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Not only are people in Germany getting older, they also stay healthy until old age. There are even more opportunities for seniors to actively shape retirement. The consequence of the development: The age picture is changing. In the third phase of life, people increasingly see the opportunity for self-realization.
At the finish line, Dieter Hempel and Hauke Rüther are very close together. Hempel needs three hours, 58 minutes and 46 seconds for this year's Berlin Marathon, which he finished in 15,022. Rüther follows just one second and seven places behind. Both are almost the same, and yet there are years between them: Because while Rüther was born in 1984, Hempel was born in 1940.
The runner from the Treptow sports club in Berlin impressively shows what achievements older people are capable of. Not only was he the best in the 75- to 79-year-old age group, even many younger recreational runners bite their teeth at his marathon time. Certainly, Hempel's performance requires a lot of training and is by no means a matter of course for people his age. But it would also be wrong to label seniors as frail people. "Age says less and less about the skills of the individual," says Manfred Gogol, medical director of the clinic for geriatrics in Coppenbrügge.
Elderly health has improved
Because people in Germany are not only getting older, they are also gaining more active and healthy years of life. "Today's 70-year-olds are as healthy as 60-year-olds were 20 years ago," says Björn Schumacher, an aging researcher at the University of Cologne. Better living conditions and medical care mean that even for very old people, the biological clock now ticks differently than in the past, as the Heidelberg Centennial Study shows. Accordingly, today's 100-year-olds are as mentally and physically fit as the 90-year-old ten years ago.
And at the same time, better fitness opens up more options for shaping the evening. The picture of the couch potato no longer fits the reality of today's seniors. They value self-determination and individuality and want to enjoy retirement to the fullest: they travel a lot, play sports, study, volunteer and cultivate friendships. There have never been so many seniors in the gyms as there are today, and there have never been so many older people taking courses in adult education centers. And the pensioners of tomorrow will be even more active: Because the coming years live healthier than those born before them at the same age.
Age picture changes positively
With the prospects in mind, age also loses its horror. This is confirmed by the results of the German Aging Survey (DEAS) - a long-term survey that deals with the living situation of people in the second half of life. Accordingly, the picture of aging has changed positively between 1996 and 2008. In retirement, people are seeing more and more opportunities for personal development and are less connected to the disadvantages such as physical limitations. The perception of retirees who experience the opportunities of the third phase of life themselves has improved the most.
Scientists therefore come to a clear conclusion: the more pensioners take part in social and cultural life and actively engage in it, the more positively this affects their age profile. But that's not all: Seniors who realize themselves also do the best prevention. "Today we know that social inclusion is the most important factor for long life and mental health," emphasizes Gogol.
And if the body plays along, top performance is still possible even in old age. This is also proven by Poul Jensen. The Dane also ran the Berlin Marathon this year - in the age group over 80. And in the end he was even 20 seconds faster than Hempel.
"Live 7 years longer" is an initiative of German insurers. The initiative therefore wants to conduct a social dialogue about how we can make the most of the years we have gained. In this context, the Prognos study “Pension Perspectives 2040” is to be made available to a broader public. Further information: www.7jahrelanger.de