The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that the American population aged 65 to 89 will double between 2010 and 2050. Meanwhile, the number of people 90 and over will more than quadruple.
Eric B. Larson is a leading expert in the science of healthy aging. He has led a large, longitudinal research program focused on delaying and preventing Alzheimer's disease, other forms of dementia, and declines in memory and thinking. He is vice president for research and health care innovation for the Washington region of Kaiser Permanente (formerly Group Health) and executive director of Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute.
One of the questions that keeps him focused is what animates and sustains those who live long and active lives. Is it genetics? Good luck? Healthy habits? A great attitude? Or perhaps a combination of all these things? In Larson's mind, the biggest question is whether or not the generation that was so enamored of John Lennon's "Power to the People" gather the same energy and enthusiasm today on behalf of their own health?
At the core of this book is the examination of resilience which Larson defines as "the ability to grow stronger in the face of adversity and stress." Those on this path are able to bounce back from illness and other setbacks that come their way. The author has identified the following qualities which enable enlightened elders to carry on:
- Aging with an Attitude — Proactivity
- Discovering Aging on Its Own Terms — Acceptance
- Building Mental, Physical, and Social Reserves — Building Reserves of Well-Being.
The last chapter covers the choices about dealing with death available to those who have diligently had a life well-lived. Hats off to Larson for his treatment of aging as a multidimensional and interdisciplinary collaboration!