My parents were born in the 1920’s and are now old and frail. Thanks to improvements in medical care, they have outlived their own parents’ lives by several decades. In the last few weeks, my mother and father have each endured an emergency admission to hospital having been rushed by ambulance to A&E. They are now both safely installed back in the care of the nursing home.
A report published this week by the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI), has shown that while life expectancy in Ireland has increased significantly during the 20th century, our later years are likely to be spent in poor health. The report emphasises the need for further research to ensure that sufficient planning is undertaken so that adequate policies and services are in place for older people.
The CARDI report revealed that since the 1920s, Irish men have increased their life expectancy by around 20 years, while women have extended their average life span by 24-25 years. A man can now expect to live to 76.8 years while a woman can look forward to making it to 81.6 years.
Our expectations have certainly changed. Not so long ago, 64 was considered old. Remember this song?
By 2041, it’s estimated that the number of people aged 75 and over, will reach almost one million. That’s three times the number living now. And the number of people who make it to 85 and beyond, could increase five-fold.
The number of years a man can expect to live in poor health, has risen from 9.5 in 1999 to 14.7 in 2007. And for women, the projected years of bad health have increased from 11.3 years to 16.8 years.
In other words, these figures show that while we’re successful at keeping people alive for longer, we’ve not managed to extend healthy life spans to the same extent. Do you have an opinion on this?
If all this talk of old age is getting you down, let me remind you of the famous quote by Maurice Chevalier (New York Times, 9 October 1960)…
“Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.”