy Rooney said – not by accident.  This is purposeful aging.  I live my life now and encourage others to do the same, so that if accident and irony escapes me, I will be one of those very active 90 year olds!

So to summarize the points John Rowe makes:
(speaking in 1986) Research focuses on the ways in which old age brings about disease and loss of functioning and refers to this as the usual course of life. There is a great difference on the individual level and successful aging does not include such a level of infirmity at all.
Rowe even claims that others have exaggerated the effects of aging.  Instead, the behaviors that people engage in or avoid in the preceding years impact how one ages and at what rate.  He calls for research that will give us the information we need to assist people in their life transitions so that they maintain the highest level of functioning possible. 

In the second article, nearly ten years later, he talks about some of those findings and then adds, Successful aging is multidimensional, encompassing the avoidance of disease and disability, the maintenance of high physical and cognitive function, and sustained engagement in social and productive activities.” 

 Do let us all take this to heart and do what we can to age with our faculties (mental and physical) intact.  That is my plan!

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