In an endeavour to assess the future needs of an aging population, a group of older people have been studied for nearly 20 years. Within 20 years, half the babies born on the planet can expect to live till they are 70. The physical, mental and economic needs of our rapidly aging population will be known based on this study. In an attempt to answer some of these questions, scientists at Cambridge University, England, have been surveying a group of over 70 since 1980. They have assessed their physical and mental health, their social situation, and have also sought permission for the donation of brain tissue following death.
They found that most of the group lived independently, and had regular contact with family and friends, and social contact with clubs and other organisations. Men were more likely than women to still be living in their own home and independence in day to day tasks, as expected, declined with age. But the vast majority were still dressing themselves and were fully continent. The more independent the person, the better their skills in memory, reasoning and understanding. These mental skills are, of course, key to remaining independent. Further analysis, say the researchers, will provide important pointers to how physical and mental function changes with age, and how people's needs can best be met.