Forever Young?



Congratulations! It is your 65th birthday and you are now eligible to receive a senior discount! This may be a small benefit of old age, but it is highly appreciated in the senior community. However, the population is now living longer and the term “elderly” will soon be reserved for those individuals 85 and older. Sorry, I guess you will need to wait another 20 years for that discount. Hold on, celebrating a 65th birthday feels like forever away, why does this matter to a college student?

Because as a busy college student in your 20s, there are things you can do now to help you live longer and enjoy those extra golden years.

Edward Cornish, founder and former president of the World Future Society, states in a trend analysis from the World Trends and Forecasts section of the website that there is a “global increase in elderly people” because of the improved living standards and safer environments, government funding of medical research, and the healthier lifestyles promoted by society.

“Health conditions are definitely better,” CSULB Human Development lecturer Dr. Cindy Donham said. “In the past we had sewage and trash in the streets spreading life-threatening diseases. Now we know more about germs and viruses, the use of antibiotics, and availability of purified water. This has a huge impact on our health.”

Our government also plays a crucial role in why humans are living longer with their established programs and policies supporting the elderly such as Social Security and funding medical research to develop new treatments and medications.

“Technology and medicine will help people live longer even with disease,” said Dr. Marwa Azab, a Human Development and Psychology professor at CSULB. “In the past, people would die from diabetes, but now they can live 20 to 30 years with it because of the advancement of medications and treatments.”

Better living conditions, government support programs for the elderly, and advancements in technology and medicine all contribute to humans living longer.

But what does that mean for the future? Are people going to live forever?

When asked about aging and the possibility of living to be 100 years old, Kevin Vasquez, a human development major said,

“No! That is way too old... Maybe like 80. I think that future generations will live a little bit longer than 100, but I definitely don’t want to.”

Another student had a completely different outlook on growing old. Fashion merchandising major Amanda Dagnaly said that she does think about how the choices she makes now will affect her in the future.

“I want to live a long life,” she said. “Maybe I don’t exercise as much as I should, but I do try to eat healthy which is important in the long run.”

Maybe you are not planning to live to be 100 years old, but according to the U.S. Census Bureau there are currently over 65,000 Americans who are 100 years or older. Additionally, the United Nations Population Division projected that by 2050 that number will reach 830,000.

“There are already people living to be 100, 110, even 120 years old,” Azab said. “Small changes and good decisions that young people make today will positively affect their future well-being.”

Donham and Azab both agree that healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle are the most important changes that you can do today that will benefit you over the next 40 years.

Azab said that “lowering caloric intake, restricting drug and alcohol use, and doing any type of physical activity will have a tremendous impact on your quality of life. Research shows that the number of years you stay in school can delay the development of Alzheimer’s.”

The Post and Courier newspaper published the article “We Can Control How We Age” emphasizing Dr. George E. Vaillant’s, a professor at Harvard Medical School and psychiatrist, seven steps to living a long, wholesome life:

  1. Do not smoke. If you do smoke,quit early.
  2. Ride the roller coaster of life with its ups and downs.
  3. Limit your alcohol intake.
  4. Maintain a healthy weight.
  5. Build a strong, happy marriage and friendships.
  6. Get physically active. The body likes movement.
  7. Never stop learning.

Yes, it is really that simple!

By incorporating these seven simple steps into everyday life decisions, America’s “Baby Boomers” have become “Senior Boomers.”

Who knows what the future holds. Maybe one day we will be able to live a couple of hundred years with organs and body parts made in a laboratory, but for now, the best tool is to learn from the older generations to set ourselves up for success.

Live long fellow students so one day you can enjoy that senior discount at Denny’s.