Are Boomers Really Living Longer?

Boomers are generally identified as those born between 1946 and 1964, and according to statistics over 10 million Canadians and 78 million Americans fall into this category. Studies show that those turning 65 today are living almost 5 ½ years longer than a person who reached 65 in 1950. This appears to be good news; bolstered by media and government actions that suggest the trend will continue.

Marc Freedman’s recent story in the Wall Street Journal – How to Make the Most of Longer Lives, identified ways in which we might fill those added days. Studies are being done on what impact a longer lifespan will have on the economy and the health system, with the goal to not only live longer, but live better. The future sounds pretty darn good.

There is just one little issue.

Is it true that we are living longer? Dr Elizabeth Badley et al, University of Toronto, published research findings in the Milbank Quarterly this spring that challenged the commonly held belief that we are in fact living longer. “We found no evidence to support the expectation that baby boomers will age more or less healthily than previous cohorts did.”

Dr. Badley attributed the shift to an obesity epidemic. After an exhaustive analysis of Canadian health records from 1994 and 2010, she and her team found that the benefits of education, affluence, and reduced tobacco use over the years were almost neutralized by the rising incidence of obesity among baby boomers.

In his paper – The Aging of the Baby Boomer Generation: Catastrophe or Catalyst for Improvement?, Dr Andrew Wister at Simon Fraser University, stated “a review of studies examining eating habits suggests that the tendency for portion sizes to bulge and food quality to decline has likely cancelled moderate improvements in exercise level for the boomer generation.”

Carol Goar, Toronto Star columnist, summarized it best in her June 23, 2015 article Wake Up Call for Overweight Baby Boomers – For many years “medical technology was improving, people were becoming more knowledgeable about their health, once deadly diseases were being reduced to manageable conditions and life expectancy was going up. But over time, those positive trends were undercut by changes in North American behavior. First, home cooked meals dwindled, then physical activity fell off, while stress levels and nutrition related chronic diseases spread. Hypertension, stroke, cancer and dementia may not kill people but they limit their ability to travel, socialize, eat out, play golf, go back to school or do voluntary work.”

More needs to be done to identify contributing factors and provide methods to improve diets, address negative eating patterns, and increase daily physical activity. Although the government has a responsibility, we each need to look in the mirror and make the decision on what we can do today to help ourselves have a healthier tomorrow.
When you know better – you do better. It’s time we took action to do better.

Sandra Downey

Planet Longevity: Leading Thought Begins!

With great enthusiasm I am pleased to announce the launch of Planet Longevity, a thought leadership panel; a group of eight people who collectively offer forward thinking with a broad perspective on issues related to aging and longevity.

Our extended life expectancy as we know it now, is changing outlooks on how societies will adapt differently around the world. The aspects and prospects for our longevity beg for clear observation, practical ideas and positive re-framing.

The Planet Longevity goal is to position the many dimensions of this subject so as to influence, enlighten and challenge assumptions around how we will actually adapt to the experience of aging and longevity in our foreseeable future:

  •  Healthy aging and social policy
  • Personal wellness – body, mind and spirit
  • Elder care and family dynamics
  • Later life career renewal
  • Aging and work re-modelled
  • Financial foresight for later life
  • Smarter marketing to an aging consumer
  • Community redesign and cross-generational networks

All of this and more is perpetually changing individual attitudes and societal policy approaches for generations now and to come. For example: How do we reshape our world from the narratives constructed from our familiar past? Old narratives around issues like old age pensions, long term health care and our relationship to work, jobs and economic progress.

Planet Longevity has a crisp offering, as you will see cruising quickly through the web site. You could say we serve almost like your one source conference program, advisory group or speaker’s bureau. Our bi-weekly blog will feature all our members throughout the year and we invite you to contribute your questions and comments to encourage positive ideas.

The photo on the home page of fingers intertwined is a sequence from the Japanese film exhibit at the 54th Venice Biennale, 2011.

“In some of the images…a human brain comes rising like the sun or the moon, and the world unfurls itself in the light that appears shining from the brain. Up-and-down movements like this form the basis of the images of this work…the mirrors make people imagine the world spreading sideways….and the energy reflected by the mirrors continues to expand endlessly by the imagination of the viewers.” Tabaimo, Artist

Aging is natural and inevitable. How well do we foresee, prepare for and actualize our longevity? It is in our collective minds to answer and in our daily life actions to fulfill.

Welcome to Planet Longevity; where Leading Thought Begins!

Mark Venning