April 7 is World Health Day, a day to consider the health of our world population and how we can continue to improve it. Today, more people are living longer than previous generations. A longer life span represents a significant opportunity for older adults, their families, and even for communities at large. A longer life gives us the chance to continue or start to pursue hobbies and dreams and even make valuable contributions to family and society. However, these opportunities depend heavily on one factor: health.
The following are some interesting facts on healthy aging from the World Health Organization.
- The world’s population is rapidly aging.
The number of people 60 years or older will rise from 900 million to 2 billion between 2015 and 2050 (moving from 12% to 22% of the total global population).
- There’s little evidence that older people today are in better health than their parents.
The proportion of older people in high-income countries needing help from another person to carry out basic activities like eating and washing may have declined slightly over the past 30 years. However, there has been little change in the prevalence of less severe limitations in functioning.
- The most common health conditions in older age are non-communicable diseases.
The biggest killers of older people are heart disease, stroke, and chronic lung disease. The greatest causes of disability are sensory impairments, back and neck pain, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depressive disorders, falls, diabetes, dementia, and osteoarthritis.
- When it comes to health, there is no ‘typical’ older person.
Biological aging is only loosely associated with a person’s age in years. Some 80-year-olds have physical and mental capacities similar to many 20-year-olds. Other people experience declines in physical and mental capacities at much younger ages.
While there are some health risk factors beyond our control, most of our health is in our hands. We each have the opportunity to improve our health and wellness by taking preventative measures. Eating well and exercising are the primary means to improve and maintain health. Other measures can be taken as well. Below is a link to a downloadable/printable Healthy Aging Checklist. This checklist includes six steps to keep you (and your loved ones) on a path to healthy aging.