September 2014 Physiology and Psychology of Aging, Health, and Place A RESEARCH BRIEF VERSION 1.0 The HEALTH AND PLACE INITIATIVE (HAPI) investigates how to create healthier cities in the future, with a specific emphasis on China. Bringing together experts from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (HGSD) and the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), it creates a forum for understanding the multiple issues that face cities in light of rapid urbanization and an aging population worldwide. Photo by Ann Forsyth
Harvard Graduate School of Design: email@example.com. The following people were involved in the Research Brief Series: Series Editors: Ann Forsyth and Laura Smead Contributors: Laura Smead, with Yannis Orfanos, Joyce Lee, and Chuan Hao (Alex) Chen Copy Editor: Tim Czerwienski Layout Designers: Yannis Orfanos, with Laura Smead and Weishun Xu Thanks to Heidi Cho, Lydia Gaby, Andreas Georgoulias, Emily Salomon, and Dingliang Yang for assistance and to Rebecca Miles for helpful comments. Suggested Citation: Health and Places Initiative. 2014. Physiology and Psychology of Aging, Health, and Place. A Research Brief. Version 1.0. http:// research.gsd.harvard.edu/hapi/
page 3 PHYSIOLOGY AND PSYCHOLOGY OF AGING, HEALTH, AND PLACE Big ideas • The proportion of older people is increasing worldwide, especially in countries with higher incomes and those with lower birth rates, such as China. • Old age (65 years and older) is generally characterized by increasing physical problems (of varying rates), and an increase in both multiple and chronic diseases. • Mental health issues like depression and anxiety are also relatively common for older persons, but should not be considered a normal part of the aging process. Keeping engaged mentally and socially are important to preventing depression and cognitive decline. • People 85 years and older have the highest rates of disability and dementia.
• As the proportion of older people increases, so too do the overall rates of disability.
• There is a great deal of individual variation, however, in the rate of health change in older people related to personal differences (e.g. biology, life history). • Environmental, psychological, and social factors, as well as behaviors such as getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and not drinking excessively, can help to prevent or moderate many common chronic diseases. • Planning and design can thus help support older people managing the aging process but are only part of the picture. For example, good planning and design for older people provides a built environment supportive of multiple ability levels (universal design), safe and appealing outdoor recreational resources, a health facility network accessible by transport (public or private), and multiple affordable housing options (multigenerational housing, single apartments, assisted living facilities). The topic of this research brief—the physical and psychological aspects of aging—is very broad. As such, unlike the other briefs in this series, we rely less on individual research studies and instead draw together information from a variety of overview materials and major research trends, such as “successful aging” and “age friendly cities” work. Health Issues