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WHAT DAMAGES OUR CELLS? Harmful molecules are continually bombarding your body. The worst offenders are glucose (a type of sugar), and free radicals, by-products of energy production. Both can damage the proteins, fats and DNA that make up your cells. When you are young, your body is able to repair most of this damage. But as you get older, the repair process is less efficient.

FREE R ADICALS Your body breaks down carbohydrates (for example the starch in bread) into glucose, the simplest form of sugar. Glucose is a vital source of energy, especially for your brain cells. But over time, it can also cause problems. Glucose molecules can stick to proteins, forming ‘cross-links’ that stop the proteins working properly. Cross-linking can gradually lead to hardened blood vessels, cataracts, damaged nerves and kidneys - all problems of old age.

GLUCOSE Your body breaks down carbohydrates (for example the starch in bread) into glucose, the simplest form of sugar. Glucose is a vital source of energy, especially for your brain cells. But over time, it can also cause problems. Glucose molecules can stick to proteins, forming ‘cross-links’ that stop the proteins working properly. Crosslinking can gradually lead to hardened blood vessels, cataracts, damaged nerves and kidneys - all problems of old age.

CELL AGE? Every time a cell multiplies to make two new cells, special zones at the ends of its chromosomes, called telomeres, become shorter. Once the a reach a certain length, the cell stops dividing and eventually dies. The only cells to escape this fate are those that divide to make eggs and sperm. In these cells, a substance called telomerase builds the telomeres up again, so they remain the same length.

Each chromosome end - or telomere - is shown by brightly coloured dots.

Telomeres at the ends of these mouse chromosomes appear red in this image.


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INEVITABLE? AGEING AND DEATH PROGR AMMED THEORY

The piano of life

Evolution not biology

Programmed ageing

The evidence

Senescence

Some believe life is programmed like a piano roll. Notes are dictated along with their length, but eventually the final chords will have to play.

There is really no reason that the human body should “wear out” as long as it can repair and renew itself. Something other than time must be at play to cause the inevitable effects of ageing. The programmed theory of ageing believes that ageing and death are necessary parts of evolution, not of biology. If a species did not have the genetic capacity for ageing and death, then it would not be forced to replicate to survive. Individuals in the species would just keep on living until a climate or other change wiped them all out. If biological individuals

Ageing, therefore, must be inherent in the organism and not simply a result of environmental factors or disease. Ageing and death, according to this theory, are not a result of wear and tear or exposure, but are a programmed, natural and necessary part of genetics. In short, we are programmed to age and die.

The evidence supporting this theory is that there is not a great deal of variation in lifespan within species. Elephants die around 70, spider monkeys die around 25, and people die around 80. Some changes can be made based on nutrition and medical care, but overall lifespan within species is fairly constant. The programmed theory asserts that if ageing were due to “wear and tear” there would be more variation in lifespan within each species.

Senescence or biological ageing is the endogenous and hereditary process of accumulative changes to molecular and cellular structure disrupting metabolism with the passage of time, resulting in deterioration and death. Senescence occurs both on the level of the whole organism, as well as on the level of its individual cells.


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Turritopsis nutricula The immortal jellyfish

DISPOSABLE SOMA THEORY “We’re programmed not for death, but for survival”

The Turritopsis nutricula is known to be the only known species in the world that can revert back to a completely sexually immature, colonial stage after having reached sexual maturity. It does this through the cell development process of transdifferentiation. Cell transdifferentiation is when the jellyfish “alters the differentiated state of the cell and transforms it into a new cell”. In spite of this remarkable ability, most Turritopsis medusae are likely to fall victim to the general hazards of life as plankton, including being eaten by other animals, or succumbing to disease.

- Tom Kirkwood

GERMS AND SOMA Tom Kirkwood’s disposable soma theory states that organisms only have a limited amount of energy that has to be divided between reproductive activities and the maintenance of the nonreproductive aspects of the organism a(soma). A trade off exists in which it does not make sense for an organism to invest effort (food energy resources) in maintenance (at the expense of reproductive activity) tot result in living much beyond the initial breeding years. In essence, our bodies do not repair as well as they could because natural selection favoured the reproductive phases of life over older age. The distribution of energy in soma and germ cells B I O L O G I C A L S Y S T E M S D O N O T H AV E T O W E A R D O W N

W O M E N L I V IN G L O N G E R ?

There are many others that believe ageing is in fact not inevitable. The idea that we are simply programmed to die is a fatalistic approach when taking into consideration that some animals simply do not age. These animals have no “post-mitotic” cells; meaning that they reduce the effect of damaging free radicals by cell division and dilution. Examples of negligible senescence can be seen in lobsters that live for 100 years or more, as well as the Aldabra giant tortoise that can live for 255 years. These show that death rates do not increase with age (but still run the same risk from the wild) in comparison to senescent organisms.

On average, women live five or six years longer than men. Research from Kirkwood’s laboratory has shown that there’s a possibility females live longer because males are genetically more disposable. Laboratory studies have also shown cells in female rodents repair damage better than in males, but this difference is eliminated if the ovaries are surgically removed. According to Kirkwood there is also evidence from an institution for the mentally disturbed in Kansas, where castration of male inmates was once a common practice that castrated men lived an average of 14 years longer than uncastrated inmates. It’s important for the species for females to have healthy bodies, since they bear and nurture the next generation, whereas the male reproductive role is shorter-term and less related to his good health. Professor Kirkwood states that while it’s “difficult to say things with absolute assurance” he is confident his theory of males being more “disposable” than females is the underlying biological explanation for the greater longevity of females.


BR/IN FITNESS

TELL GOOD STORIES

PLAY GAMES

Stories are a way that we solidify memories, interpret events and share moments. Practice telling your stories, both new and old, so that they are interesting, compelling and fun. Some basic storytelling techniques will go a long way in keeping people’s interest both in you and in what you have to say.

Brain fitness programs and games are a wonderful way to tease and challenge your brain. Sudoku, crosswords and electronic games can all improve your brain’s speed and memory. These games rely on logic, word skills, math and more. These games are also fun. You’ll get benefit more by doing these games a little bit every day -- spend 15 minutes or so, not hours.

MEDITATION

Daily meditation is perhaps the single greatest thing you can do for your mind/body health. Meditation not only relaxes you, it gives your brain a workout. By creating a different mental state, you engage your brain in new and interesting ways while increasing your brain fitness.

Brain fitness has basic principles: variety and curiosity. When anything you do becomes second nature, you need to make a change. If you can do the crossword puzzle in your sleep, it’s time for you to move on to a new challenge in order to get the best workout for your brain. Curiosity about the world around you, how it works and how you can understand it will keep your brain working fast and efficiently.

TURN OFF YOUR TV

READ DIFFERENT

LEARN A NEW SKILL

The average person watches more than 4 hours of television everyday. Television can stand in the way of relationships, life and more. Turn off your TV and spend more time living and exercising your mind and body.

Books are portable, free from libraries and filled with infinite interesting characters, information and facts. Branch out from familiar reading topics. If you usually read history books, try a contemporary novel. Read foreign authors, the classics and random books. Not only will your brain get a workout by imagining different time periods, cultures and peoples, you will also have interesting stories to tell about your reading, what it makes you think of and the connections you draw between modern life and the words.

Learning a new skill works multiple areas of the brain. Your memory comes into play, you learn new movements and you associate things differently. Reading Shakespeare, learning to cook and building an aeroplane out of toothpicks all will challenge your brain and give you something to think about.


EXERC I S E

H E A LT H Y “Antioxidants are the nutritional equivalent of man’s best friend, they are loyal protectors and nurturers of our cells, repelling disease, and promoting good health.”

Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, which damage cells, clog arteries and contribute to chronic illness and aging. Antioxidants are found in leafy vegetables, fruits, wine, and chocolate. Antioxidants can also be found in certain vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C and E, zinc and selenium. Eating healthy foods may even help preserve memory and protect against Alzheimer’s. You cannot feel it when some cells are damaged or dying, but you can see it in the signs of aging, such as wrinkles. Aim to eat more fruits to combat the signs of ageing.

As you age, your body tissues suffer from oxidative stress due to the process of oxidation. Oxidation occurs when molecules within your body lose electrons to electricallycharged molecules of oxygen in your blood stream. These electrically charged oxygen molecules are called “free radicals,” and they have the potential to cause damage to cellular DNA. Over time, the damage can become irreversible and lead to disease. Oxidation is a natural process that happens to everyone. Because it’s natural, a diet rich in antioxdants is necessary to keep the levels of free radicals in your body low and maintain good health. The more free radicals build up in your body, the more oxidative stress you’ll suffer.

“Exercising in your 70’s may stop brain shrinkage, reducing the risk of dementia”

Exercising is a key part of combating the effects of ageing, not only does it improve your physique, but the mental benefits will improve your ability to deal with stress, creativity and problem solving. If going to a gym isn’t the option for you, there are many alternatives that can be done in your home. Perhaps the most important aspect of exercise is telling yourself each time you exercise that your goal is health and energy. As you exercise regularly, you will notice changes in your body: * Weight loss * Muscle gain * Increased flexibility * More energy throughout the day


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“You see an old lady on the street, sweeping outside her restaurant, keeping herself busy

okinawa THE SECRETS OF

. . then you realise she’s 101”

Elderly Okinawans have among the lowest mortality rates in the world from a multitude of chronic diseases of aging and as a result enjoy not only what may be the world’s longest life expectancy but the world’s longest health expectancy. Explanations for this mostly centre around the dinner table. The Okinawans not only eat more tofu and soya products than any other population in the world, their diet also includes a vast range of different vegetables and fruit all rich in anti-oxidants. Scientists refer to it as a rainbow diet. Essentially the more vibrant the colour of the fruit, the better it is for your health. Results show that Okinawans have among the lowest rate of breast and prostate cancer in the world, another benefit of the rainbow diet. What’s perhaps more interesting is that around half of supercentenarians (someone who has reached the age of 110 years) had a history of smoking and one-third were regular alcohol drinkers. It is possible that these people may have had genes that protected them from the dangers of carcinogens or the random mutations that crop up naturally when cells divide. However it’s still unknown how to ‘get’ these genes unless passed down, or whether we can pull the odds in our favour for them.


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The community has discovered a secret that’s much easier to find than any gene. Its effect is so powerful that it enables them to live longer than anyone else in the US. People that go to church regularly - whatever faith they have - live longer. In Loma Linda, California, a significant number of people in the town are Seventh Day Adventist, a religion whose members live between five and 10 years longer than fellow citizens. It seems that regular churchgoers have significantly lower levels of stress hormones and so may be better equipped to cope with the challenges in life, scientists say. Stress seems to be a major factor in ageing and going to church provides the means to share with like minded people and lessen the mental effects of issues in our life.


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many claim to have

the solution to ageing

or so they say

durk pearson & sandy shaw Life Extension: A Practical Scientific Approach was a 1982 book by Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw that popularized the life extension and smart drug movements. Since its release it has since sold over a million copies in the USA.

Every day, they consume over 35 different chemical substances, which they believe help to maintain their youth and prevent the ravaging of age

the idea

does it work?

Among the substances used include Ornithine, an amino-acid that causes the release of growth hormones by a gland in your brain. It is then said that it will cause you to gain muscle like a teenager with very little exercise, along with a stronger immune system that will fight off diseases and even cancer. Vitamin C is also an important part of combating the effects of ageing. The body has special pumps that bring concentrations of the vitamin C to 100 times that of the general circulation.

It’s hard to deny that anything involving age extension and the possibility of reducing the effects of ageing will attract attention. A lot of controversy surrounding consuming vast amounts of agrowth hormones and other supplements is that many would not have the dedication to eat day after day in hopes of reducing the effects of ageing, let alone knowing if it’s safe to do so. Many criticise the teachings of the pair, stating that in recent years they’ve visibly aged and are since spending their time flaunting their ‘toned’ bodies and fighting off the U.S. Food and Drug Administration who challenged their claims of ‘being able to reduce ageing’


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The origins of restricting your food intake but not low enough to malnourish was first discovered In 1934, Mary Crowell and Clive McCay of Cornell University observed that laboratory rats fed a severely reduced calorie diet while maintaining micronutrient levels resulted in life spans of up to twice as long. Since then many have attempted the same for humans. A study of Rhesus Monkeys begun in 1987 by the National Institute on Ageing, published results in August 2012 that found evidence of health benefits, but did not demonstrate increased median lifespan. Research on maximum life span in that study is still ongoing.

ca l o r i e r e s t r i c t i o n

DAV I D S I N C L A I R “Tried it for a week, eating salads and feeling hungry. If this is my life for the next hundred years, I don’t want it”

David A. Sinclair is a biologist best known for his research on the biology of lifespan extension and driving research towards treating diseases of aging. His research was prompted by the growing popularity of ‘CR’, also known as caloric restriction. Refusing to deal with the constant feeling of being hungry to live longer, he began research on yeast cells to see if he could find a connection with the diet. The yeast cells have a regular lifespan of 1 week, however research led him and Leonard Guarente to the discovery of the Sirtuin gene that seemed to increase the age of the cells by 30%, simply by adding a copy of Sir2. A further test was taken by removing the Sirtuin from the yeast, then restricting what the yeast fed on. What the team discovered was that when the sirtuin gene wasn’t there anymore, they didn’t respond to the calorie restriction; they didn’t live longer.

resveratrol Attempts are being made to replicate the effects of CR. Resveratrol has been reported to activate Sir2/SIRT1 genes and extend the lifespan of yeast, nematode worms, fruit flies, and mice consuming a high caloric diet. Resveratrol does not extend lifespan in normal mice. A recent study found resveratrol extends the lifespan of a vertebrate fish by 59%. Resveratrol is found in the skin of red grapes and in other fruits, along with red wine albeit in small amounts. Resveratrol also has been produced by chemical synthesis and by biotechnological synthesis and it is sold as a nutritional supplement derived primarily from Japanese knotweed. Many are still sceptical of the claims that resveratrol has, among which are the beneifts of: Heart disease. Resveratrol helps reduce inflammation, prevents the oxidation of LDL “bad” cholesterol, and makes it more difficult for platelets to stick together and form the clots that can lead to a heart attack. Cancer. Resveratrol is thought to limit the spread of cancer cells and trigger the process of cancer cell death (apoptosis). Alzheimer’s disease. Resveratrol may protect nerve cells from damage and the buildup of plaque that can lead to Alzheimer’s. Diabetes . Resveratrol helps prevent insulin resistance, a condition in which the body becomes less sensitive to the effects of the blood sugar-lowering hormone, insulin. Insulin resistance is a precursor to diabetes.

What can be confirmed is that Resveratrol is very high in anti-oxidants, Whether it affects ageing is still a mystery.


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If elderly people dress, live and talk as they did in their heyday, does this help them feel younger and fitter?

Liz Smith - Nana in The Royle Family found she could walk all but unaided

“She was no longer willing to be limited by the physical constraints Tom Hussey Reflections campaign

she had imposed on herself.” In 1979, Ellen was investigating the extent to which ageing is a product of our state of mind. To find out, she and her students devised a study they called the “counter-clockwise study”. It involved taking a group of elderly men and putting them into the world of 1959. The question she wanted to answer was, if we took their minds back 20 years, would their bodies reflect this change? A similar experiment was carried out in recent years, with reporters and actors aged 70-88. They agreed to live in our time capsule house for a week, during which they dressed in 1970s clothes, slept in replicas of their very own 70s bedrooms, watched television from that era, and talked about 1975 in the present tense. Another thing about our 1970s house was that it was full of physical challenges. There were shag pile carpets to trip over, door ridges to step over and lots of slippery linoleum. Research on mice has shown that those who live in a challenging environment live nearly 30% longer than those who in a secure but boring environment. On their arrival, our volunteers were asked to carry their bags up a flight of stairs to their bedrooms. It was the first time they’d been forced into such physical activity in many years, and they were not happy. But they rose to the challenge. When they started at the bottom of the stairs, a couple were adamant it would be impossible to make it to the top. Watching from a laboratory close by, it was hard to resist going to their aid. After the experiment, results showed that they were more dextorous, had stronger joint flexibility, faster and had improved hearing and vision. The results were not uniform, but in some cases they shed up to 20 years in their apparent biological age. It made a compelling case for Ellen Langer’s argument that opening our minds to what’s possible can lead to better health, whatever our age.

Older living younger


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We’re living longer thanks to healthier diets and medical advances

B

ut are we approaching ageing in the right way?


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1999 With longevity comes the social issues surrounding old age, how do we address these issues? As we reach old age, there are many issues that can arise, but thankfully due to technology they are now easier to treat. However a bigger issue needs to be addressed alongside the revolution of longevity, which is that social approaches and preconceptions towards the elderly need to be changed. Tom Kirkwood states that there is a terrible opprssion of ageism and many tend to adopt a defeatist attitude towards old age. Many see it as simply retirement, pensions and loneliness. There are many low cost solutions that would offer the elderly a more active lifestyle such as continuing education, lessons on coping with new technology and more everyday activities. In essence living longer should not nearly be as important as putting effort into improving the lives of the current ‘elderly’ through both economic and social changes.

A

geism (the act or discrimination against elderly people on the base of their chronological age or on the perception of them being too ‘old’ or ‘elderly’) is a growing concern that also has effects on the attitudes of people who are approaching ‘retirement’. Currently old age is defined by pensions and the retirement age. People can’t have the idea that there is a set retirement age that everyone has looming over them. Essentially the notion of life after retirement should change, offering more options for those that wish to take a more active approach to their elderly lives. Basic activities such as shopping can sometimes be incredibly difficult for the current elderly population, what happens when more and more people are living longer and more needs to be done to care for that age group? 30 years ago it was possible to buy a home in the suburbs for about £5000, now it is next to impossible. The idea of the elderly generation needing to adapt to the drastically changing economic and technological aspect of life also needs consideration to allow a better quality of life.

“The ‘time bomb’ of retirement should not exist”

age

social economic

medical The balance of ageing in 1999


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2005

Population ageing

espite all the theories behind ageing, the unusual attempts that people have taken to achieve immortality, it cannot be denied that we are living longer than ever before. The world population is in the midst of an unprecedented transformation brought about by the transition from a regime of high mortality and high fertility to one of low mortality and low fertility. This demographic transition is responsible for the rapid and accelerating growth that the world population experienced in the twentieth century as well as for the slowing down of that growth and for the changes in the age distribution associated with those developments. Indeed, the demographic transition starts usually with a reduction of mortality, which results in longer survival, particularly of children who typically benefit the most from the reduction of the very high risks of death that they experience when mortality is high. As a consequence population growth accelerates and the proportion of children in the population increases, leading to a rejuvenation of the population’s age structure. Partly in response to these changes, fertility begins to decrease because parents realize that they can have fewer children to ensure the survival of the number they desire. Sustained reductions of fertility slow down population growth and produce eventually reductions of the proportion of children in the population thus triggering the process of population ageing. As time elapses, if the reductions of fertility and mortality continue, they reinforce the ageing process because, over time, sustained fertility decline leads not only to decreasing proportions of children but also of young people and eventually of adults of working age. Furthermore, increases in longevity have generally the effect of accelerating the growth of the proportion of older persons more than those of young people or adults.

Thus, in terms of the effects of the demographic transition on population age structures, one can distinguish three distinct stages. During the first, there is a rejuvenation of the age distribution as the proportion of children increases. During the second, triggered by fertility reductions, the proportion of children begins to decline while the proportion of adults and older persons rise. During the third stage, reached usually after lengthy periods of fertility and mortality decline, the proportions of both children and adults of working age decline and only the proportion of older persons rises. At the world level, the population in 1950 was relatively young, having 34 per cent of its members under age 15 and barely 8 per cent aged 60 or over. Between 1950 and 1975, as mortality decline accelerated, particularly in the less developed regions, both the proportion under age 15 and that aged 60 or over increased, to reach 37 per cent and about 9 per cent respectively. Overall, therefore, the population of the world became slightly younger from 1950 to 1975. But after 1975, as fertility reductions in the developing world accelerated, the proportion of children at the world level began to decrease, so that by 2005 the population under age 15 accounted for just 28 per cent of the total. Given that fertility at the world level started declining in the 1970s, by 2000 there had also been a slight reduction in the proportion of the population aged 15-24, from 19 per cent in 1975 to 18 per cent in 2005. However, as expected, the proportion aged 2559 had risen markedly, passing from 36 per cent in 1975 to nearly 44 per cent in 2005.

Today the major areas of the world are at different stages of the demographic transition. Europe is well into the third stage of the transition and its population, which is already the oldest in the world, is expected to age rapidly in the foreseeable future. Northern America and Australia/New Zealand also find themselves in the third stage of the transition but because their fertility levels have not fallen as low as those of Europe, they are expected to experience a somewhat slower ageing process. Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean find themselves in the second stage of the transition and are still in time to benefit from the demographic bonus. However, because these two regions experienced on average fairly rapid fertility reductions, they are expected to age more rapidly than Europe or Northern America did in the past. Lastly, Africa has only recently embarked on the second stage of the transition and still has a very young population with high dependency levels. Furthermore, because Africa is the major area most affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, its transition to low mortality has been interrupted and it is not clear whether the incipient fertility reductions experienced by countries in the region will accelerate or not over the short term. Even assuming that fertility reductions proceed at a moderate pace, Africa is expected to continue being the major area with the youngest population well into the 21st century. As a result of these countries being in different states of population ageing, the economic effects are considerable. Older people have higher accumulated savings per head than younger people, but spend less on consumer goods. Depending on the age ranges at which the changes occur, an ageing population may thus result in lower interest rates and the economic benefits of lower inflation. Some economists (Japan) see advantages in such changes, notably the opportunity to progress automation and technological development without causing unemployment. They emphasize a shift from GDP to personal well-being.

However population ageing also increases some categories of expenditure, including some met from public finances. The largest area of expenditure in many countries is now health care, whose cost is likely to increase dramatically as populations age. This would present governments with hard choices between higher taxes, including a possible reweighing of tax from earnings to consumption, and a reduced government role in providing health care. The second-largest expenditure of most governments is education and these expenses will tend to fall with an ageing population, especially as fewer young people would probably continue into tertiary education as they would be in demand as part of the work force. Social security systems have also begun to experience problems. Earlier defined benefit pension systems are experiencing sustainability problems due to the increased longevity. The extension of the pension period was not paired with an extension of the active labour period or a rise in pension contributions, resulting in a decline of replacement ratios. In recent years, many countries have adopted policies to strengthen the financial sustainability of pension systems, although the challenges regarding pension adequacy remain.

For the entirety of recorded human history, the world has never seen as aged a population as currently exists globally.


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Population ageing cont.

The overall trends shown on the left mask important differences among major areas and countries, resulting from variations in the timing of the demographic transition in each of them. Table 3 displays selected indicators of the changing age distribution in each major area and figures 2 and 3 show trends over time. Clearly Africa has today the youngest age distribution, with 41 per cent of the population under age 15 and just about 5 per cent of the population aged 60 years or over. In sharp contrast, Europe has a much older population, with just 16 per cent under age 15 and 21 per cent aged 60 or over. Therefore, in Europe the number of older persons has already surpassed the number of children. Northern America is the second oldest area, with 20 per cent of the population under age 15 and 17 per cent aged 60 years or over. Oceania, where the developed countries of Australia and New Zealand account for most of the population, exhibits the next oldest population, with 25 per cent of children and 14 per cent of older persons. Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean follow. Both have about 9 per cent of the population aged 60 years or over, but Latin America and the Caribbean have a higher proportion of children than Asia (30 per cent vs. 28 per cent). Although all major areas are expected to experience further ageing of their populations over the next 45 years, large differences in age structure will likely persist until 2050. By then, the proportion aged 60 years or over is likely to range from 10 per cent in Africa to 35 per cent in Europe. In all the other major areas, about a quarter of the population is expected to be 60 or over. Similarly, except for Africa and Europe, where the proportion of children is expected to be 29 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively, that of all other areas is expected to be between 17 and 18 per cent. This implies that in all major areas except Africa and Europe, the proportion of the population aged 15-59 is expected to be similar, ranging from 56 to 58 per cent. Europe would have by 2050 a much lower proportion in those ages (50 per cent), while Africa would have 61 per cent.

One important development expected over the next century is the continued ageing of the older population. That is, the proportion of persons aged 80 or over is expected to grow rapidly. Thus, whereas in 2005 that proportion amounted to just over 1 per cent of the world population, by 2050 it is expected to reach over 4 per cent. In Europe and Northern America, where the oldest old constitute today about 4 per cent of the population, they are expected to account for 10 per cent and 8 per cent of their respective populations in 2050. In Oceania the equivalent increase is expected to be from 3 per cent to 7 per cent. But it is in Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean where the increase is more remarkable: from barely 1 per cent in 2005 to 5 per cent in 2050. In contrast, the oldest old, which account for barely 0.4 per cent of Africa’s population today, are expected to account for just 1 per cent in 2050, indicating that Africa’s population will still be fairly young by mid-century.


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Eyesight improvements

Population ageing cont.

As we slowly age, our eyesight deteriorates. However studies show that eyesight issues are actually on the decline. “The findings are exciting because they suggest that currently used diagnostic and screening tools and therapeutic interventions for various ophthalmic diseases are helping to prolong the vision of elderly Americans,� Tanna said. While this study didn’t identify any of the causes of the change in the prevalence of visual impairment, Tanna said there are three likely reasons for the decline: * Improved techniques and outcomes for cataract surgery * Less smoking, resulting in a drop in the prevalence of muscular degeneration * Treatments for diabetic eye diseases are more readily available and improved, despite the fact that the prevalence of diabetes has increased

In 1984, 23 percent of elderly adults had difficulty reading or seeing newspaper print because of poor eyesight. By 2010, there was an ageadjusted 58 percent decrease in this kind of visual impairment, with only 9.7 percent of elderly reporting the problem.

The overall trends shown on the left mask important differences among major areas and countries, resulting from variations in the timing of the demographic transition in each of them. Table 3 displays selected indicators of the changing age distribution in each major area and figures 2 and 3 show trends over time. Clearly Africa has today the youngest age distribution, with 41 per cent of the population under age 15 and just about 5 per cent of the population aged 60 years or over. In sharp contrast, Europe has a much older population, with just 16 per cent under age 15 and 21 per cent aged 60 or over. Therefore, in Europe the number of older persons has already surpassed the number of children. Northern America is the second oldest area, with 20 per cent of the population under age 15 and 17 per cent aged 60 years or over. Oceania, where the developed countries of Australia and New Zealand account for most of the population, exhibits the next oldest population, with 25 per cent of children and 14 per cent of older persons. Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean follow. Both have about 9 per cent of the population aged 60 years or over, but Latin America and the Caribbean have a higher proportion of children than Asia (30 per cent vs. 28 per cent). Although all major areas are expected to experience further ageing of their populations over the next 45 years, large differences in age structure will likely persist until 2050. By then, the proportion aged 60 years or over is likely to range from 10 per cent in Africa to 35 per cent in Europe. In all the other major areas, about a quarter of the population is expected to be 60 or over. Similarly, except for Africa and Europe, where the proportion of children is expected to be 29 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively, that of all other areas is expected to be between 17 and 18 per cent. This implies that in all major areas except Africa and Europe, the proportion of the population aged 15-59 is expected to be similar, ranging from 56 to 58 per cent. Europe would have by 2050 a much lower proportion in those ages (50 per cent), while Africa would have 61 per cent.


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2011 Compulsory retirement age at 65 fully abolished

Could this be the end of age discrimination and the start of a better future for the elderly?

Bridging the gap between the young and the old

In 2011, the compulsory retirement age was removed, meaning workers would no longer have to leave their work at the age of 65. Employers can no longer issue the minimum six-month notification for compulsory retirement, using the default retirement age procedure. If employers still want to enforce retirement, their decisions will have to be objectively justified, but workers can no longer be forced to retire on the grounds of age alone. This huge step forward could be the start of a new approach towards ensuring fairness towards the elderly that wish to continue working. One example of someone who suffered from being forced out of work was Andrew Webster, from Richmond in Surrey. He was issued with a compulsory notice to retire from his job as an English teacher at a performing arts school. ‘’I was devastated. I had found a job I loved, I felt I was in my prime. I got on well with the students and they had good results, I wanted to go on doing it for as long as possible and I needed the money as well so it was a terrible blow when it happened.’’ Andrew Webster said he was pleased others would not be in his position. He has found work as a tutor but said he took home only a third of his previous earnings, even taking his pension into account. ‘’I know it is too late for me but I am pleased that other people will not also be forced to retire before they are ready,” he said.

Despite the steps taken to allow more options for the elderly, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Christopher Brooks, head of policy for work and learning at Age UK, said there was still a prevailing culture of ageism. “Many employers simply see the stereotypes of an older worker, particularly in the recruitment phase and statistics show older workers find it harder to find another job than any other age group, discrimination in the recruitment process is against the law, but it still happens in practice quite a lot. It is however quite hard to prove but we do get lots of feedback from people who have been in interviews and been told they are over qualified or just too old to do the job, which quite often amounts to age discrimination.” There is the issue of balancing the skills and experience that an elderly person can bring to the table, alongside the possibility of employers feeling that they can’t take on younger workers due to the percieved inability to ask senior levels of staff to move on. It could ultimately be said that there’s still a lot of controversy surrounding the removal of the retirement age.

Instead of focusing on making space in firms for younger employees, businesses should instead look at the benefits that experienced older workers could bring.


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2012

Prescription for Art is a programme, specifically designed for older people who may live alone and have age related health problems. GPs and Nurses ‘refer’ patients to Dulwich Picture Gallery to take part in creative workshops. The individuals do not need any art experience and the programme has been proven to enhance lives, combat isolation and create a new social life.

pres crip tion for art

One child was heard saying to an elderly neighbour with dementia, ‘Well done…that’s very good’.

At Christmas, the children came to the Gallery with greeting cards which they had made at school, for the participants they were visiting and recited carols to the delight of their audience. When the children had left, Prescription for Art participants did what they do best, they created an artistic communal ‘Thank you’ card. Each participant made a small collaged house which opened up to reveal a ‘Thank you’ message. These were then joined together to make a panorama and delivered to the school. A few ten year old children listened intently as another older lady gave an account of her childhood in a Jewish family in 1930s Berlin. Last summer, sixty, 7 to 97 year-olds took part in a combined art project. Many of the older participants, even those who are frail, helped their child partners complete the creative task. All the children responded well and in turn their enthusiasm encouraged the older participants. To break the ice, conversation was encouraged between the participants in the summer session through structured questions about hobbies, exciting experiences and future hopes. Having something pre-planned to discuss soon dissipates shyness. As one teacher said, ‘It’s so lovely – really quite moving. Look at that little chap over there chatting away.’

In recent years the gap between what the young and the old can do seems to be slowly decreasing. Small efforts are being made to combat the old conceptions of age and now groups such as Prescription for Art are introducing bonds between both generations. Many people seem to forget that although they lived in different times, that only adds to the interest that others will have in what they have to say. The ability to share skills and knowledge is vital to the growth of our future generation.


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“Ageing’s alright, better than the alternative, which is not being here” George H. W. Bush Ageing will be with us humans for a long time to come. What lies in the future for advancing our lifespan is anybody’s guess, but based on what we’ve experienced in the past, living longer will happen. Taking the steps right now to ensure you get the most out of your years by eating healthily and exercising will make you feel better both physically and mentally. Eradicating ageing may be a far off dream for many but the quality of treatment for the older generation has definetely improved and small steps are being taken such as the removal of the retirement age. The actions we take now will define how we live further down the line; that’s something we all can do.


Sensecence