The Link between Healthcare, Sexuality, and Successful Aging

By Williams, Richard Allen | Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

The Link between Healthcare, Sexuality, and Successful Aging


Williams, Richard Allen, Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table


"If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself."

Legendary ragtime piano player Eubie Blake, on his 100th birthday

Abstract

The general topic is Successful Aging, an issue that has intrigued, puzzled, and challenged some of the best minds on planet Earth for millennia. I feel humbled to be among so many of the world's experts today to present my views which are based upon research largely carried on by others; nonetheless, I will try to incorporate my research, which most recently has been in the area of human sexuality and the connection between erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease, into the general body of data that I will present on the triumvirate of healthcare, sexuality, and successful aging, and I will attempt to show some interrelationship of these subjects. That is a daunting task to accomplish in a limited time frame, but I will give it my best effort. I will conclude with some recommendations about how the information I am providing should be viewed.

Introduction

A very striking development in the aging of the American population is occurring and is predicted to intensify: the numbers of older individuals is increasing at an alarming rate. For instance, at the present time, 79 million "baby boomers" have moved into the senior sector, and as they become older, they threaten to break the bank of Medicare and Social Security. Interestingly, increased longevity has been the goal of health planners for decades, and now that this is coming about, it could wreak havoc on the economy of the United States.

Indeed, there has been a dramatic change in longevity. At the beginning of the 20th century, in 1900, the average length of life was 47 years and the principal causes of death were respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, influenza, and tuberculosis. One hundred years later, the average life span has increased to 75 years of age, and the main causes of death are now cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes. The change in longevity is attributable to the excellent healthcare system which has emerged over the past two centuries that has also decreased the amount of disability suffered by the elderly. This has cost huge amounts of money; a scenario has developed in which extending life through improving health has become more expensive rather than less, and it will continue. For example, the 79,000 centenarians now living will increase to over 1 million by 2050, and healthcare costs will have become the largest part of the nation's gross domestic product.

Objectives

With such obviously dire portents at hand, we have decided to go back to the drawing board, as it were, and to carry on further investigations into the genetic makeup of man in order to determine how to control aging in such a way that increased longevity may be achieved in a more cost-effective manner, e.g., with less associated morbidity and more wellness. Along with that objective is a wish to maintain and sustain a greater quality of life, such as through continued sexual functioning. It must be made clear that in this presentation we are not investigating how to achieve life everlasting, but rather, how to age in a fashion associated with health, fitness, and wellness.

Definitions

Aging: The time-related deterioration of the physiological, biochemical, and genetic functions necessary for survival, fertility, and reproduction. It is a continuous and inevitable process which begins at conception and ends with death.

Senescence: The period of decline that is experienced by all species.

Maximum Lifespan: The maximum number of years a member of that species has been known to survive. Jeanne Calment (1875-1997) lived to the age of 122 and is the oldest person whose age has been documented by modern means. Her age defines the human lifespan (unless you consider Methuselah of the Bible, who was said to have lived 969 years). …

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