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The Longevity Revolution
Successful Aging

A panel of experts spoke at the CASE Research Showcase 2008 at Case Western Reserve University on April 16, 2008. The topic was The Longevity Revolution: Maintaining Excellence described as follows:

Aging is the ultimate universal experience that ties all people, cultures and societies together. Today, more people than ever before are enjoying robust health and productivity well into their seventies and beyond.

Americans are living longer and are remaining healthier and more active well into older age. At the same time, diseases of aging continue to affect many older men and women, seriously compromising the quality of their lives. The aging of America brings a new set of challenges, encouraging us to understand age and to create a new model of what aging is.

Investment in specific age-related research areas is essential to increasing knowledge and finding positive outcomes in the field of aging. This symposium covers a broad spectrum of issues related to aging and research, exploring the biological, psychological and socioeconomic aspects of this timely topic.

You may have read about how one of the panelists, Dr. Michael Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer at the Cleveland Clinic and author of the best selling RealAge: Are You as Young as You Can Be? made news with the statement: "Our stupid governor! He either is stupid or he has very bad advisers."

Dr. Roizen was referring to the governor's decision to take $230 million designated for anti-tobacco programs. The state wants the money for a jobs bill.

Another panelist, Eva Kahana Ph.D., Director, Elderly Care Research Center, told of a study of 1800 seniors in Clearwater Florida that has been going on for almost 20 years. She said that in some respects, Successful aging = Lucky aging. If healthy, wealthy & wise means successful. She stressed a few results from the study that allows us to improve our "luck" with aging.

We all know to keep active and exercise but Dr. Kahana said that even those who never exercised at all until their 70's had great results once they began.

She also said that if you help others - it's like money in the bank. Volunteer, help friends, etc. and you will have better psychological well-being. People with altruistic attitudes and generosity of spirit do much better as they age.

The study shows that you also need to Speak Up. She stressed the need for active health care consumerism. Be assertive and take the initiative and you will get better care. Speak up to your doctor, be more assertive and get 2nd opinions.

The next panelist was Elizabeth E. O'Toole M.D. the Director, Geriatric and Palliative Care Section of MetroHealth Medical Center.

She spoke of the Longevity Revolution and the difference between Chronic Illness and Palliative Care. Palliative care is care that aims to relieve suffering, not just pain. Its aim is to improve the quality of living and dying. This includes therapies to modify disease and extends from Hospice Care to Bereavement Care.

Dr. O'Toole said there has been a slow decline in the number of sudden deaths. It is more likely you will suffer from a chronic illness. This is often a prolonged decline with multiple crises so there are lots of challenges.

She spoke of the Paradigm of Care now - How treatment is often in separate silos. For example if you have heart disease you go to a heart doctor, and so on. But the entire body needs treatment and care. Dr. O'Toole says that often "Patients get on the train and don't even know that choices are being made for them."

Marsha A. Pyle D.D.S., M.Ed. from the School of Dental Medicine, Case Western Reserve University spoke about Oral Health & Aging.

She said that our behavior has the single most modifiable impact on our oral health. Studies show that today only 27% of individuals over 65 are without any natural teeth.

In 1958 - 57% were without any natural teeth. In 1974 - 51%, 1985 - 42% and 2004 - 27%.

She warned about a possible impending epidemic in long term care institutions. She asked, "Who will brush my teeth when I can't?" 5% of the aged are institutionalized and many have oral neglect. For example, patients with a feeding tube still need oral care.

And medicine has an impact. Over 400 medications cause a dry mouth which can lead to rapidly declining oral health. Don't forget the economic side. Dental care is usually an out of pocket expense. Dental services not included in Medicare so people may not visit the dentist.

Mark A. Smith Ph.D. Professor of Pathology, then spoke about Alzheimer's disease. He said that currently about 5 million people are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. In 40 years he predicts it will be an epidemic if the trends continue. The target now, he said, is not a complete cure but to delay the onset of the disease for 5 years.

While very few people under 65 have it, at age 85, there is a 40% chance of getting the disease.

An antioxidant diet is possibly protective. You are statistically less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease following such a diet. He mentioned blueberries as nature's #1 antioxidant.

Dr. Smith said that Vitamin E and other pills don't have the same effects as the foods saying " there are no shortcuts!"

He said that Alzheimer's disease is caused by a complex interplay of genetics, bad fortune and environment. To decrease your risks of getting Alzheimer's Disease:

  • Eat Right (listen to your mother)
  • Physical exercise
  • Mental exercise (not TV)
  • Be Positive
  • Stay married (men more than women)
  • Social activities
  • Don't smoke

May L. Wykle Dean and Florence Cellar Professor of Nursing Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University said that by 2050, 30% of the world's population will be over 60 and 25% of the US population will be over 65. We now see 5 and even 6 generational families.

Depression affects nearly 5 million elderly in the US today. The suicide rate for men rises after age 65 and for women after age 75. Part of this if from threats to our self-concept - "I just can't do what I used to do!"

It's important, Dr. Wykle said, to let the elderly do things themselves if they can. She said that Self concept, self sufficiency, self esteem and self care lead to better health.



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