Peak 65

By Robin Bush, ISR Communications

When we compare our lives with the lives of our parents or grandparents, remember that life expectancy 100 years ago was about 53 years.  How things have changed.  According to Harvard Health, the average U.S. life expectancy, as of 2022, is 79 years for women and 73 years for men.  

2024 is a milestone called Peak 65. It’s the year when more Americans will turn 65 than at any other time in history. 4.1 million will turn 65 this year, and that many will every year through 2027 (Alliance for Lifetime Income). In 1935, there were about 8 million people turning 65. In 2020, it was 55 million (US Census), which is expected to be 78 million by 2035 (AARP).

Those lifespan statistics are important to understand as we personally and nationally plan for the future. It is also essential to consider how to support health span and brain span across longer lives.  Healthspan is the number of years good health is maintained, and we constantly hear about ways to remain healthy (eat well, exercise, get good sleep, and maintain social connections).  Brainspan is the number of years our brains work without challenge or disease.  It’s never too early or too late to protect or increase brain span. 

As areas of our brains shrink with age, our abilities to remember, plan, and learn may decrease along with blood flow to the brain.  However, some research indicates that the more you challenge different parts of your brain, the longer you will keep it functioning well. (Center for Brain Health, University of Texas at Dallas).  Sleep and physical exercise are critical components, as are reducing stress and eating a healthy diet.  That sounds much like the advice for lengthening health span, doesn’t it?  Brain span includes one more component:  continuing to learn and challenge the brain. 

Over 100 million Americans suffer from brain disorders at some point in their lives (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke). What can we do to challenge and continue learning to provide the support that may extend our brain span?  Brain challenge games may help (they can’t hurt). It is fun to do crossword puzzles and online brain games, or you can download the Island Senior Resources’ free brain activity books at www. to be mentally challenged or engage those you care for.  Learning new things, such as new physical skills, traveling, taking classes on subjects that interest you, or working toward mastering a new language, can be beneficial.  These also usually involve social interaction, which prevents the serious physical and mental impact of isolation.

Join a club, travel to new places with a group, or join free online classes available through Coursera and Kahn Academy to help keep your brain engaged and expanding.  You can even learn a new language for free at Duolingo online.

Life is richer and more rewarding when you commit to being a lifelong learner. Once you learn, you can benefit further by sharing your knowledge with others. Learning and teaching go hand-in-hand, and with them come opportunities for connection with others on the same path.  Be bold.  Be confident.  Remind yourself daily you are never too old to learn.