.The proportion of people over sixty is growing faster than any other age group in almost every country in the world.
.According to the World Health Organisation,between the years 2000 and 2050 the global population of the over 60s will have doubled from about 11 percent to 22 percent.
.The absolute number of those aged 60+ is expected to increase from 605 million to 2 billion over the same period.
.The number of people aged 80 years or older will have almost quadrupled between 2000 and 2050 to 395 million.
Those[who follow]the way, they can drive away old age and they preserve their physical appearance.
Yellow Emperor's Internal Classic,from 2nd century BCE
To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.
Henri Frederic Amiel, philosopher,1821-1881
Unless our life is cut short by premature death, ageing is inevitable.Yet the way we age is not.It is true that it is strongly influenced by our inherited constitution and the good and bad fortune we have encountered, yet it is also abundantly clear-both from the Chinese life-nourishing tradition and from research conducted over past few decades-that the rate and manner in which we age, and the limitations ageing imposes upon us, can be modified by our lifestyle.There is compelling evidence that our emotional and mental behaviour, our diet, exercise,sleep and sexual activity, can make a significant difference to our experience of the last years and decades of life.
A UK study of over 5,000 men aged 42 to 63,for example, found that those who followed four basic health behaviours(never smoking, consuming moderate levels of alcohol, being physically active and eating fruits and vegetables daily),had over three times as great a maintaining good cognitive, physical,respiratory and cardiovascular functioning, with the absence of disability,mental health problems and chronic disease.
An analysis of data from the UK's Carephilly Cohort Study also found dramatic benefits from five similar health behaviours(the above four plus keeping to acceptable body mass index) carried out over a thirty year period.There was a 50 percent reduction in diabetes and vascular disease and a 60 percent reduction in all-cause mortality.Strikingly,however,only one percent of the 2,235 men in the study managed to follow all five behaviours.
And while it is true that the earlier we adopt life-enhancing habits, the better the long-term outcome is likely to be, changing behaviour even when we are already old can offer real benefits.A review of data in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing,for example, not only found that regular physical activity improves health in older adults, but that it is helpful even if we only start exercising late in life.
Knowledge of how to maintain health, strength and independence in our later years is therefore of vital importance-for ourselves, our families and the societies we live in.