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5 ways to stay informed about aging, ageism and being healthy

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Hello, dear readers. I am back after taking a brief sabbatical from my column, a first in 22 years. Several weeks ago, my column featured five areas that highlighted the subject of aging as reflected in digital and print media, podcasts, webinars, research reports and more.  

Here are five more areas that indicate the pervasiveness and relevance of the subject. It’s a bird’s eye overview from just one person’s perspective and is not based on formal analytics. 

Public policy: One example is the Congressional bill entitled Protecting Older Workers Against Age Discrimination Act (POWADA) of 2023. With bipartisan support, this bill is in response to a 2009 Supreme Court ruling that made it more difficult to prove claims of illegal biases under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Since 2009, older workers must prove that age is the deciding factor in the employment decision, rather than just one of the factors. This is a higher burden of proof than needed for other types of job discrimination claims. This bill helps level the playing field for older workers and restores their ability to fight back against age discrimination in the workplace,” wrote Bill Sweeney, AARP senior vice president for government affairs.

Older consumers: In 2022, the 65-and-older demographic accounted for 22 percent of spending in the U.S. economy. This is the highest market share since records began in 1972. This increase has been attributed to older consumers’ health, wealth and perhaps the psychological impact of the pandemic. At the same time, this demographic is considered an underserved market. According to the Boston Consulting Group, mature consumers often are ignored by brand marketing because they are seen as sensitive and reliant on brick-and-mortar stores for their purchases. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Marketers fail to recognize their role as trendsetters” … notes the consulting group. Furthermore, older adults agree and feel they are being ignored because of age stereotypes, according to research by Age of Majority

Employment: In 2023, roughly 11 million older adults were working, which is nearly quadruple in size since the mid-1980s according to a Pew study. The fastest-growing age group are workers age 75 and older. Add to that changes in the Social Security System which raised the age at which workers can receive their full retirement benefits from age 65 to 67. Although illegal, age discrimination continues in the workplace. AARP reports that 78 percent of older workers say they have seen or experienced age discrimination in the work environment. That’s the highest level since AARP began tracking this issue in 2003.

Dementia: Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia among older adults affecting nearly 7 million. It has no agreed-upon cause or cure and is among the most feared of age-related conditions. Just over 10 percent of those age 65 and older have Alzheimer’s Disease and almost two-thirds are women. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “By 2050, the number is projected to grow to 12.7 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent or cure the disease.” It’s the seventh leading cause of death

Intergenerational relationships: “What we’re missing out on when we don’t have intergenerational relationships, personally and collectively” is a headline from the Los Angeles Times (April 11. 2023). It has been acknowledged that age segregation is a century-long trend in retirement communities, nursing homes and classrooms with same-age children. Marc Freedman, co-executive director of CoGenerate, an organization creating a more age-integrated culture, is quoted as saying that such a culture is “vital to solving major social problems.” For that to happen, he notes we need proximity and purpose – to see each other repeatedly and regularly with some common interests and goals. Closer intergenerational relationships is one way to prevent and eradicate ageism. 

Getting older presents challenges and extraordinary opportunities. We are slowly witnessing strategies to match lifespan with health span; for products, services and living conditions to enhance independence, security and dignity and for public policies to guarantee older adults the same rights as any other age group. We are seeing research studies focusing on the prevention and hopefully a cure of Alzheimer’s Disease and programs to enhance intergenerational connections. 

We all are stakeholders. So let us all embrace aging by staying well, keeping informed, and staying connected to loved ones and our communities. And of course, give back in some way. Know every act of kindness counts.

Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on issues of aging and the new retirement with academic, corporate and nonprofit experience. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at [email protected]. Visit Helen at HelenMdennis.com and follow her on facebook.com/SuccessfulAgingCommunity

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