英语家园

 找回密码
 注册

QQ登录

只需一步,快速开始

扫一扫,访问移动社区

搜索

Who Are You Calling Old?

发布者: chrislau2001 | 发布时间: 2008-8-28 11:11| 查看数: 1722| 评论数: 1|

In 1996, Bob Dole, the Republican Party's presidential nominee, battled criticism that, at 73 years old, he was too old to be president. Now 85, Mr. Dole is working 'pretty much every day' at a Washington law firm, says the firm's spokesman.

Age is certain to be an issue in this election, too. Republican Sen. John McCain, who turns 72 this week, would be the oldest man elected president should he win. Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, at 47, would be the fourth-youngest.

But in a country that is rapidly aging while staying healthy longer, what does old age mean, and how much should it matter?

The average U.S. life expectancy is now age 78, up 30 years since 1900 and up 10 years since 1950, according to the Census Bureau. Geriatricians now talk of those younger than 80 as the 'young old,' and of those younger than 65 as the 'near old.'

U.S. businesses still seem wary of older people. The Corporate Library, a business-research firm, says that seven of the largest 500 public companies, including News Corp. -- owner of Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal -- have chief executives who are 72 or older. Some corporate recruiters warn about the memories, energy levels and technological savvy of older executives. By that standard, businessman Warren Buffet, one-quarter of U.S. senators and four Supreme Court justices are over the over-72 hill.

In corporate America, 'there's a code word -- how much 'runway' does a guy have' left in his career, said Hal Reiter, chairman of Herbert Mines Associates, which recruits executives for the retail industry. An executive in his 60s probably has five to seven years left on his runway, Mr. Reiter said.

Some who study aging say such fears are misplaced. A 45-year-old and a 75-year-old 'absolutely' have the same mental capacity, and energy is a function of health rather than aging, said Neil Resnick, chief of geriatric medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

'Aging has such a small impact on how we function that it is of minimal importance' compared with experience, personality and the advisers a president or chief executive surrounds himself with, Dr. Resnick added.

Geriatricians say most people begin losing organ function -- which means they start aging -- somewhere between 18 and 30. After that, the heart, kidneys and other organs lose about 1% of their function each year. The world record for a 75-year-old marathon runner is about 50% longer than the world record for a runner who is 50 years younger.

But organs have from four to six times more capacity than most people need. That excess capacity is why we can run marathons or endure other extraordinary mental or physical challenges.

Brain function declines at the same rate as other organs, and especially affects how fast older people can retrieve information -- the explanation for that maddening 'senior moment.'

Our genes influence how much and how fast we decline: They account for about 30% of longevity and perhaps half of age-related changes in the brain, said John Rowe, a physician and former Aetna Inc. chairman who now heads a MacArthur Foundation research program on aging.

But life experience and accumulated wisdom can help offset normal brain decline and compensate for slowed retrieval time. 'The great benefit of aging is 'been there, done that and learned from it,'' said David Reuben, head of geriatric medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles. Mathematicians do their best work in their 20s; orchestra conductors and diplomats peak in their 60s or 70s, he added.

On the other hand, Robert Butler, who founded the government's National Institute on Aging and now heads the International Longevity Center research group, credits judgment over experience when it comes to making sound decisions. He points to Abraham Lincoln, who was 52 and had just 10 years of government experience before becoming president.

Dr. Butler added, though, that brain cells can continue to 'flourish' and grow in people in their 80s. Vocabularies expand as people age; older brains develop unconscious work-arounds to diminish the effects of slowed retrieval speed.

Despite Sen. McCain's admitted aversion to technology, there is no research that shows older people are less willing to take up new ideas. 'If he's averse to technology now, he probably always was,' said Dr. Resnick.

UCLA's Dr. Reuben insists that commentators are asking the wrong question when they focus on age: It isn't how old, but how healthy the candidates are.

Almost everyone knows a 75-year-old who sky-dives, hikes the Grand Canyon or runs a family business. Census Bureau data suggest that Americans generally are staving off disability to the very end of life: Those at age 65 can expect that half their remaining years will be disability free.

About one in eight men age 70 or older is working, and among those who aren't, poor health is one of the less-important reasons. Even though age-discrimination laws often prevent mandatory retirement, twice as many say they were 'forced' to retire for one reason or other as those who said they were sidelined by illness.

But most people also know someone who died in his or her 50s from a heart attack or cancer. The risks of disease and the effects of a lifetime of exposure to sun, pollution, cigarettes and other life shorteners catch up with us as we age.

The percentage of people with Alzheimer's disease doubles every five years after age 65, and while heart-related deaths are down in the past four decades, cancer deaths are rising.

The backdrop for all this is an over-65 population that will double to 80 million in 30 years as the tidal wave of baby boomers sweeps through. One in five people will be older than 65, up from one in eight now, and Dr. Rowe predicts a future in which as many Americans push walkers as strollers.

Longer life will have a huge effect on everything from immigration policy to public transit to housing. Where will we find all the home health aides, how do we get 85-year-olds off the highways and what is to become of those four-bedroom houses?

Retirement at age 65 made sense when most workers poured steel, plowed fields and mined coal. Today's workers -- still vital and healthy, for the most part -- want nothing to do with lowering their Social Security-benefits age.

An aging society also may affect elections, although that is less clear. Researchers who study prejudice say that Americans are more biased against the elderly than against any other group, including those identified by their race or sexual orientation. Even the elderly are biased against the elderly.

Voters ages 65 and older account for more than one-quarter of the electorate and vote at higher rates than other age groups. In presidential elections, young voters 'always go for the new face,' said Robert Binstock, a professor of aging at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, but older voters vote much like everyone else.

That means that, even in an aging society, Sen. McCain can't count on the oldster vote, even as Sen. Obama is relying on the youth vote. Being older is one thing; it could be that voting for an older president is another.

June Kronholz


最新评论

chrislau2001 发表于 2008-8-28 11:17:45

多老才算老?



1996年的美国总统竞选中,共和党候选人鲍勃·杜尔(Bob Dole)奋力迎战对他的批评:以73岁的“高龄”,他当总统太老了。如今已是85岁的杜尔在华盛顿的一家律师事务所里几乎一天不落地工作,该公司发言人说。

在眼下这场总统竞选中,年龄当然也会是个问题。本周即将度过72岁生日的共和党候选人麦凯恩(John McCain)如果在大选中胜出的话,将成为年纪最大的美国总统。而如果47岁的民主党候选人奥巴马(Barack Obama)当选的话,将是第四位最年轻的总统。

但是随着美国迅速步入老龄化,同时老年人的健康时光不断延长,年龄大意味着什么?这又有多重要呢?

美国人口普查局的数据显示,美国人现在的平均寿命是78岁,比1900年的平均寿命长30年,比1950年长10年。如今老人学专家把那些不到80岁的人称为“年轻的老人”,把不到65岁的人称为“还没老的人”。

美国公司似乎仍然对年纪较大的人持谨慎态度。商业研究公司Corporate Library表示,500家大型上市公司中有七家的首席执行长的年龄不低于72岁,其中包括道琼斯公司(Dow Jones & Co.)的母公司、《华尔街日报》的发行商新闻集团(News Corp.)。一些公司招聘人员警告说,年纪较大的高管在记忆力、精力以及技术知识方面可能会有所欠缺。根据这种标准,商界巨头巴菲特(Warren Buffet)、四分之一的美国参议员以及四位最高法院法官都已经迈过72岁的门坎了。

Herbert Mines Associates的董事长海尔·瑞特(Hal Reiter)说,在美国企业界有句话是这样讲的──一个人的职业生涯还剩多长。瑞特说,一个60多岁的高管可能还能工作5-7年。该公司为零售企业招聘高管人员。

一些老龄化问题研究人员表示,这种担心是多余的。匹兹堡大学(University of Pittsburgh)老年医学负责人尼尔·瑞斯尼克(Neil Resnick)说,一个45岁的人和一个75岁的人绝对有着同样的思维能力,精力是和健康状况有关的,而与老龄的关系不大。

瑞斯尼克还说,老龄对我们行使职责影响很小,以致于和经验、个性以及总统或是首席执行长周围的顾问相比,年纪大几乎是无足轻重的。

老人学专家说,大多数人在18-30岁之间开始逐步丧失器官功能,也就是说他们开始衰老。之后,心脏、肾脏和其他器官每年会丧失约1%的功能。一位75岁的马拉松长跑者的世界纪录约是一位50岁的长跑者的纪录的1.5倍。

不过,我们器官的潜力比大部分人所需要的多4-6倍。多出来的部分使我们能跑马拉松、或是承受其他身心极限挑战。

大脑与其他器官的衰老速度是相同的,对老年人提取信息的速度有着尤其大的影响──这也解释了为什么老年人会出现暂时性失忆。

麦克阿瑟基金会(MacArthur Foundation)老龄研究项目负责人约翰·罗伊(John Rowe)医生说,基因影响我们衰老的程度和速度;基因在影响长寿的因素中占了约30%,在与年龄有关的大脑变化中占一半左右。罗伊曾任安泰保险公司(Aetna Inc.)的董事长。

不过人生阅历和智慧能帮助弥补正常的大脑衰退,补偿减慢的信息提取时间。加州大学洛杉矶分校(University of California at Los Angeles)老年医学负责人大卫·鲁本(David Reuben)说,变老最大的好处是“活过、做过、学到过”。数学家在20多岁的时候就会颇有成就,乐团指挥和外交家在六、七十岁的时候会到颠峰状态。

另一方面,美国政府下属的国家老人学研究院(National Institute on Aging)的创办人、国际长寿中心(International Longevity Center)研究组的负责人罗伯特·巴特勒(Robert Butler)认为,在作出明智决定方面,判断力要比经验更为重要。他以林肯(Abraham Lincoln)为例子,林肯当选美国总统的时候是52岁,此前只有10年的政府工作经验。

不过巴特勒也说,在80多岁的老人中,脑细胞可以继续处于活跃状态,还会增长。随着人们变老,词汇量会增加;老年人的大脑能在无意识的情况下想出替代方法,减小信息提取速度变慢所产生的影响。

尽管麦凯恩自己也承认厌恶科技,但并没有研究显示老年人不愿接受新鲜事物。瑞斯尼克说,如果他现在讨厌科技,他可能以前就一直如此。

加州大学洛杉矶分校的鲁本坚持说,这种说法对年龄的提问角度不对:不应该问候选人年龄有多大,而应该问他们有多健康。

几乎每个人都接触过75岁还跳伞、徒步穿越科罗拉多的大峡谷,或是经营家族企业的人。美国人口普查局的数据显示,总的来说,美国人即使是在人生尽头也没有丧失生活和工作的能力:65岁的人可以指望今后日子中有一半时间都不会受到此类困扰。

70岁及以上的人中约有八分之一仍在工作,而那些没工作的人,健康状况不佳只是次要原因之一。尽管禁止年龄歧视的法律常常不准强制退休,但是在退休人群中,称因疾病而被迫退休的人的数量是因其他原因退休的人的一半。

不过,大部分人也都遇到过50多岁就因心脏病突发或是癌症而去世的人。疾病以及一辈子暴露在太阳、污染、香烟和其他缩短寿命的因素中会随着我们年龄的增长而显露出影响。

在65岁及以上的人群中,年龄每增加五岁老年痴呆症患者的百分比就会增长一倍,虽然心脏疾病导致的死亡在过去40年中有所降低,但是癌症死亡人数却在上升。

这一切都发生在下面这个大背景下:随着婴儿潮时期出生的人老龄化高峰的到来,65岁以上的人将在未来的30年中翻一番,增至8,000万人。届时,美国五分之一的人都会超过65岁,而现在这一比例是八分之一。罗伊预测未来推婴儿车的美国人和用拐杖的人会一样多。

平均寿命变长对从移民政策、公共交通到房屋等方方面面都产生巨大影响。我们要去哪里找到那么多的家庭保健护理员?我们怎样让85岁的老人不再开车?那些有四个卧室的房子又会变成什么样?

当大部分工人要炼钢、耕地或是采矿的时候,65岁退休是合理的。今天的工人大部分仍精力充沛、身体健康,他们不想降低退休年龄。

一个老龄化的社会还可能影响选举,尽管这还不是一目了然。研究偏见问题的人员说,美国人对老年人的歧视比对种族、性取向等其他组别人的歧视严重。甚至老年人对老年人也歧视。

65岁及以上的选民占了总选民的四分之一还要多,而且投票的比例也比其他年龄组的人高。美国凯斯西储大学(Case Western Reserve University)的老龄问题教授罗伯特·宾斯托克(Robert Binstock)说,在总统选举中,年轻选民总是倾向于选择新面孔,而年老选民和其他人的投票好恶没有什么太大区别。

也就是说,即使是在一个老龄化的社会,麦凯恩也不能指望老年选民,尽管奥巴马依靠年轻选民。年纪大是一回事,投票选一位年纪大的总统是另一回事。

June Kronholz
快速回复 返回顶部 返回列表