What comes to mind when you think of older adults and health? Is it a laundry list of health concerns? We tend to think of older adults as victims of their health, but is that really the truth?
According to the 2017 National Health Interview Survey, only 18% of adults aged 65-74 described their overall health as fair or poor when asked. The remaining 82% rated their health as excellent, very good, or good! Similar results were found in the 75 and older group.
One reason for this is how older adults think about overall health. Younger people tend to think of health as just the lack of illness. Older adults have a more holistic view of health that includes emotional well-being, a healthy social life, and overall satisfaction.
“Being healthy means being able to continue doing what I like: going to the theater, organizing programs, enjoying the arts, walking,” said Lorelei Goldman, 80, of Evanston, Ill., who has had ovarian and breast cancer. She also describes her health as “good.”
Another reason for this unique mindset is that older adults can think of peers that are not as fortunate as they are, who are either deceased or living in a nursing home. Thus, if an older adult is still living independently, they feel as if things must not be too bad. One caveat is that Hispanics, African Americans, people who are socially isolated, people with low incomes, and people with low levels of education are more likely to rate their health negatively. Women tend to rate their health more poorly than men, but this changes as they age.