Compiled by Carol Lewis Watwood (Associate Professor/Health Sciences Librarian, Western Kentucky University Libraries)
Column Editor: Jack G. Montgomery (Professor, Acquisitions and Collection Services Librarian, Western Kentucky University Libraries)
“May you stay forever young,” sang Bob Dylan. However, the world’s population is getting older than ever before. In 2018, for the first time in history, the number of people worldwide aged 65 and older outnumbered children under 5. Healthy habits for older people include eating a balanced diet, keeping mind and body active, not smoking, getting regular checkups, and avoiding accidents and falls. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the biggest killers of older people worldwide are heart disease, stroke, and chronic lung disease. The biggest causes of disability are sensory impairments, back and neck pain, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depressive disorders, falls, diabetes, dementia, and osteoarthritis. However, every older person is different, and healthy lifestyles can delay the onset of age-related disease. WHO has designated the years 2020-2030 as “The Decade of Healthy Ageing.” Although we can’t prevent aging, a healthy lifestyle is proven to make a difference. A large body of evidence on the World Wide Web can guide the way to healthy aging. The following is a sampling.
AARP — https://www.aarp.org/ — AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC, representing the interests of older people. Its mission is “to empower people to choose how they live as they age.” It was founded in 1958 as an expansion of the National Retired Teachers’ Association. AARP’s political lobbying has often been controversial during its 60+ year history. Its 38 million members make it the largest private U.S. organization devoted to older adults. It serves a variety of functions; for example, it advocates for older Americans, provides information on long-term care, connects members with health insurance, sponsors public service projects, and negotiates member discounts. AARP’s website offers news and features on a variety of topics, including work, travel, entertainment, and finance.
Aging Stats — https://agingstats.gov/index.html — Produced by the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics. The Forum has 16 member agencies from the U.S. federal government and publishes infographics and data reports on aging. A recent publication: Older Americans 2016 — https://agingstats.gov/data.html
Alzheimer’s Disease and Healthy Aging — https://www.cdc.gov/aging/index.html — Public health information and data portal for healthy aging and dementia from the CDC. Includes A-Z health information for older adults, public health programs such as the Healthy Brain Initiative, reports, publications. Reports include.” Healthy Aging in Action: Advancing the National Prevention Strategy — https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/healthy-aging-in-action-final.pdf
American Federation for Aging Research — https://www.afar.org/ — The American Federation for Aging Research is a U.S. nonprofit organization with the mission of “supporting and advancing healthy aging through biomedical research.” It provides grants to advance the knowledge of aging and mechanisms of age-related disease. Also featured are information about the biology and science of aging and links to publications.
American Geriatrics Society — https://www.americangeriatrics.org/ — Founded in 1942, AGS is a U.S.-based nonprofit society of 6,000 geriatrics healthcare professionals “dedicated to improving the health, independence, and quality of life of older people.” Among its publications are the “Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults.” AGS publishes the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Geriatric Nursing, Journal of Gerontological Nursing, and Annals of Long-Term Care. It holds an annual meeting and sponsors numerous policy and educational initiatives such as the Older Driver Traffic Safety Initiative. The Society’s Health in Aging Foundation addresses consumer education and maintains the HealthinAging.org consumer health website and the HealthinAging blog for older adults and their caregivers.
American Society on Aging — https://www.asaging.org/ — Multidisciplinary association founded in 1954 as the Western Gerontological Society. Among its ten constituent groups are the Healthcare and Aging Network and the Mental Health and Aging Network.
Sponsors annual “Aging in America” conference and online continuing education. Cosponsor of Reframing Aging Project: https://www.asaging.org/reframing-aging which seeks to combat negative stereotypes of older people.
The Gerontological Society of America — https://www.geron.org/ — A multidisciplinary organization of 5,500 health professionals, scholars, and students in the field of gerontology. Founded in 1945, the Society publishes several peer-reviewed journals (The Gerontologist, The Journals of Gerontology, Series A and B, and Innovations in Aging, Public Policy & Aging Report, and Gerontology & Geriatric Education) and hosts annual scientific meetings. Among GSA’s six membership sections is the Health Sciences Section. GSA’s policy arm is called the National Academy on an Aging Society. The Society is the lead agency of the Reframing Aging Initiative. Based in Washington, the Society was instrumental in founding the National Institute on Aging and participates in many multi-stakeholder collaborations and reports.
Healthy Aging (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services) — https://www.hhs.gov/aging/healthy-aging/index.html — Healthy Aging links to information for older adults from government and private nonprofit agencies on staying active, safety, driving, volunteering in the community, nutrition, benefits, care, mental and brain health, drugs, and conditions.
HealthinAging.org — https://www.healthinaging.org/tools-and-tips/guide-healthy-aging — HealthinAging is a consumer-oriented website created by the American Geriatric Society’s Health in Aging Foundation. Content is attractively laid out, thorough, and has been reviewed by geriatrics professionals. Includes an extensive directory of health organizations. Most content is copyrighted. A particular emphasis of the parent organization is medication safety in older adults.
Healthy Aging (Medlineplus) — https://www.cdc.gov/aging/index.html — “Healthy Aging” is part of MedlinePlus, a large, expert-reviewed, easy to understand website in English and Spanish, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. This article is a good “go to” and “one-stop shop” for consumer inquiries about healthy aging. It has high-quality links to governmental and private nonprofit organizations. It includes general information as well as links to health checks and tests, drugs and supplements, common health issues in aging adults, reference sources and statistics, services and facilities, and more. Much of this content is produced by the federal government and not copyrighted under U.S. law, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, or linked for patient information. See also MedlinePlus Older Adult Health — https://medlineplus.gov/olderadulthealth.html
HelpAge International — https://www.helpage.org/ —
HelpAge International is a network of 149 member organizations in 87 countries with the goal of “creating a fairer world for older people so they can live safe, healthy, and dignified lives.” The North American partners are HelpAge Canada and the American Association of Retired Persons. The network’s signature product is “Global AgeWatch” — https://www.helpage.org/global-agewatch/,” an international comparison ranking countries of the world according to well-being of the elderly.
McMaster Optimal Aging Portal — https://www.mcmasteroptimalaging.org/age-well — Large, high-quality Canadian site in English and French, with expert-reviewed blog posts, web resource ratings and evidence summaries. Users can subscribe to weekly email alerts. Content targets educated laypeople and health professionals. Search by keyword or select a subject. Up-to-date information about subjects such as safe driving for older adults, exercise options, falls prevention, and stroke rehabilitation, supported by the latest scientific research. Some information is Canadian-specific but most is of general interest to older adults in other countries.
Meals on Wheels America — https://www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/ — Meals on Wheels, founded in 1954, is a public-private partnership staffed by millions of volunteers in more than 5,000 community-based programs that delivers 220 million meals to 2.4 million older adults annually. Recipients are homebound adults with no other means of obtaining meals. Most are 75 or older, and the majority live alone. Policies and charges vary by program; usually there is a suggested donation and low-income people are asked to pay what they can. Meals on Wheels provides companionship and social support as well as preventing unnecessary illness, hospitalization, and institutionalization in older adults due to malnutrition. Need and demand for the program outstrips availability of meals in many areas.
Medicare.gov — https://www.medicare.gov/index — Medicare is the U.S. federal health insurance program covering more than 58 million people aged 65 or older, some younger people with disabilities, and people with end-stage renal disease. People who are eligible (age 65 or older) or will soon be eligible should sign up on this site. “Get Started with Medicare” explains what people need to do to sign up. About 35% of enrollees sign up for “Medicare Advantage” bundled plans, based on business agreements with provider networks, offered by private insurers who contract with Medicare. About 65% of enrollees opt for “Original Medicare,” a fee-for-service option paid by Medicare, with or without supplemental private coverage. The site offers a plan finder, but shopping for plans can still be daunting. Nonprofit SHIPs (state health insurance assistance programs) help explain options to puzzled consumers. Contrary to popular belief, Medicare does not cover the cost of long-term care. Medicare pays for skilled care for short periods of time. Medicaid, not Medicare, pays 62% of long-term care for covered services for older adults whose income/assets meet state eligibility requirements. The Medicare site has facility locators and detailed information on long-term care options, even though it does not cover costs.
Merck Manual. Consumer Edition. Older People’s Health Issues. — https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/older-people%E2%80%99s-health-issues — The venerable Merck Manuals series of medical encyclopedias began in 1899 as the Merck Manual of Materia Medica, published by the Merck & Co. U.S. drug manufacturer. Later called the Merck Manual, this publication expanded in size and scope to become a widely popular, portable medical reference. Since 2014, the Merck Manuals, as they are now known, are free and online-only. This searchable online portion deals with health issues specific to older people, such as physical changes of aging, drugs and aging, quality of life, and health insurance coverage. Users can toggle between the consumer and professional versions, and switch to any of nine languages. Still a good one-stop shop for general medical information, with content peer-reviewed by 26 independent specialists.
National Association of Area Agencies on Aging — https://www.n4a.org/ — N4a is a membership-based nonprofit advocacy organization representing the U.S. network of 622 Area Agencies on Aging and 250 Title VI aging programs. Click [action] and enter a city or zip code to find local agencies. These agencies are part of the “Aging Network,” a broad term used to describe the national network of federal, state, and local agencies helping adults aged 60 and older live independently in their homes and communities. The Network was established and funded by the Older Americans Act of 1965, at a time when nearly 3 in 10 older Americans lived in poverty. This site has a wealth of information for older adults, caregivers, professionals, and policymakers.
National Council on Aging — https://www.ncoa.org/ — Founded in 1950, the National Council on Aging seeks to improve the lives of older adults. Originally formed to address rising health costs and mandatory retirement, the NCOA has launched other aging-related programs such the Disability and Aging Collaborative to address long-term care policy. NCOA sponsors an annual conference and has web resources for professionals, older adults, and caregivers. The site offers online financial tools for senior benefits, money management, and Medicare. Also offers tips on healthy living and public policy.
Profile of Older Americans — https://acl.gov/aging-and-disability-in-america/data-and-research/profile-older-americans — Annual statistical profile of older Americans based primarily on U.S. census data. Includes sections on living arrangements, health and health care, health insurance coverage, disability and physical functioning.
Road Scholar (formerly ElderHostel) LLI Resource Network — https://lli.roadscholar.org/ — Voluntary, dues-free association of more than 400 Lifelong Learning Institutes. LLIs are adult peer-learning communities offering college-level learning experiences, usually on a non-credit basis and encouraging participation regardless of previous formal education. Includes a program finder, speakers bureau, newsletter, discussion board, and blog.
Senior Citizens Can Go to College for Free or Cheap in All 50 States — https://www.thepennyhoarder.com/save-money/free-college-courses-for-senior-citizens/ — Lifelong learning is a key factor in healthy aging, and all 50 U.S. states offer less-expensive or free college tuition options for older adults. Depending on where they live, where they apply, and availability of classes, older adults may be able to get a four-year degree without paying tuition. This website is one of several that list affordable tuition options for older adults by state.
U.S. National Institute on Aging — https://www.nia.nih.gov/ — The National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, is the principal U.S. government agency concerned with healthy aging. It seeks to “understand the nature of aging and to extend the healthy, active years of life.” NIA is a major funder of aging research, and is the primary Federal agency for Alzheimer’s disease research. This site has searchable research resources and databases as well as consumer health information. An A-Z section has easy-to-read, research-based information on health topics related to aging. Users can find information about research projects such as the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, the longest ongoing study of aging, and the “Health and Retirement Study,” cosponsored by the Social Security Administration. A “Featured Research” section discusses important findings in the news. NIA has commissioned several major reports, including “Global Health and Aging” https://www.nia.nih.gov/sites/default/files/2017-06/global_health_aging.pdf and “An Aging World:2015” https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2016/demo/p95-16-1.pdf
World Health Organization. Ageing and the Life Course — https://www.who.int/ageing/en/ — The World Health Organization (WHO), the arm of the United Nations concerned with international health, has designated 2020-2030 as “The Decade of Healthy Ageing.” As well as the intrinsic and functional capacity of the individual, WHO stresses the importance of the environment in health disparities among older persons. In its 2015 “World Report on Aging and Health ” and resulting “Global Strategy and Action Plan on Ageing and Health,” WHO outlined five large-scale changes needed to accommodate the growing numbers of older people. The WHO Study on Global AGEing and Adult Health (SAGE) provides ongoing longitudinal data from six countries. The WHO site has a wealth of statistical, factual, and policy information spanning the globe. What is Healthy Ageing? https://www.who.int/ageing/healthy-ageing/en/
10 facts on ageing: https://www.who.int/features/factfiles/ageing/en/