Long Life Isn't
Alice Ann Love,
Associated Press Writer
4:34 PM EST; October 13, 1999; Washington, D.C. (AP) -- Nearly one in ten Americans over age 70 needs help with daily activities such as bathing and four in ten use assistive devices such as walkers or hearing aides, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday. "In planning for the nation's health care in the next century, we cannot ignore this group," said Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala. Rising life expectancy means members of the huge baby boom generation, who are nearing old age, can look forward to more golden years than their parents.
One reason: Death rates from heart disease for Americans ages 65 to 84 have decreased by about half since 1970, and for those 85 and older by 21 percent, the CDC said. Life expectancy for Americans at birth is 76.5 years. But someone who reaches age 65 can now expect to live to 83, according to the CDC. Someone who reaches 85 can expect to live to be more than 90. The CDC report said about half of men and two-thirds of women older than 70 have arthritis. A third of all Americans in that age group have high blood pressure, and 11 percent have diabetes.
Women over age 85 were the most likely among senior citizens to need everyday help, with 23 percent requiring assistance with at least one basic activity, such as dressing or going to the toilet. Two-thirds of older Americans not disabled at age 65 or older get some light exercise, like stretching or walking, at least once every two weeks. However, only a third of elderly exercisers get the recommended 30 minutes on most days of the week. The CDC report was part of the Federal agency's annual "Health, United States" statistical reference, which is based on government surveys. The most current figures given on the elderly were for the years 1995-97.