A powerful reminder: Make health last

Canada’s Heart & Stroke Association poses the question: What will your last 10 years look like? It’s a short, though provoking clip that reminds us that health choices we make today will dictate the quality of our life later.

If you fear you might be on the path of the person on the right, it’s never too late to make some healthy changes. Here’s a few places to start. The New England Journal of Medicine recently published the results of a study about the Mediterranean diet. The study found people at high risk for coronary artery disease could reduce their risks of stroke, heart attack and death from coronary artery disease by 30% by relying on a Mediterranean style of eating. Learn more about a more about a Mediterranean diet from the Mayo Clinic.
If you need more exercise, the CDC offers guidance on how much physical activity you need, based on your age. The CDC also offers guidance for adding physical activity to your life.

Tools for older drivers

If you have an older driver in your household – or if you are an older driver yourself – you may be wondering what your state law is about when and if you need to be tested. Some states have no special requirments based on age. Some require older drivers to renew in person. Many require vision tests or proof from an optometrist that vision has been tested.
Few, if any, states require road tests for aging drivers. Several states have looked into laws to impose manadatory tests after a certain age (often age 75), but these have generally been defeated, either because there was not sufficient evidence that they would reduce collisions, or because they were viewed as discrimantory. However, most states will accept reports of potentially dangerous drivers from police, family or other observers and may require tests based on such reports. Some states also allow tests to be required at renewal based on observations of potential impairment by registry of motor vehicle employees. Selective tests based on reports or observations aren’t necessarily restricted by age! Some states will revoke licenses based on any problems that turn up, while others impose restrictions, such as driving only in daylight hours.
There’s no consistency state to state – here’s a handy State by State Look at Driving Rules for Older Drivers.
Aging drivers should be aware that there are many new safety tools that can help reduce risks commonly associated with aging, such as diminished vision. See the Top 10 Car Technologies For Mature Drivers, as well as 10 Vision Safety Tips for Older Drivers.
It would be ideal if everyone could self-assess and make the decision to limit or stop driving as they feel abilities diminish – some peopel do indeed do that. But because giving up a car is so tied with independence, many are reluctant to give up driving. And some may lose objectivity – they may “feel” like they are still driving safely. It often requires intercession of a caring family member or friend. See our prior post on Helping senior drivers to make a tough decision: hanging up the keys.

Helping senior drivers to make a tough decision: hanging up the keys

Good Morning America has been airing a series on aging and one of the difficult topics they are tackling is the issue of senior driving. In Mom & Dad, we need to talk, they explore the ways that adult children can help their parents make the difficult and often painful decision to hang up the car keys.
It’s not an issue that should be put off because, at some point, it’s a matter of safety – both for the elderly drivers and for the general public. GMA cites some grim statistics:

“Although most senior citizens are careful behind the wheel, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers older than 70 have a higher fatality rate per mile than any other group, except people under 25. And most of those fatalities happened at some kind of crossroads.
A 2007 study released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that 40 percent of serious crashes at intersections involved people older than 70. Add to this the fact that the number of elderly drivers is projected to double to 70 million by the year 2030 and you have the makings of a potentially dangerous problem.”

They also publicize AARP’s 10 warning signs for when to limit or stop driving.

  1. Almost crashing, with frequent “close calls”
  2. Finding dents and scrapes on the car, on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs, or the like
  3. Getting lost
  4. Having trouble seeing or following traffic signals, road signs, and pavement markings
  5. Responding more slowly to unexpected situations, or having trouble moving your foot from the gas to the brake pedal; confusing the two pedals
  6. Misjudging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance and exit ramps
  7. Experiencing road rage or having other drivers frequently honk at you
  8. Easily becoming distracted or having difficulty concentrating while driving
  9. Having a hard time turning around to check over your shoulder while backing up or changing lanes
  10. Receiving traffic tickets or “warnings” from traffic or law enforcement officers in the last year or two

Life expectancy and your chances of reaching 100

Are you planning to live to be 100? There are about 250,000 centenarians alive today, including several hundred “supercentarians” aged 110+ years. You can get a good idea of your chances of joining their ranks with the Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator. This calculator asks you 40 quick questions related to your health and family history, and takes about 10 minutes to complete. It uses medical and scientific data to estimate how old you will live to be. In addition to estimating your life expectancy, it offers a “to-do” list for you and your physician, along with a list of things you can do differently and how many years you will likely add to your life if you do so.

This calculator was developed by Doctor Thomas Perls who is the founder and director of the New England Centenarian Study, the largest study of its kind in the world. We like it because it gets you thinking about lifestyle factors that can influence your odds. But for those of you who want a shortcut, you can get an estimate of your remaining years by viewing the life expectancy chart published by the Office of the Actuary of the Social Security Administration.

Interestingly, according to the CIA World Factbook’s life expectancy chart ranking various countries, here in the U.S., we rank at #50 at 78 year and 11 months. Macau tops the chart with a life expectancy of 84.36 years. Here are some of the oldest people on earth. View portraits and read the stories of some people whose lives span three centuries.

By the way, if you are planning to live to 100, make sure your retirement planning takes that into account – life expectancy is an important factor in your financial planning – talk to your insurance agent if you expect to join the ranks of centenarians!