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  • Cameron Oglesby

Boomers live longer than their parents did. But are they less healthy?

A Journals of Gerontology report published this month seems to suggest so.

Comparing health statistics for seven age groups (Greatest Generation, born before 1923; Early Depression, 1924-30; Late Depression, 1931-41; War Babies, 1942-47; Early Boomers, 1948-53; Mid Boomers, 1954-59; and Late Boomers, 1960-65), researchers found that all three groups of Boomers were more likely than earlier generations to have two or more chronic health conditions, at younger ages.

These conditions included heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, cancer (excluding skin cancer), arthritis, lung disease, depression symptoms, and trouble with memory and thinking skills.

At first glance, this might seem unsurprising. After all, pre-Boomer generations came of age during much more austere times. Diets were sparser, work inside the home and out was more manual, and transportation involved far more exercise (e.g., walking) than driving.

But that reasoning ignores a trick of perspective.

For one thing, being alive with, say, hypertension, is healthier than being dead.

For another, advances in medical science have skewed the results by making it possible to detect chronic conditions earlier and manage them better through middle and old age. As one of the study’s authors, Penn State Professor of sociology and demography Steven Haas, admits, “There have been improvements in treating some chronic diseases over the past few decades, which allows people to live longer with disease and as a result leads to higher population-level rates of disease.”

So when you look at statistics alone, you’re comparing Boomers in average health with members of the Greatest and Depression Generations who were hardy and healthy enough to not die young.

A man I know is a good example. His father, born in 1914, died of an undiagnosed heart attack just before his 41st birthday. Using a then-new procedure called coronary catheterization, the son was diagnosed with coronary artery disease in his early 30s, underwent angioplasty in his 40s, received a quadruple bypass at age 61, and with diet and assorted prescription meds is approaching his 80s – all thanks to medical knowledge that didn’t exist during his father’s lifetime.

The point here is that we’re not just different from our parents’ generation. We’re different from members of our own generation as well, and our health care – especially senior care – should never be subject to stereotyping. With Senior Insights, it never is.

Before we recommend any kind of care, we conduct a thorough three-part assessment of a client’s physical, emotional, cognitive, and psychosocial care needs. It’s the first step in designing a holistic senior care management plan geared to your specific needs, values, preferences, and desire for independence – with no pigeonholing or stereotyping whatever. To find out what a difference that can make, please contact us.

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