What are the challenges of aging?

Life expectancy is increasing for Americans. The fastest-growing segment of the population is the 85-and-older age group. Despite advances in health care, however, many elderly people have chronic, incurable progressive diseases and need assistance with the activities of daily living. The greatest challenge facing us as we age is the prevention of physical disability and the extension of "active life expectancy." Fortunately, recent studies suggest that healthy ("successful") aging is achievable, with sound planning for old age.

Illnesses like diabetes, congestive heart failure, and some forms of dementia can be delayed or even prevented. Even loss of muscle strength with aging is partly preventable. Perhaps most important, a positive attitude helps us to overcome illness and personal losses while we look forward to days to come.

What are the choices of aging?

As we age, we make choices about our lifestyle, health care, personal pursuits, and our plans for old age. A few "steps to successful aging" will help guide us to healthy and active golden years.

What are the steps to successful aging?

  • Adopt and maintain healthy habits and positive lifestyles:
    • Avoid cigarette smoking.
    • Have no more than one beverage with alcohol in a 24-hour period.
    • Exercise regularly with weight-bearing, maintaining the triad of weight-bearing, aerobic, and balance activities.
    • Maintain a weight that's healthy for you.
    • Get regular medical checkups.
    • Avoid falls, head injuries, and medications that cause confusion (either over-the-counter or prescription)
  • Keep yourself stimulated:
    • Enjoy hobbies and interests with passion, particularly social activities, such as dancing.
    • Strengthen family relationships.
    • Resolve intergenerational conflicts.
    • Engage in adult educational activities to challenge your mind.
    • Identify any physical limitations, such as difficulty walking or problems with balance. Actively start a discussion about these limitations and use medical resources to overcome them. Use nearby resources such as community support and local senior centers.
  • Be smart with financial planning:
    • Plan in advance for retirement.
    • Carefully manage investments and assets.
    • Assure adequate insurance coverage.
    • Decide on your future living arrangements.
  • Work to maintain dignity and good health in old age:
    • Choose a doctor knowledgeable in the medical care of older adults.
    • Choose a healthcare system that makes appointments and care for elders easier.
    • Communicate your goals of care to your family and physician.
    • Check about long-term care insurance.
    • Express your advance directives in writing.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/30/2016.


  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy Aging. (https://www.cdc.gov/aging/index.html) Accessed 6/25/2020.
  • National Institutes of Health. 7 Steps to Aging Well. (http://medlineplus.gov/magazine/issues/winter07/articles/winter07pg14-16.html) Accessed 6/25/2020.
  • Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. Alzheimer’s Prevention. (http://www.alzprevention.org/) Accessed 6/25/2020.

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