No other species has reached the level of aging than has the human species. No other species has the control over such enormous evolutionary pressures.
Right now, every hour of the day, 380 people are turning 60 and scientific studies recorded in 1992 show 342 million people age 65 and older. That's a whole lot of people in our senior population. They make up 6.2 percent of the world's population, and 12.5 percent of the population in the United States. By the year 2050, the amount of seniors will have grown to more than 2.5 billion.
What used to be a worry over birth-rate overpopulation is being replaced by a new term, "aging population."
In 1918, the flu epidemic dropped the normal life span 10 points. But those infectious and parasitic diseases, high infant and maternal deaths have now changed to chronic disease patterns such as cancer, heart disease, and stroke. This has changed the way life is lived. It has added time to our lives and changed the quality of that longer life.
The United States does not hold the record for the largest senior population. China has the largest population, with India a close second. Will the human life span continue to increase? Will mortality rates end up concentrating within a short time span? There are lots of questions and possibilities, but one thing is certain: the 21st century should bring the full transformation of the world to an aged population.
Studies done on the aging population show that the human life form is not known to be capable of living much beyond the age of 110, and diseases that end life at this point have little effect on this statistic. Dietary restrictions may slow down some of the parameters of the aging process, and changes in diet, exercise and daily routines may postpone overall aging. But the people who have spent time in a disabled condition later in life will live longer in that disabled condition.
Consider that the part of your life that is lengthened would be the disabled part. This will take money, health-care programs and planning now to avoid economic problems. It's going to be great to be able to live longer, but you also need a good quality of life.
Now is a good time to start working on those extra years. Sometime in the future, we are predicted to have an average life span in the 90s. That's a long time to enjoy the life you were given. Health checkups, vitamin supplements, closely followed medications, exercise and good nutrition will help you enjoy those extra years.
• Jerry Vance is owner of The Sweat Shop/Wet Sweat. She offers classes through Carson City Recreation and Aquatics Center and is a fitness instructor for the senior center.