‘Healthy with conditions’ is the new norm
Conventional takes on physical well-being often are presented as “either-or” — either you’re healthy or you’re sick. But about 2 out of 3 people in their 50s and 8 out of 10 in their 80s are living with one or more serious or chronic health conditions. And despite their arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease or other conditions, 78 to 83 percent rated their health good, very good or excellent.
“There’s a survival benefit to resilience. People can reframe their situation and make the best of it,” says Susan Friedman, M.D., a professor in the division of geriatrics and aging at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. And, she adds, “health is multidimensional.”
That’s how Ruth, a study participant in her 90s, sees it. She still sings in a church choir and plays table tennis, despite using a walker. “Good health is being able to get up each day and do the things that you plan to do, and not dread them,” she says.
Timothy, 51, has a similar view. This study participant has immunity challenges, and a few years ago survived a month in the hospital. Now, he says, “You just wake up in the morning, you eat a handful of pills, and you go about your day. You don’t let it overwhelm your mind.”