Aging in the United States

Last week, we wrote about “Living Better, Aging Well” in recognition of World Arthritis Day (October 12, 2013).  When considering what it means to age well, it is important to consider what data is available to us describing how aging is perceived in the United States.  For the second year, USA Today, the National Council on Aging (NCOA), and United Healthcare insurance surveyed U.S. adults for the United States of Aging Survey, published in July 2013.  The survey contained a representative population sample from adults aged 18-59 and adults aged 60 and older.  What this means, is that in comparison to the total population of adults in the U.S. who are in those age groups, a similar percentage of adults from each group were included in the 4,000 persons surveyed.

More than half of seniors surveyed indicated the importance of community connections, especially with family and friends.  To learn more about what matters most to seniors in the United States, please see the infographic below, or click here.


Another report that was released this year, The State of Aging and Health in America – 2013, also provides data on the United States’ progress in improving the health and quality of life of older adults.  To look more specifically into the data provided in this report, we can view an online snapshot of the various indicators for Missourians by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Healthy Aging website.  This information is especially important as the population of America shifts – by 2030, 1 in 5 Americans will be 65 years of age or older.

65% of seniors surveyed through the United States of Aging Survey reported having two or more chronic health conditions.  Less than one in five of seniors surveyed indicated they had received guidance in the past year to develop an action plan to take steps to manage and improve their health.  In Missouri, 11.4% of adults with arthritis indicated through the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey (BRFSS) that they had attended a class that taught them how to manage problems associated with their symptoms.

In the United States of Aging Survey, 26% of seniors also reported they exercise less than one time a week for 30 minutes or more.  According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on at least two days of the week that work all major muscle groups (CDC).  The 150 minutes of activity can be broken up into smaller chunks of time, such as 10 minutes at a time, three times a day, five days a week.

Classes are offered by the Missouri Arthritis and Osteoporosis Program (MAOP) through its seven Regional Arthritis Centers (RACs) for self-management of chronic health conditions and to increase/improve upon physical activity.  These classes are offered for persons with one or more health condition (like arthritis, asthma, diabetes, heart disease) or for caregivers of people with chronic health conditions.  As we think about aging well and taking Steps to Better Health, it’s important to think about engaging in community based programs to form action plans, receive self-management education, and to engage in physical activity.

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