“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent.” Carl Sandberg
McKinsey Health Institute Worldwide Survey
Is there a difference between how we are by where we live? Our income and savings? By our culture? While language barriers and cultural differences muddy our perceptions of others, fundamentally all of humanity is the same. That is the conclusion of the McKinsey Health Institute study Aging is Just a Number How Older Adults View Healthy Aging.
This survey of people fifty-five years and older from twenty-one countries asked the same questions to over twenty-one thousand people. According to their findings, aging well requires purpose, stress management, preserving independence and having meaningful connections with other people as the factors most associated with good health.
Perception is Reality
Across the globe, people can expect to live twenty years longer than generations before them. This does not mean years of good health. In fact, we know years of health and years of life vary greatly in reality and perception.
This work helps us to better understand how and why our physical, mental, social, and financial dimension contributing to health. McKinsey researchers measured fifty-three factors that contribute to good health.
Money and Health
Lastly, high incomes did not translate as the best health across all the factors. This work shows how nuanced health and happiness are as we age.
Age Friendly Everywhere is the Key to Healthy Aging
The World Health Organization is the leader in the Age Friendly movement to make every community accessible for residents at all stages of life with walkable street, accessible housing, transportation, opportunities to work, play and learn where you live. The McKinsey study shines a bright light on why age friendly is important for healthy aging. Remember, if our communities are accessible (and free from violence) then more senior adults can participate, contribute, and nurture the well-being of others as well as themselves.
Social Connections Improve Health
Participating in social activities reduces isolation thus improving mental and physical health. Think about it, if senior adults were socially engaged the by-product is lower health expenditures, loneliness, physical decline, and a greater sense of purpose. In fact, this study found that, regardless of income, those who lived in intergeneration homes stayed healthy longer.
Unmet Needs Are Common
Consistent with other studies, most senior adults want to age at home. The drive to remain independence is so strong that even unmet care needs did not reduce the respondent’s quality of life however financial issues play a large role in determining who can overcome deficits and remain independent. This work highlights that economic inequality aligns with poorer adherence to healthy sleep, stress management, balanced diet, mind-health activities, and physical health thus reducing the likelihood of good brain health.
Aging Mastery from the National Council on Aging estimates how the ‘average’ senior adults spend their day including hours sleeping, eight hours of leisure activities, four and one-half hours watching television and one hour proactively contributing to our well-being or that of others. One hour building our brain health per day. Worldwide decline in cognitive abilities gives rise to the rates of dementia leaving many, regardless of income, on years of life without good health. Therefore, the goal of remaining independent eating a nutritious diet and getting physically activity are two behavior changes to ward off disease.
Here is my pearl of wisdom for you behavior change is possible for everyone. “Empowering individuals in optimizing health doesn’t undermine the roles of systems, institutions, countries, or cities” according to the McKinsey study.
Yes, inequality exists. Yes, barriers exist but so do opportunities. Senior adults will soon outnumber children across the globe.
Get Up and Go!
We do not have the privilege of resting when there is so much work to do. Start with small daily habits and build on them. Share your successes with those around you. Volunteer or find a job that nurtures yourself and others. Add life to your years not just years to your life. Stay active. Stay healthy. Add life to your years!