LIMA — Over the years many sources have revealed that perhaps people born during the Baby Boom — the eldest of which are now well into “senior” status — are healthier than others in any generation before them. However, as they age are they still as spry as all the predictions, or are there health concerns that could affect their quality of life?
Americans born between 1946 and 1964 have been labeled “baby boomers” due to the “boom” in new life after those fighting in World War II had returned home and started or continued to grow their families. By the time the boom had tapered off in 1964, there were 76.4 million people who had joined this largest generation ever, which made up about 40 percent of the U.S. population, according to www.history.com.
The generation as a whole has been regarded as higher educated, more active and healthier than any of the generations that came before it. Some researchers and medical professionals believe there are hazards in ones thinking that they are healthier.
Lima neurologist Dr. Marietta Medel commented on the perceived trend that baby boomers are in better overall health:
“I don’t see a trend.” However, she added, “They think they’re pretty healthy.”
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, more than 83 percent of Americans in the baby boomer generation rated themselves in “good,” “very good” or “excellent” health.
Dr. Medel said something very good about the age group is that they do seem more inclined to take preventative measures with their health, as well as tend to seek medical advice before it’s too late.
Judy Fleisher, 66, a retired Ohio educator and one of the nations first baby boomers, said, “I think there is an increased awareness among us. We exercise because we know we should. We have more regular visits to the doctor and try to take a more preventative approach to our health.”
Fleisher pointed out that her generation didn’t grow up consuming some of the foods many do today on a regular basis. “We didn’t feast on McDonald’s or drink sugary Starbucks coffees,” she said.
“The attitudes of my parents were that they weren’t going to outlive their parents,” Fleisher added, “We see things differently. Baby boomers expect to live longer.”
With that expectation can come danger if you do not take a preventative approach as Fleisher does. If you simply assume you are going to live longer because people have always said you would, it could backfire.
Even though baby boomers are generally more active in their recreations, they have lived a lot of years with sedentary careers, as compared to the generations before them. In the 1920s and 1930s, many boomers’ parents may have had more physically demanding occupations and household duties.
Diane Bishop, Executive Director of the Allen County Council on Aging said, “We see a great variety of interests in the baby boomers. One of the trends is for more physical activity, which compares to the older generation who ate fewer calories, were in better shape and worked off their calories.”
“Baby Boomers might be working in an office setting and want to have accessible exercise. The senior centers have adopted that request and have added it to their missions statements,” Bishop said.
Bishop pointed out the fact that one cannot make a blanket statement for an entire generation. “I have noticed in 20 plus years of working in this field that they are not measured by their chronological age, but by the person,” she explained, “There are disinterested 50 year olds and interested 90 year olds.”
One major concern for the overall health of boomers is their weight. Complications due to carrying extra pounds elevate the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis and more, as cited by www.webmd.com.
According to the American Hospital Association, six out of 10 baby boomers will be managing more than one chronic condition by 2030. One in four will have diabetes, and nearly half will live with arthritis. More than one in three will be considered obese.
Fleisher said, “We have so much access to research. We need to utilize that information and act on it or ask our doctors about our risks.”
Referring to effects of poor health and failing to take preventative measures for their health, Fleisher said, “I saw how my parents and grandparents lived their last years. I don’t want to end my life that way.”
Fleisher explained that actress Bette Davis said it best, “‘Old age ain’t no place for sissies.’”
“How true that is,” Fleisher added.