Published on: August 1, 2013
by Carolyn Rosenblatt for Forbes:
The United States of Aging Survey, conducted by the National Council on Aging (NCOA), UnitedHealthcare and USA TODAY reports on seniors’ perspectives on aging and what concerns them. Of interest is what doesn’t seem to concern them so much: taking care of their health.
The 2013 survey comprised 4,000 telephone interviews, including nationally representative samples of Americans ages 60 and older and adults ages 18-59.
The study found that sixty percent of seniors expect their health to stay the same over the next five to 10 years. (Who are they kidding?) They are not doing any activities to help themselves manage their health over the long run. 65 percent of seniors report having at least two chronic health conditions.
From seeing this part of the study, I am concerned. Chronic health conditions need to be managed or they are sure to get worse over time, not stay the same. Yet the majority of the seniors in the study did not report taking their chronic health issues seriously enough to work on managing them. They must be in la-la land.
More than half of the seniors studied have set no goals, such as regular physical activity or weight loss, to manage their health. And these seniors are apparently not getting much help on this goal setting either. Of those with chronic health conditions, 7 in 10 state that they were not encouraged by their health care provider to attend community programs to help with their health.
Where does that leave us? If the study reflects general attitudes of being unconcerned about health conditions that need attention and no one is paying attention, we will all pay the price. If a senior does not manage high blood pressure, for instance, by doing what doctors recommend and not having a specific goal to get blood pressure down to a more normal level, more seniors are going to suffer strokes and heart attacks.
We will all be paying the high costs of treating these things via Medicare expenditures and family caregiving contributions to maintaining our elders after their health breaks down.
How soon do you want to become your aging parent’s caregiver?
So how do we get our elderly parents, or maybe our siblings age 60 and over to get out of la-la land about their need to pay attention to health? We can aim for healthy aging ourselves. We can take the first steps and talk about our own efforts with our family members. We become the example for them.
Here are 5 ways for you to start on the path to preventing your own chronic illness.
1. Get a good pair of comfortable walking shoes. Keep them by the door on days you want to get out and spend 30 minutes walking.
2. Put the days you will engage in physical activity for 30 minutes on your calendar and keep your appointment with yourself. 3 times a week is a great start.
3. Cut out one unhealthy food or drink habit every week for a month. Whether you stop buying sugary drinks, like sodas or refrain from fries, you can part with one thing each week. Maybe a good new habit will displace the old one.
4. Read food labels next time you go to the grocery store. You might be surprised at what’s in those packaged goods. If you can’t pronounce the additives, they just might not be good for you. Don’t buy it if you want to be sure.
5. Tell your aging loved ones what you’re doing and encourage them to do the same. Be accountable to yourself and to them. If you really want to be accountable, post what goals you want to reach on social media, such as Facebook. And set some deadlines for reaching your goals. Post your progress.
We can change our consciousness about healthy aging one step at a time. Now’s the time to take that step.
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