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Golden Years Longer And Wealthier

Older Americans are living longer, and with more money, than previous generations, according to a new government report on aging.

The report, Older Americans 2008: Key Indicators of Well-Being, comes from the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics.

It predicts that there will be 71.5 million people aged 65 and older in the U.S. in 2030 - twice as many as in 2000 - because of the aging baby boomers and greater life expectancy.

"Americans are living longer than ever before. Life expectancies at both age 65 and age 85 have increased," states the report. "Under current mortality conditions, people who survive to age 65 can expect to live an average of 18.7 years, almost seven years longer than people age 65 in 1900. The life expectancy of people who survive to age 85 today is 7.2 years for women and 6.1 years for men."

The report also shows a drop in the number of older Americans living in poverty, and a rise in older Americans with high incomes. More Americans aged 55 and older - especially women - are working, compared to previous generations.

"On average, net worth has increased almost 80 percent for older Americans over the past 20 years," the report states. But large gaps in income still exist between whites and African-Americans, and between people with high or low levels of education.

Healthy-Aging Diet

Older Americans, like many younger Americans, could use a diet upgrade. In particular, the report recommends that older Americans eat more of these foods:

  • Whole grains
  • Fruits and vegetables (especially dark green and orange vegetables)
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy products

    The CDC wants older Americans to make two other dietary changes:

  • Cut back on salt, saturated fat, and calories from foods and beverages with solid fats, added sugar, and alcohol.
  • Use oils (including those in fish, nuts, and seeds) to replace some solid fats.

    The report also notes that obesity has become more common among older adults and other age groups in recent decades. Here are the percentages of older adults not living in institutions who were obese in 2005 2006:

  • Women aged 65-74: 37 percent (up from 27 percent in 1988-1994)
  • Women aged 75 and older: 24 percent (up from 19 percent in 1988-1994)
  • Men aged 65-74: 33 percent (up from 24 percent in 1988-1994)
  • Men aged 75 and older: 25 percent (up from 13 percent in 1988-1994)

    Active Aging

    Physical activity is important at every age, and older Americans have room for improvement there.

    Only 22 percent of people aged 65 and older, and only 10 percent of those 85 and older, reported getting regular physical activity in 2005 2006, according to the report.

    The CDC recommends getting 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity at least five days per week. Strength training is also on the CDC's to-do list for older Americans.

    Check in with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you're inactive now.

    Free Time, Socializing

    Watching TV is the No. 1 way that Americans aged 55 and older spend their free time. People aged 75 and older tend to spend more time reading, relaxing, and thinking than younger Americans aged 55-64.

    With age, Americans spend less time socializing and communicating. Previous research has shown that staying connected to others and avoiding isolation and loneliness may make for healthier aging.
    By Miranda Hitti
    Reviewed by Louise Chang
    ©2005-2006 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved

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