Magazine article USA TODAY

Spirituality Contributes to Longer Life

Magazine article USA TODAY

Spirituality Contributes to Longer Life

Article excerpt

Better medicine, an emphasis on clean living, and spirituality are all contributing to making older Americans the healthiest humans at their age in the history of the world, argue University of California, Davis, human-development scholars Carolyn Aldwin and Diane Gilmer in Health, Illness and Optimal Aging: Biological and Psychosocial Perspectives. "What jumps out at you, after reviewing all the studies, is that [individuals] who watch their nutrition, avoid toxins like cigarettes or alcohol in excess, and who exercise are living long, healthy lives," declares Aldwin.

"We've also found a huge difference in mental health and well-being among people depending on how they spiritually cope with their own diseases, pain, and losses in later life." She says this inner strength can be found through organized religion as well as from meditation and wisdom gained throughout one's adult years.

Meanwhile members of the World War II generation are the beneficiaries of burgeoning medical advances gained over the past half century, Gilmer attests. For instance, unlike the past practice of keeping people with fractured hips in traction for two weeks, doctors now urge patients to be up and moving within 24 hours after surgery. The patients are discharged to a skilled nursing home within three to five days where rehabilitation begins almost immediately. As a result, they are recovering more quickly with fewer long-term health problems.

Many in the next younger generation, baby boomers, also are faring better than those in their age bracket during previous eras, but the researchers see a troubling class and educational divide. …

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