Referring to a most amazingly fleet-of-foot dancer in a video on Saturday's Interesting Stuff post, Darlene Costner commented,
”I would be grateful if I could still walk without staggering like an old drunk.”
I certainly understand that and when I read it, I was reminded of a new Pew Research Center study about the views of various age groups on what constitutes quality of life in old age.
Well, actually most of the survey is about end-of-life medical treatment and we can/should discuss that another day. What caught my immediate interest, however, are these related questions about how we measure our quality of life.
Here is one of the charts showing the percentage of respondents who judge their lives now as better, the same as or worse than 10 years ago, by age group:
The Pew analysts looked at these numbers and, it appears to me, mimicked the media's general negatvism about old age, writing:
"...older adults are much less inclined than younger ones to see improvement. Just three-in-ten adults ages 75 and older say their lives today are better than they were a decade earlier.
”By contrast, about twice as many adults ages 18-49 (66%) say their lives are better today than in the past.”
I see it differently. I look at the chart and see that 70 percent of people 75 and older see their lives as better today or the same as it was 10 years previously, and in one's eighth or ninth decade, maintaining the status quo should not be ignored as a good thing.
The Pew study also has a chart for the reverse assessment: the percentage who say their lives will be better, the same as or worse ten years from now:
Once again, the Pew analysts see the numbers pessimistically:
”Only about a fifth (19%) of adults ages 75 and older expect their lives to get better in the future.”
What I see, instead, is 63 percent of people 75 and older believe their quality of life will be the same or better in ten years. (In both these charts, the “don't knows” are not shown.)
To feel good enough at 75 to believe your quality of life will remain the same is an achievement that Pew overlooks.
I'm not quite that old but given my good health throughout my life and now at 72.5, I am cautiously optimistic about my how good my life will be in 10 years.
I am fully aware that compared to 30 or 40 years ago I have a much higher chance of running into health problems that can decrease my enjoyment of life. But I see no reason to let that curtail my optimism and will cross those bridges if and when they appear.
Perhaps Pew analysts need to consult some people who are older than they are about these results to understand the optimism of choosing “same as” at age 75.
Of course, with all of this, we do need to ask what we mean by quality of life and Pew does that. Here are the results for what is “extremely important to quality of life” in what Pew calls “older age” (undoubtedly because no one is allowed to use the word “old” in our age-phobic culture).
It amuses me that no age group ranks “having short term memory” above 32 percent as “extremely important” for quality of life in old age and all ages place it last on the list. Maybe I'm making too much of it when I can't remember why I've walked into the kitchen.
How does all this jibe with your ideas about what contributes to your quality of life in old age?
You can read the entire Pew Research Center study here.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joyce Benedict: The Lima Bean Caper