Aging expert: Longer lives present opportunities, challenges
Times-Tribune (Scranton, PA)
April 12--It is a simple question, one that Linda Fried, M.D., poses not only to her undergraduate students at Columbia University but also to her own children:
"What would you do with 30 more years of life?"
Dr. Fried, dean of Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health, told the third annual Northeastern Pennsylvania Conference on Aging on Thursday at the University of Scranton that longer life expectancies in the United States and around the world will present necessities but also opportunities.
"That is where we are right now as a society," she said. "If we are smart, we are saying, 'How can we prepare?'"
Dr. Fried gave the keynote address at the conference, which the university and the Commonwealth Medical College hosted. The event brought together educators, providers, researchers and others to promote healthy aging through an integrated approach to caring for the elderly.
Dr. Fried told conference participants advances in medicine, public health and social policy have created the opportunity for their children and grandchildren to have an extra 30, 40, perhaps even 50 years of life.
However, in the policies and many of the practices surrounding the issue of aging, there is a "very large scotoma," or blind spot, when it comes to finding solutions to meet the challenges ahead, she said.
"We have not invested in our future needs," Dr. Fried said. "It's not too late, but it could be if we keep waiting."
She argued that the principles inherent in a geriatric medical system, including an investment in prevention so people are already healthier when they grow old, "actually turn out to be very good for every age."
"This is not an either/or scenario -- either we invest in our old people or we invest in our kids," Dr. Fried said. "We can find a place of mutual benefit 90 percent of the time, including in the design of a health system that is good for old people and would be good for everybody else."
State Sen. John Blake, D-22, Archbald, told conference attendees it is important for the Legislature to pay attention to detail when it comes to adopting regulations and laws that affect seniors as Pennsylvania moves into the federal Affordable Care Act and considers Medicaid expansion.
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