desirability of aging

Thu Jun 2 03:34:15 EST 1994

I have followed the discussion on the desirability of aging with interest, but
also with some feelings of doubt.
Modern societies are aging very rapidly and with aging comes the burden of
chronic diseases like dementia, arthrosis etcetera.
Life expectancy (LE) in the netherlands for instance is (1990) for women at
birth 80.1 year, for men 73.9 year. At 65 years LE for women is 19.0 years
and for men 14.4 years. At this moment about 13% of the Dutch population is
over 65 years and this will expand till about 25% in 2010/2020.
But if we look at how many years people can be expected to be in good health,
we see something else. This measure is called Healthy Life Expectancy (HLE) or
Disabillity Free Life Expectancy (DFLE) and is first developed by Sullivan in
the '70's. This measure is based on the prevalence of disabilities in the
For the Dutch population the figures are as followes:
at birth 60.2 years; at 65 years 9.1 years
at birth: 60.0 years; at 65 years 9.3 years
We can also look at the HLP (Healthy Life Percentage), that is the percentage
of the LE that can be expected to be healthy years:
for women at birth: 75.1%, at 65 years of age: 48.0%
for men at birth: 81.2%, at 65 years of age: 64.6%.
This means for instance for women at 65 years of age in 1990, that they can
expect to have more than half of their remaining life te be in poor health.
Maybe we better look in ways to lower the amount of unhealthy years by
prevention of chronic diseases like arthritis or Rheuma than to put a lot
of money in research to expand our LE.

Rom Perenboom, Leiden
E-Mail: Perenboom at NIPG.TNO.NL

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