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Adding Years to Life and Life to Years

Medical advances mean people are living longer. However, they often face multiple conditions or illnesses in later life. Geriatric medicine is seeking both to increase healthy years of life and to get a better handle on multimorbidity.

Switzerland’s life expectancy has been continually rising for over 100 years, now at 85.7 years for women and 81.6 years for men (as of 2021). (Image: istock/PeopleImages)

On a recent hike in the mountains, it was noticeable that nearly all the walkers criss-crossing along the narrow paths were proficient walkers of a certain age in bright-colored outdoor clothing, usually armed with a pair of poles – for the sake of their knees. Younger people were virtually nowhere to be seen. And as someone who himself is over 60, in towns too, I can’t help but notice energetic older people bounding along the pavements with a spring in their step and who are anything but old and frail. We’re living in the era of healthy agers. Researcher on aging, Heike Bischoff-Ferrari, can only confirm my impression: “Over 50% of the Swiss participants in our DO-HEALTH study aged over 70 are healthy agers.”

These healthy seniors don’t have any age-related conditions that severely limit their day-to-day activities, or if they do, only those that are easily treatable (read: high blood pressure). They are physically and mentally active, maintain social connections and take care of their health. Bischoff-Ferrari talks about Switzerland’s trump card in this respect, as according to the study, the country has the joint highest percentage of healthy older people alongside Austria. At the bottom of the list is Portugal, with only 9% of healthy older people.

UZH News