By 2030, the number of Americans age 65 and over is projected to reach some 71.5 million people, and nearly 10 million of them will be age 85 and older. Today, many seniors report better health, greater wealth, and higher levels of education than seniors in past decades. Science is paying a lot of attention to the well-being of people in their later years. One area of concern is cognitive function, with dementia and Alzheimer’s studies paving the way. Physical health is another big topic for the aging population; keeping the body moving and healthy will help ensure the quality of a long life. Meanwhile, some elderly folk aren't even retiring, they're staying in the workforce and contributing to society well into their golden years. Adding to this richness, more and more young people are turning to their elders for advice and wisdom about all domains of life. Research on how to stay active and sharp is indeed proliferating—it's up to us to act on the information now.
Conventional wisdom says that you can live a long and meaningful life by keeping the mind sharp—seniors who read and play crossword puzzles are proof of that wisdom. Plus, plenty of sleep, a plant-based diet, and physical activity are all necessary as well. Yet one of the more crucial items on the list should be good relationships. Having a meaningful social life with close others who support you and listen to you makes a big difference in overall health outcome. Some cultures around the world—Okinawa, Costa Rica, Greece—have some of the longest living people in the world. Hands down, close relationships have a huge impact.
It's not so surprising that most caregivers are women, and that most caregivers are close family members. Often, these unsung heroes are raising their own children—hence, they are referred to as the sandwich generation. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), there are 44 million family caregivers, which is nearly 20 percent of the adult population in the U.S. These caregivers, who are often over the age of 50, provide physical and financial assistance to their elderly loved ones—the NAC also found that while women provide the lion's share of basic care, men also provide financial assistance. The lost wages and benefits, in aggregate, total some $3 trillion.