Few of us are immune from the anxiety that can quickly set in when we contemplate our own ageing. Who will be there for us when us can no longer physically take care of ourselves? Who will be around to remind us of who we were in our moments of lucidity when our minds have started slipping away? For those of us who don’t have children, these questions take on a particular significance. I had mixed feelings after watching Still Alice, an Oscar-winning depiction of early-onset dementia. It made for grim viewing. But it was easy to imagine the ways it could have been even grimmer: what if the protagonist, Alice, had no children, a partner long departed or divorced, or friends who had drifted away?
It’s no secret that Americans are living longer and working longer or that both trends are likely to continue. People over 65 made up 13% of the U.S. population in 2000; they’re expected to be 20% by 2030. AARP estimates that Americans over 50 now spend $7.1 trillion annually and, as their numbers grow, that figure will more than double, to $15 trillion by 2020. So why aren’t American businesses preparing better for the future of aging, to serve their employees and their customers? And what should they be doing?
First came “villages,” hyper-local groups created by aging neighbors to build a greater sense of community and help each other grow old at while remaining at home. These nonprofit groups arranged volunteer drivers, household helpers, social events and, in some cases, kept lists of reliable professionals, including plumbers, roofers, estate lawyers and even art appraisers. Now, 15 years and some 220 villages after the first one was born in Boston, a move is afoot to woo and welcome the active 50+ set. Most of these folks still work and don’t need rides to the supermarket or help raking leaves. They have no use for the names of pre-screened health aides or note-takers for medical visits. Their main goal is a richer social life with others similarly situated.
Religion consumes up to a tenth of economic productivity in some societies. So it must produce corresponding benefits. What are they? By religion, I mean any supernatural belief system that is invoked with the intention of altering the outcomes of an individual, or group. Clearly, there are many different types of religion ranging from the animism practiced in small-scale hunter-gatherer societies to the more grandiose efforts carried on in Egypt at the time of construction of the Great Pyramids.
Researchers used Add Health data to investigate the impact of volunteering on crime involvement later in life, as studies have shown that volunteerism or community service can increase levels of prosocial behavior, belonging, and happiness among adolescents. Participants reported their illegal behaviors, arrests, and convictions during Waves III and IV of Add Health.
For most of her career, Dorothy Keenan worked with older adults, eventually becoming the supervisor of senior services in Fairfax County, Va. But three years ago, as a retiree, she decided to focus on the younger generation, volunteering at elementary schools that primarily serve lower-income children.
Have you ever wished you could fast-forward your life so you could see if the decisions you’re making will lead to satisfaction and health in the future? In the world of scientific research, the closest you can get to that is by looking at the Harvard Study of Adult Development — a study that has tracked the lives of 724 men for 78 years, and one of the longest studies of adult life ever done.
When scientists began tracking the health of 268 Harvard sophomores in 1938 during the Great Depression, they hoped the longitudinal study would reveal clues to leading healthy and happy lives. They got more than they wanted. After following the surviving Crimson men for nearly 80 years as part of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the world’s longest studies of adult life, researchers have collected a cornucopia of data on their physical and mental health.
Last year, baby boomers began turning 70 years old. Thanks to advances in modern medicine and growing awareness about the importance of making healthy lifestyle choices, it’s no surprise that these seniors are living longer, healthier lives. Questions about retirement and where they’ll spend their post-retirement years remain top-of-mind for them, however. Continuing care retirement communities, also known as life plan communities, are evolving to attract and fulfill the needs of active boomers.
Navigating social life after cancer can be difficult for younger patients, according to a recent study, which found that adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer survivors may see slight improvements approximately 1 year after their diagnosis, but their social functioning plateaus after that, leaving many lagging behind their cancer-free peers.