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Posted August 20, 2014 in Advice Column

The number of people today aged 60 and older has doubled since 1980. The number of people aged 80 years will almost quadruple to 395 million between  now and 2050.

Within the next five years, the number of adults will outnumber all children under the age of 14.

The majority of older people live in low- or middle-income countries. By 2050, this number will have increased to 80 percent.

Healthy aging is linked to health in earlier stages of life. Undernutrition in the womb, for example may increase the risk of disease in adult life, such as circulatory diseases and diabetes. Respiratory infections in childhood may increase the risk of chronic bronchitis in adult life. Obese or overweight adolescents run the risk of developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes, circulatory disease, cancer, respiratory and musculo-skeletal disorders in adult life.

Yet how well we age depends on many factors.

The functional capacity of an individual’s biological system increases during the first year of life, reaches its peak in early adulthood and naturally declines thereafter. The rate decline is determined, at least in part, by our behaviors and exposures across the whole life course. These include what we eat, how physically active we are and our exposure to health risks such as those caused by smoking, harmful consumption of alcohol or exposure to toxic substances.

The need for long-term care is rising. The number of older people who are no longer able to look after themselves in developing countries is forecast to quadruple by 2050. Many of the very old lose their ability to live independently because of limited mobility, frailty or other physical or mental health problems. Many require some form of long-term care, which can include home nursing, community care and assisted living, residential care and long stays in hospitals.

Worldwide, there will be a dramatic increase in the number of people with dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease as people live longer

The risk of dementia rises sharply with age with an estimated 25-30 percent of people aged 85 or older having some degree of cognitive decline. Older people with dementia in low- and middle-income countries generally do not have access to the affordable long-term care their condition may warrant. Often families do not often have publicly-funded support to help with care at home.

Information provided by Jaime Roelfs, Marketing Director, Crestview Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 2401 Des Moines St., Webster City, 515-832-2727.

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