The Truth About Aging in the Middle Class

By Dorian Martin for Jennyoga

Everyone is getting older. However, some people seem to remain ageless, even as the years go by. How do they do it? Thankfully, these individuals offer great role models to teach experts and middle-age people how to age healthfully and gracefully in a society that often idolizes youth. These life lessons are becoming increasingly important due to ongoing seismic economic and demographic changes in the nation.

Changing World, Changing Health

Ever since the recent economic recession, many American households find they need to tighten their budgets. According to the Pew Research Center, 120.8 million adults lived in middle-income households in early 2015; this number is slightly lower than the combined total of lower- and upper-income households (121.3 million) in the nation. Thus, the nation’s vaunted middle class and its economic power is dwindling just as the rising costs of health care services and premiums are increasing

At the same time, more middle-aged people are opting to live alone. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, the percentage of Americans who live alone has grown from roughly 5 percent in the 1920s to 27 percent in 2013. This sea change is most prevalent in cities and offers a number of challenges for local government, including how to reach out to single people during uncertain times, such as during a blizzard or flu epidemic.

These factors underscore why middle-class Americans need to commit to protecting their own health. The challenge becomes how to identify a sustainable path that relies primarily on one’s self-care instead of the health care system.

Taking Ownership of Our Health

Fortunately, an increasing body of research describes surprising new ways to reach a vibrant old age. Leading medical experts, including Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. Andrew Weil, are describing new approaches to aging well while New York Times best-selling author, Dan Buettner, has studied the places around the world where people have the longest and healthiest lives, which he calls the Blue Zones.

The ideas that these experts raise range from the expected (diet and exercise) to the less intuitive (such as people’s companions). For instance, in her book, Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Well-Being, Dr. Christiane Northrup offers many ideas for aging, including:

  • Stocking up on nitric oxide: This signaling molecule is produced by the body through laughter and other pleasurable experiences, meditation, exercising and eating vegetables and fruits that are rich in antioxidants. The release of nitric oxide helps prevent strokes, fights infections, reduces inflammation and destroys tumors. Nitric oxide also can help limit the biochemistry of aging through increased production and balanced levels of hormones such as endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.
  • Avoiding cultural portals: Northrup encourages people to avoid the cultural portals of aging. For instance, she encourages monitoring self-talk for ageist comments and avoiding spending time with what she calls the “organ recitals” (groups of people who spend their time complaining about their health issues and the medications they’re taking).

These types of lessons offer a different picture about aging than many people learned from their parents and grandparents.  However, medical professionals are increasingly finding that a purposeful approach to aging can actually help individuals take control so they lead in a healthy and long life.


Resources for This Sharepost:

Henderson, T. (2014). Growing Number of People Living Solo Can Pose Challenges.  The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Komisar, H. (2013). The Effects of Rising Health Care Costs on Middle-Class Economic Security. AARP.

Northrup, C. (2015). Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Well-Being.

Pew Research Center. (2015). The American Middle Class Is Losing Ground.