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Growing Old May Not Be So Bad


According to research led by Duke University, funded by the National Institutes of Health, and published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society most people enjoy good or excellent health far into old age(even past age 85).This multi-university study of older people Americans shows that older Americans can enjoy good health for a longer period than previously realized. Many factors that make health worse can be blunted to extend health even longer.

Aging has been associated with a long period of gradual decline leading to death. These researchers found that Americans generally live heathfully to a point near their death, usually experiencing a short period of ill health immediately before death.

Elders(even the oldest old)may be healthier and their quaity of life may be higher than has been believed.

The participants, many beyond age 80, self reported their overall health on 10 measures, including:

  • Their ability to carry out activities of daily living(ADLs)such as dressing or bathing;
  • The presence of major illness such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.
  • Their level of social activity.

The study included nearly 3,500 people over age 65.

They were asked to describe their overall health as excellent, good, fair , or poor.

  • Of those between 65 - 75 80 - 90 % reported to be in excellent or good health.
  • Of those over 85 60 % reported to be in excellent or good health.

When asked about their ADLS:

  • 90 % of those between 65- 85 indicated they were independent.
  • More than 2/3 of those over 85 reported they were independent.


Up to 50 % of participants were free from any major disease and the rest were living with at least one physical ailment.

  • 40 % of men over 85 reported no major illness
  • 42 % of women did not suffer from any major illness.

Even those with a chronic disease were not necessarily disabled.

Some of the problems they did report could be addressed. The three most common(vision, hearing, and mood) can each be treated with clinical interventions.

In sum elders can and do live in good health and also fulfill their ADLs independently. Some of the more common problems they face can be addressed.