According to UN forecasts, by 2050 the number of people aged 80 and over will triple - from the current 143 million to 426. The majority of the elderly will be in Europe and North America: by the middle of the century - every fourth is over 65 years old. This will significantly increase the burden on the global economy. However, as scientists have found out, along with life expectancy, its quality also grows. And old people today are in better physical and mental shape than their peers 30 years ago. Writes about it RIA News.
Many summers, many diseases
In 2015, scientists from the University of Cambridge (UK) analyzed data on life expectancy and age-related diseases of the British. As it turned out, after 80 years, more than 60 percent have problems not only with health, but also with cognitive abilities - memory, attention and information processing speed. All this worsens the quality of life.
European researchers came to similar conclusions. They studied the data of more than 20 thousand Germans, Swedes and Spaniards over 50. And they noticed: now they live to old age more often, but retain their physical shape worse than those born during the Second World War or immediately after it. Perhaps the fact is that earlier only the healthiest and most physically hardy people reached the age of eighty. Today, due to the development of medicine, almost everyone is reaching old age. Therefore, the authors of the work warn, it is worth waiting for the growth of age-related chronic diseases.
Therefore, it makes sense to focus on the quality of life of the elderly - the so-called healthy life expectancy (HALE).
According to Cambridge scientists, among people over 70 years old, a high proportion of those who suffer from chronic diseases. After age 85, over 80 percent of people have serious health problems.
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Active old people
But the Japanese scientists got different results. Observing the health of retirees from 65 to 79, they found that over the past decades, older people have become more active and healthier. Their walking speed and cardiovascular system improved compared to their peers surveyed 20 years ago.
Similar results were obtained by Norwegian specialists who analyzed data on the health of people aged 66 to 84 years. They used information on those born in 1910-1929, 1923-1942 and 1931-1949. It turned out that the representatives of the last of the studied generations are in better physical condition and have higher indicators of hand grip strength. This difference correlates with educational level, height and weight, but is not associated with smoking cessation and increased physical activity.
In a sober mind and solid memory
In September 2020, Finnish scientists announced that today's older people are physically healthier than older people their age 30 years ago, and are better at coping with intellectual tasks. The researchers came to this conclusion by comparing the results of cognitive tests of a group of retirees 75-80 years old with the results of similar tests thirty years ago.
Elderly volunteers were asked to repeat a series of numbers in forward and backward order to test auditory memory. Other tasks assessed information processing speed, reaction speed, and short-term visual memory. Participants were asked to memorize the code, and then use it to encode a numerical series. Physical condition was assessed by walking speed at ten meters, hand grip and lung vital capacity (FVC).
Comparison of the results of current retirees and their predecessors showed that representatives of the later sample performed better on most tests. The difference in reaction speed is especially noticeable for both men and women. But the auditory memory test did not reveal any differences between the current 80-year-old women and those who participated in the experiment 30 years ago.
According to the authors of the work, the high results of modern pensioners are explained by the general increase in the quality of life. Nutrition, working conditions and medicine have improved. This means that people not only began to live longer - the life expectancy of a healthy life also increased.
However, these processes may also indicate an evolutionary slowdown in the aging process. According to the bold hypothesis of scientists from Moscow State University and their German colleagues, thanks to social organization, there is a "prolongation of youth" - just as it happened in naked mole rats, African rodents, known for a phenomenal (for this group of animals) life expectancy. In other words, Homo sapiens began to move along the path that these little animals had already passed.