Not much new in survey on aging

In its May 22 issue, and also online, Parade magazine summarized a study about aging it conducted with the Cleveland Clinic.

What struck me at first, when I thought that only older people had been surveyed, was how few surprises there were:
• Eighty-two percent expect to be healthier and live longer than their parents.
• Seventy-three percent said old isn’t until 80.
• Seventy-one percent felt happiest after age 40.
• Sixty-two percent wouldn’t want to be 25 again.
• Forty-two percent said Alzheimer’s is the disease they worry most about.
• Thirty percent rank wisdom as the best benefit of aging.

Then I noticed that this wasn’t a survey limited to retirees and the soon-to-be-retired. All adults 18 and older were invited to respond to the survey questions on Parade’s website. It’s nice to hear that nearly three quarters of adults of any age believe old age doesn’t start until 80. But statements about not wanting to be 25 again and feeling happiest after 40 are odd if people as young as 18 replied.

Unfortunately, the survey report on the website gives only the total number of adults over 18 who participated — 3,265 — and doesn’t break them down by age group or sex. I wonder whether the great majority of respondents were women. Sagging skin is the top cosmetic concern. Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep, and Diane Keaton, in that order, were mentioned as healthy celebrity role models. Why no men?

It’s strange that 42 percent say Alzheimer’s is the disease they worry most about but only 29 percent fear memory loss.

Also perplexing is a headline that says, “We aren’t taking steps to protect our brain health,” when there are findings that “Many are exercising and playing brain games to ‘defeat age’” and “24 percent have tried to improve brain function through exercise.”

Mostly what Parade reports are small-talk points, but it’s doubtful that the renowned Cleveland Clinic participated just to give us things to chat about over dinner. Chief wellness officer Michael Roizen was quoted as saying, “This survey shows that most Americans say they are getting happier as they age, and now we want to make sure they have the tools and knowledge to be healthier as well.”

The survey as reduced to Parade snippets doesn’t include a whole lot of suggestions to help us improve. The findings imply we’re doing well for the most part. Sixty-eight percent of respondents think their health is excellent or very good. It’s nice they think so but hard to believe when we keep hearing from other sources about Americans’ obesity epidemic.

Come to think of it, why wasn’t weight mentioned in the survey? Turns out, it was the subject of an earlier Parade/Cleveland Clinic survey. That survey’s findings were not as upbeat as the aging survey’s.

Maybe the survey on aging attracted mostly content people, skewing the results.

So, it might not pass the test for a rigorous scientific poll. Perhaps the Cleveland Clinic’s purpose in participating was to find out what people are concerned about so it can address those topics in future educational projects. You’re worried about memory loss, here are the best ways to keep your brain sharp. Is there anything that prevents wrinkles? Live independently as long as possible by taking these steps.

It would be information we’ve heard before, but it wouldn’t hurt to have it reinforced.

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