This groundbreaking book should definitely help further the movement of what the authors call "a new gerontology." John Rowe, M.D., and Robert Kahn, Ph.D., both members of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network, thoroughly debunk the myth that aging has to be a painful process of debilitation. Their research has shown that the influence of genetics shrinks proportionately as you get older, while social and physical habits become increasingly integral to your state of health--both mental and physical. The 10 years' worth of research cited in Successful Aging
reveal some flabbergasting facts about health in later life. For example, an inactive person is worse off, health-wise, than a smoker who exercises regularly. And your lifestyle and attitude are significantly more important than your genes in determining whether or not your golden years are healthy ones--even if you have a genetic predisposition for developing Alzheimer's, arthritis, cancer, or other serious health problems.
Rowe and Kahn start with a thorough breakdown of nutritional advice, including a rundown of the many vitamins and other nutrients that those older than 60 are in particular need of. They also detail the most important exercises for optimal functioning of body and mind, and analyze the benefits and risks of DHEA, melatonin, and tretinoin, while warning about snake-oil formulations that are now being marketed to the AARP set. There's also a thorough explanation of the importance of creativity and social connections--the research shows that, for the aging, strong social ties are even more important in preventing illness than genetic background.
From Publishers Weekly
Accessible and upbeat, this report interprets the findings of the MacArthur Foundation Study of Successful Aging, a long-term, multidisciplinary research program designed to examine the genetic, biomedical, behavioral and social factors that determine how well we age. Rowe, president of Mount Sinai Hospital, chairs the Foundation's Research Network on Successful Aging, and Kuhn, professor of psychology and public health at the University of Michigan, is a member of that group. They begin by citing the study outcomes to effectively destroy some common negative myths about aging (e.g., that illness accompanies aging or that mental capacity diminishes with age). Next they define successful aging as having three components: low risk of disease and disability; high mental and physical function; and active engagement with life. Emphasizing that lifestyle choices are more important than heredity, they spell out the choices the elderly can make to enhance each component. While focusing on what to do, they also make clear what not do to (e.g., they warn against such popular anti-aging remedies as DHEA and human growth hormone). They then turn to society's role in promoting successful aging. Finding that the elderly are one of the country's great underutilized productive resources, they propose that improving the mix of education, work and leisure throughout life would keep workers in the labor force longer, and they call on the government to make the necessary regulatory changes. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.