London: 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
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
"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
It is estimated that average life expectancy in Europe will reach
100 by the end of the century.