top of page

Successful Aging: Can you answer these questions about health and aging?

Dear readers.

I recently was invited to attend a conference for journalists who write about aging and health sponsored by the Association of Health Care Journalists and hosted by USC’s Andrus Gerontology Center.

Paul Irving, Chairman of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging and distinguished scholar in residence in the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology presented a compelling overview of age-related issues that I would like to share. He urged the attending journalists to consider the facts, priorities and perspectives in writing their stories.

The information is important not only for journalists but for each of us, as we plan and prepare for optimal aging.

Thank you to the Milken Institute for the Future of Aging for the important data they presented, which is the basis of this column.

Let’s check what we know – or think we know — in the form of a true-false quiz.

1. The U.S. population continues to grow. In 2020, the 65 plus population will be 56 million growing to almost 95 million in 2060.

2. In 1963, Japan had 153 centenarians; today they have 70 million.

3. Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will cost Medicare and Medicaid $195 billion in 2019.

4. Smoking has become a minor issue for older adults.

5. About half of adults 50 years and older have saved less than $100,000.

6. Working during retirement typically is bad for your health.

7. Ageism in the workplace is on the decline.

8. Where you live matters when it comes to longevity.

9. If we compared the dollars generated by older adults (the longevity economy) with economies of the world, it would rank third.

10. Having a purpose in life is connected to longevity.


1. True. In 1900, there were 3.1 million adults 65 and older or about four percent of the population. In 2060 that figure of almost 95 million will translate to 20 percent of the population.

2. True. In 1963, Japan went from 153 centenarians to 70 thousand today. When citizens turn 100 years old, the Prime Minister sends them a solid silver bowl, a custom which began in 1963.

3. True. Indeed, the cost to Medicare and Medicaid will be $195 billion. The out of pocket costs to patients will be $63 billion.

4. False. About 14 percent of adults in the U.S. continue to smoke. Those 60 years and older are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke or other coronary event as non-smokers. They are likely to die from any cancer 10 years sooner than those who don’t smoke.

5. True. That $100,000 may not be sufficient for a financially secure retirement since a 65-year old couple retiring in 2018 would need $280,000 just to cover their health care costs throughout their retirement.

6. False. According to the Center for Disease Control and other sources, traditional retirement can increase the number and severity of chronic conditions. Working one year past 65 can lower the risk of death by 11 percent.

7. False. There is no data to support this. AARP reports that almost two-thirds of workers 45 years and older say they have experienced or seen ageism in the workplace; 91 percent believe it is common. And 41 percent of companies believe an aging workforce is a competitive disadvantage.

8. True. There is something called a longevity gap which means where you live influences how long you live. Life expectancy is connected to education, income, access to health care, food choices, smoking rate, exercise, pollution and more. These vary widely within diverse cities. A resident of the Malibu community lives on average about 11.5 years longer than his or her counterpart in Compton.

9. True. The overall U.S. economy is ranked number one ($17.9 trillion), second is China ($10.8 trillion) and third is the U.S. longevity economy at $7.6 trillion followed by the economies of Japan, Germany and France.

10. True. Those with a high level of purpose are 2.4 times more likely to remain free of Alzheimer’s Disease, live 7.5 years longer and is associated with a 19 percent reduced risk for heart disease and stroke.

So, dear readers, think about your lifestyle, work, sense of purpose and where you live and know these are related not only to your quality of life, but also to your longevity. That’s important information for all of us.

“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” – Voltaire

bottom of page