As the number of elderly rises worldwide, researchers find that old people today have more sex, are more likely to be divorced, are cleverer and feel better, and are more outgoing.
An extensive research project at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg compared the elderly of the 1970s with those of today.
The project, known as the H70 study, reveals that old age has changed drastically in a number of ways.
“It’s time to start talking about the ‘new old age’,” says Ingmar Skoog, professor from Gothenburg who led the study.
According to a Gothenburg university statement, the proportion of elderly with schooling beyond secondary level has risen from 14 percent to almost 40 percent for both genders.
This is reflected in a better performance in intelligence tests by today’s 70-year-olds than their counterparts back in the 1970s.
The proportion of married people has increased, as has the proportion of divorcees. The elderly are also now more sexually active, and the number with sexual problems such as impotence has fallen.
The results of the long-term study can also be contradictory, not least when it comes to social networking: “The H70 study shows that the elderly are more outgoing today than they were in the 1970s.
“They talk more to their neighbours, for example – yet the percentage of elderly who feel lonely has increased significantly,” added Skoog.
Old people’s mental health does not seem to have changed, however.
Dementia disorders are no more prevalent today than they were 30 years ago, and while more old people consider themselves to be mildly depressed, more severe forms of depression have not become more common.
It is estimated that average life expectancy in Europe will reach 100 by the end of the century.