What Does a 70 Something Person Look Like?

What do you picture when you think of a person in their mid-seventies? Chances are that many people when asked that question will picture someone who has mental and physical limitations. And in some cases that would be correct. I would be willing to bet that not too many folks pictured the likes of Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger.

Jagger is turning 73 this week. He talked to Rolling Stone Magazine last year as he was preparing to go on tour; and declared that he had no plans to retire. He said he engages in vigorous exercise to prepare for the rigors of performing. Jagger is a great grandfather, and is expecting his eighth child with his current girlfriend. This is hardly the stereo typical picture of an aging person.

The truth is that the older the cohort, the more variability we see in health and functional abilities. This is known in the gerontology world as the “heterogeneity of aging.” A 2013 study funded by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on and Aging Society and published in The Journals of Gerontology examined the health of the aging population in order to predict the economic impact of the aging baby boomers.

The study authors discuss the reasons for the differences in health as we age, and write that “For a surprisingly large segment of the older population chronological age is not a relevant marker for understanding, measuring, or experiencing healthy aging.” The Mick Jagger example is proof of that.

So what makes the difference? Certainly genetic and socioeconomic factors play a role. Beyond that are the lifestyle factors that we all know, staying engaged in life, exercise and diet, social interaction, and stress levels to name a few. The effects of this kind of lifestyle seem to be cumulative, in other words start early for the maximum benefit. I always like to add though that it is never too late to make healthy changes that can have benefit.

The researchers express hope that this message will motivate people to engage in the lifestyle factors that we all know are important. For most of us-it is motivation not lack of knowledge that hinders healthy change. I say if you want motivation-dance to some Rolling Stones tunes and picture Mick Jagger next time someone asks you what a 70 something person looks like.

Happy Birthday Mick!

Be Well on Purpose!

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