U.S. Survey Finds Elderly Can Be Healthy Well Into Old Age

Chances of healthy aging may be improved through public health measures

FRIDAY, Dec. 30 (HealthDay News) -- The elderly can experience good health well into old age, according to a survey of Utah residents who tend to have greater longevity than the rest of the American population. The findings, published in the February issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, suggest that the factors related to healthy aging are modifiable or amenable to public health efforts.

Truls Ostbye, M.D., Ph.D., of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., and the Cache County Investigators, studied 3,413 adults aged 65 years and older living in Cache County, Utah, a religious population with low levels of alcohol and tobacco use. Subjects were surveyed on their overall health, as well as their vision, hearing, ability to perform activities of daily living, physical illnesses, cognition, mood, social support and participation, spirituality and religious participation.

Overall, 80% to 90% of the group aged 65 to 75 years were healthy by these criteria. Even 60% of those aged 85 and older reported good health. Vision, hearing and mood were significant predictors of health, according to the researchers, but age, sex and cognition were significant predictors of survival.

"This population has a high prevalence of most factors representing healthy aging," Ostbye and colleagues conclude. "The predictors of overall self-reported health are distinct from the predictors of survival in this age group and, being potentially modifiable, are amenable to clinical and public health efforts."

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