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Obesity - Baby boomers are Living longer but not healthier lives

In the next several years the nation will see the baby boomers, who were born between 1946 and 1964, reach retirement. What does this mean for our country? The largest adult population will begin to reach old age, more than doubling the number of people who are elderly and who will need disability benefits, Medicare, and Social Security retirement benefits. Studies also suggest that the number of doctors to support this number of baby boomers is greatly inadequate.

Not only are the numbers of elderly growing but they are also living longer. Medical technology has improved in the last century which has greatly increased life expectancy. Many individuals who reach 65 years of age can expect to live another 19 years instead of an estimated 12 they could have expected to live only a century ago. The quality of life may have also improved thanks to antibiotics and vaccines. Medical improvements have also delayed some incidence of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. But obesity has dramatically increased.

According to studies the average man in 1850 had a BMI or body mass index of 23. In 2000 the average man had a BMI of 28.2. This means that many men are obese and while they may not be smoking or they have improved their level of activity they are still developing chronic diseases, many of which can be attributed to obesity. Not only does obesity increase the chance of disease it also severely limits a worker’s ability to move due to increased stress on the muscles, heart and joints.

In fact, a survey by the National Institute on Aging which examined the health status of 20,000 baby boomers between 51 and 56 found that many of them reported poor health and that they frequently suffered from pain and chronic health issues. Unfortunately, this is ten years before these workers can expect to retire with a healthy SSA retirement pension.

Workers who experience chronic pain may lack the ability to perform common work activities such as standing, walking or sitting for extended periods of time, carrying heavy objects, climbing stairs, and lifting their arms over their head, all common activities that may be needed to perform even sedentary work.

What happens when workers cannot perform even the most basic work activities? Many of them will apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. This can be devastating for the United States economy. Not only does the U.S. lose the productivity of these baby boomers they also will have to pay them monthly cash benefits from a disability system that is already severely underfunded.

What can be done to turn the tide of obesity and increase the health of the aging population? The solution is simple but hard to implement. All of us must fight against the sedentary lifestyle and shift back active lifestyles of our forefathers. You may not need to work in the fields to grow your own food but you can get up and walk, go to the gym or play a sport.

If you are unable to move as much as you would like you will have to incorporate healthier choices at the dinner table. Small changes can make a big difference in your waist line. If changes aren’t made now and quickly all of us will pay the price with an overburdened healthcare system that cannot support our aging, unhealthy population.
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