December 18, 2012

Living Longer In The 21st Century

USA Today recently reported another bonus for being a woman. In the article, USA Today stated that the U.S. Census data collected in 2010 found that 80% of centenarians (people aged 100 and older) are…you guessed it, women! We already know that on the whole women live longer than men, but now we know that they can live way long.

To me, the information about people aged 100 and older says that more people are being healthier. If they live longer, that must mean their health is stronger. The data did find that of the men who lived to be older at least 100, most of them lived with other family members, which means that they functioned well. Most women of these ages lived in nursing facilities. This means they required more attention. So, women can definitely handle age-related illnesses better, but men seem to be better able to function. I guess it’s a win for both genders.

As a woman, I must say that this is bittersweet. On the one hand, who wants to die young? On the other, who wants to live so long that she is mostly alone? On the whole, this is probably a good thing, though. The longer we live, the more of the world we can experience. We can be part of culture-changing events. We can watch as the younger generations grow. This is all pretty cool

It’s also pretty cool that the total number of centenarians has risen 5.8% since the last U.S. Census in 2000. This means that people must be healthier or at least surviving health issues better and more often. Health is something that I am passionate about. We must be diligent about our health. We must watch what we eat, exercise, and find means to help our emotional and mental health.

I wonder if the mere fact that people are more concerned with their emotional and mental health has anything to do with our lifespan. I mean, for so long we had to fight to find physical health and safety that we often forgot or neglected to focus on our emotional and mental health. These are just as important as physical health. In the 21st century in America, most people have successfully fulfilled their basics needs

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we must have our basic biological and physiological needs as well as the safety needs fulfilled before we can really address the other three categories: belongingness and love, esteem, and self-actualization. The latter three are where we can focus on our emotional and mental health whereas the former two are where we focus on physical health.

Since most Americans have satisfied the basic needs, they can focus on the other needs. This capability must contribute to our ability to live longer. If we aren’t struggling to survive, then we can focus on living happy and healthy lives. Maybe this is why we are living longer and even into the hundreds.

What is a bit concerning about the USA Today report is that studies found that of all the centenarians, 83% are white, which leaves only 17% for the other ethnicities. This tells me that we need to focus on the overall health of minorities in order to help them see their 100th years as well. All humans deserve a healthy, long life.

Image Credit: Photos.com

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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