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Front Page » March 8, 2007 » Senior Focus » Senior Endeavors and a Long Life
Published 2,699 days ago

Senior Endeavors and a Long Life


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

Harry Vogrinec carefully takes his shot in a game of eight-ball at the senior citizen center.

It used to be the old adage was that when people retired, they sat in a rocking chair on the front porch and just enjoyed the view.

Whether that was really true at any point in time, it doesn't matter, because today's retirees are not taking the rocking chair trail. They are making choices to be active, healthy and often less sedate than their children or grandchildren.

For one thing retirement age has changed. In the days of the infancy of social security and even for many years after, retirement took place because the person who was leaving the workforce was just worn out from the hard labors of the time.

Now it is not unusual to see people in their early 50's retire due to pension plans at work sites where they have labored their entire lives. Despite retirement or continuing to work, most people in their early 50's hardly see themselves as senior citizens. Yet age is an important factor in our society and sometimes even leads to problems of discrimination.

Are all people that our society considers seniors, old?

What is considered old is different between cultures. In some places in the world, people are considered old because of certain changes in their activity level or their social roles. While most young people in the United States would like to be retired in terms of not having to go to work every day, few of those would like to do it by being old enough to retire.

In some societies people are considered old when they become grandparents or when they begin to do less or even different work from what they did before they left the regular workforce.

In the western world sometimes people are felt to be old if they have lived a definite number of years. For many Americans the idea that a person is old if they turn age 65 is prevalent. Certainly some of that is brought on by the fact that that is the age when Americans can retire with full social security benefits.

However, that perception may be changing because in the next 20 years the age to retire with full benefits will be moved to 67 years of age.

Leeey Maese prepares to glaze a pair of ceramic figures at the Carbon County Senior Citizens Center. The center offers a variety of activities and social events for senior in the community.

The largest and most well known organization for seniors, the American Association for Retired People, now allows those that turn 55 to join their ranks. And many kinds of discounts are in place at restaurants and in lodging properties that allow 55-year-olds to get "senior discounts."

For some this is not a positive thing. Many people have a stigma about being old; certainly it means a time when ones life cycle is coming closer to ending. But on the other hand, people younger than 55 are all going to get older too.

While centenarians have been asked numerous times how they lived to be 100 years old, the answers are often as varied as there are years in a millennium. Some cite clean lifestyles with little alcohol, drugs or tobacco, while others say it is activity, both physical and mental. Some say it is just strong will power.

But as the times change, what seniors get themselves involved in varies from docile sports like billiards to those who still participate in sports they would have played as a kid - baseball, basketball and tennis. Others even perform in extreme sports like mountain climbing, surfing and even running the Iditarod (a number of years ago an 88-year-old man ran the entire race and finished the near 1,100-mile trek).

Longevity has always been connected with many things including wealth. It seems to make sense that wealthy people will be healthier, but studies in places where socialized medicine treats everyone the same seems to not support this.

Other things related to all of this include lack of stress, a loving family, lots of friends and many others. While all these are some answers one might get from someone who has turned 100 years old, there are new ideas out there about how to live longer.

Some of the newest theories on longevity show that a long life might surprisingly result from how many years a person spent in school.

Years in school?

As study by Adriana Lleras-Muny of Princeton University, who became interested in the idea in 1999, has shown this may well be true. After years of going over records that were put out a century ago when states started mandatory attendance at school for many students and then looking at resulting deaths years later, she found that those that had even attended only one more year of school had extended their lives by a year and even more.

Of course there are a lot of other reasons that could be tied to this, but some other studies have complimented what she uncovered.

The answer to a long life is an enigma; maybe something no one will every really know, because what works for one person may not work for everyone.

But certainly, when one looks around themselves, long lives have to have more behind them than good genes and the luck of the draw.


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