America is aging at an unprecedented rate. The number of seniors over the age of 65 is increasing dramatically…daily. Because of this, the aging process has become a major focus of researchers who are busy collecting data and uncovering some fascinating realities about this group. Never before, in our nation’s history, have so many people lived into the later stages of their lives and remained so healthy and industrious.
Most seniors live independently, maintaining close relationships with their families and friends. Also, it has been noted that most people’s personalities remain relatively consistent and stable throughout their lives. And, for most seniors who experience a decline in some of their intellectual ability, this decline is not severe enough to impair their daily lives. They adjust.
Concerning demographic and social issues of the older set:
- Life expectancy for women is now 80; for men it is 73.
- Our current population of older Americans is increasingly more educated than in past years. While 34% of those over 65 graduated from high school, that figure will rise to 83% by 2030.
- 64% of seniors between the ages of 65 and 74 are married and living with their spouses. Of those over 85, 24% are married and living with their spouses; 48% of them are living alone. One half of the women over 65 are widowed.
- Religious affiliation is the most common form of organizational participation among older adults. 50% report that they attend services on a weekly basis.
- Two-thirds of older Americans claim to have voted in recent elections, as compared with only 50% of younger adults.
All too often we are bombarded with negative myths about getting older; these confuse, distress, and frighten us. It is imperative that we know the truth about the process of aging; clarity and precision matter here, and they will serve us well so that society, and individual families, can best deal with and prepare to assist the older population.
Moreover, it is also important to remember that depression and social isolation are not a normal part of aging. According to the latest statistics, today’s seniors adjust successfully to the various challenges inherent in growing older. After all, they have had decades of trials and tribulations. They have a lot of experience in terms of problem-solving and negotiation; they are used to flexing and adapting.
Most seniors are quite satisfied with their lives; they live happily and productively. This is the norm for today’s older adults.
I told you there was good news.
For more information about this research you may contact The American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C. They can be reached at www.apa.org or (202) 336-6123.
Laraine Jablon, BA, MA, is a freelance writer specializing in social, health, and spiritual concerns of seniors. She lives in Nesconset, New York, and welcomes your thoughts. Lhjablon@gmail.com