Older Man with a SurfboardHealthcare costs in the United States have been rising steadily over the past decades. As health insurance companies increase premiums and deductibles, a sizeable chunk of the American population of all ages has been priced out of the insurance market.

There is no simple answer as to how rising life expectancy is impacting health insurance costs or structures. Whether it is the American medical infrastructure, insurance company policies, rising medical costs, or longer life expectancy, health insurance premiums appear to be increasing ceaselessly. As the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 starts affecting the insurance landscape, there are bound to be changes that impact all citizens, including older adults.

Do older adults have access to health insurance?

Adults over the age of 65 have access to Medicare and Medicaid, depending on their economic situation. Presently, those between the ages of 50 and 64 with individual insurance plans typically shell out two-and-half times more than people in the same age range who have employer-based coverage.

According to AARP, most states today allow health insurance companies to charge higher premiums on the basis of age and health. In other words, insurance companies have free rein over rejections. This is why approximately one out of every five applications to insurance companies from individuals who are between the ages of 50 and 64 are rejected.

What is life expectancy?

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), life expectancy is the most established method of calculating health. While it does not take into account the quality of life, it gives a measure of the length of a person’s life.

OECD studies have found that, in the past 50 years, there has been a remarkable rise in life expectancies within the developed world. On average, there has been a gain of 10 years in life expectancies since 1960, with life length increasing to 80 years across OECD countries. Women live longer by six years, averaging life expectancy of 83 years as opposed to men’s average life length of 77 years.

Italy, Japan, and Switzerland lead the OECD countries with an average life expectancy of 83 years, while life expectancy is the lowest in Mexico, at 74 years.

While healthcare spending in 2010 accounted for 17.6% of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), an American’s life expectancy of 78.7 years ranked lower than many other OECD countries.

Why is life expectancy increasing across the world?

With increased healthcare spending, there has been a steady rise in life expectancy across the world. But besides healthcare contributions, some of the other reasons include rising living standards, improved standards within work environments, lifestyle choices, and education.

However, it is important to note that maximum improvements have been seen within the economically privileged and educated population. In other words, further improvements in access to primary care, health education, and disease prevention within disadvantaged groups is important.

How can we improve life expectancy?

 

While medical advances in early detection, disease prevention, and cures have resulted in longer life expectancies, it does not necessarily indicate increased health within the longer years. A recent study called the Global Burden of Disease found that, while there has been an uptick in lived years, those years are marred by health issues such as diabetes, chronic heart disease, arthritis, and depression.

However, there are certain measures we can take as individuals that can help improve our life expectancy as well as our quality of life.

The foremost method of improving health is to add exercise to our routine. A brisk 30-minute walk, three times a week, can have a huge positive impact. Add some weights to your workout routine. Make sure you talk to your doctor before proceeding.

Change your diet to include more healthy foods such as omega-3 rich fish, lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables. Cut out as much packaged foods as possible and set aside high-sugar and high-fat foods and drinks.

As we age, our bodies start to face some deficiencies. Cover the nutritional gaps by taking appropriate supplements such as calcium to prevent osteoporosis, Vitamin B12 to prevent memory loss, and more, as recommended by your doctor.

Quit smoking. Smoking has been tied to a range of diseases, including but not limited to, lung cancer, blood clots, and respiratory diseases such as emphysema. Indeed, a recent study found that smoking cuts life expectancy by almost 10 years.

Challenge your mind with different mental activities such as learning a new language, solving crossword puzzles, regular reading, etc. Keeping your mind active and using your brain regularly helps keep issues such as dementia at bay.

Another important step is to get regular physical check-ups. Preventative measures and early detection of diseases not only help keep you healthy longer, but also help save you money.

And finally, try to alleviate stress from your life. Maintaining an optimistic and positive attitude helps keep your mind and body healthy. Make new friends, travel, volunteer at your favorite charity, and take up group activities. Laughter can really be the best medicine.