The old aphorism, "Old age isn't bad when you consider the alternative," is becoming increasingly out of date. People don't wish merely to lead longer lives, they want to live productively and in good health for as long as possible.
Reflecting the needs and wishes of a growing older patient population, the medical community is increasing its focus on the issue of maintaining health through the aging process. Medical journals around the world, including JAMA and The Lancet, are producing special issues on the subject in October.
The Western Journal of Medicine has devoted its entire October issue to "Successful Aging." Guest editor is Dr. Eric B. Larson, professor of medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine and medical director of University of Washington Medical Center.
"We need to be more sympathetic to patients when they say it's 'no fun getting old,' and provide them with advice, skills and treatments that help minimize age-related decline," said Larson. "People also want to reduce the risk of developing age-related diseases or minimize the disability caused by these chronic diseases. Thus, we asked authors to describe the possibilities to delay onset of conditions that limit function, or the possibilities for mimimizing disabilities associated with those conditions."
Larson invited experts from a variety of medical disciplines to submit articles for the special issue, which should be of interest to both medical professionals and patients. Lead contributors include:
- Dr. William Hazzard of Bowman Gray School of Medicine, who discusses ways to make "usual" and "successful" aging synonymous;
- Dr. Linda Fried of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, on how society can benefit by using older generations to serve younger generations through their wisdom and experience; and in a second article, presenting new data on the importance of heart disease as an elder issue and discusses opportunities for maintaining cardiac health;
- Dr. Andrea LaCroix, of the Center for Health Studes at Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, on the importance of aging as a women's issue, covering osteoporosis, hormone replacement therapy, menopause, nutrition, etc.;
- Mark Monane of Merck Medco, and Dr. William B. Erschler of the National Institute on Aging, in counterpoint articles on the appropriate use of medication in the elderly;
- Dr. George Gates of the Virginia Merrill Bloedel Hearing Research Center at the UW, on aging and hearing;
- Dr. Robert Kalina of the UW, on vision and aging;
- Dr. David Buchner of the UW, on muscoskeletal aging and preserving mobility;
- Dr. Halsted Holman of Stanford University School of Medicine, on self-management of osteoarthritis;
- Dr. Linda Teri of the UW, on what happens to thinking processes as we age, and how to maintain mental alertness;
- Dr. Mark Sullivan of the UW, on how to maintain good morale and a positive outlook in old age;
- Dr. Cindy Meston of the UW, on aging and sexuality;
- Dr. Lawrence Feigenbaum of the Goldman Institute on Aging, on community resources for frail older adults; and
- Dr. Edward Wagner of the Center for Health Studies at Group Health Cooperative and the UW School of Public Health and Community Medicine, on the evidence from randomized trials around the world on how to prevent decline in function as people age.
"We know that the average life expectancy from age 65 is at least 19 years for women and 14 years for men," said Larson. "Average life expectancy actually increases as people survive to older ages. Thus, prevention and health promotion make sense at virtually any age."
The Western Journal of Medicine is the official peer-reviewed journal of the California Medical Associateion, the Washington State Medical Association and other state medical associations and clinical investigation societies in the western United States. For subscriptions or single copies, contact Carden Jennings Publishing Co. at 804/979-8034 or www.wjmed.com.