NYC’s Old Folk Boast Superior Bill of Health

It’s not so shocking that New Yorkers tend to have a bit of a superiority complex about them, but when it comes to health there are actually numbers to back it up.  One of my favorite blogs (nerd alert), Economix from the Times, revealed an interesting statistical nugget  showing that New Yorkers live remarkably longer than the rest of the nation (1.5 years on average).

But the bulk of the mortality difference between New York and the nation occurs among older cohorts, and here the situation is far murkier. The death rates in the nation are 5.5 percent higher for 55-to-64-year-olds than in New York, 17 percent higher for 65-to-74-year-olds and more than 24 percent higher for 75-to-84-year-olds. There is no single smoking gun for these groups. Deaths from cancer are lower for these groups, but deaths from heart disease are not.

A faaabulous New York Grandma

These are some pretty impressive numbers for the old folks. Why, oh, why are New York’s city dwellers living longer in every age group, especially the elderly? The article already addresses the money issue— this is a survey of all boroughs, meaning average income is actually less than the rest of the country, so wealth is not a primary contributing factor.  I would suspect the following are also in play:

  1. Walking.  Whereas most cities across the nation rely on cars for transportation, New Yorkers are constantly walking and schlepping to and fro public transit, meaning those 15 minutes of walking here, 10 minutes of grocery schlepping there, add up to some legitimate physical activity.
  2. New Yorkers are a resilient bunch. Look at 9/11 and the overwhelming response by the city.  If it’s not in our blood, there’s something in the water. (Told you it tasted weird.) I see the same 87-year-old woman argue the price of sliced turkey at the bodega by my apartment on a weekly basis—I know she’s not keeling over anytime soon.
  3. Access to health care. There is an ample amount of doctors, hospitals and free or low-cost clinics in this city that are unavailable to inhabitants of small town West Jesus, USA.
  4. Focus on health and appearance. Though not as superficial as L.A., people here generally put effort into their looks and that means staying trim and hitting the gym. New York Sports Club and Equinox advertise enough around the city to gently remind everyone to keep their gut in check.
  5. Food options.  We have more to eat than the Chinese Buffet and unlimited breadstick dinners at Olive Garden. With restaurant variety comes healthier options, instead of fat-laden excuses for food.
  6. The crazies.  With such an eccentric and diverse population, our young’uns (and old folk for that matter) don’t feel outcast for having unique interests, as often happens in smaller towns, thus leading to unhealthy behavior and suicides.
  7. Socializing.  Studies show that those who socialize more develop healthier habits and have increased overall happiness. New York City, if nothing else, is a city of socializing—restaurants, bars, arts, entertainment. It’s all there for the taking. If you are ever lacking motivation to go out, know that staying in may be detrimental to your health!

One of the first things I realized when I moved here was that New York’s old people kick serious ass. I admired their abilities to navigate steep street curbs with their walkers and venture out in the 10 degree winter bitterness that I can barely endure.  Thankfully, they know they’re fabulous. Look no further than the grandma we saw on the Fire Island Ferry when heading back to Manhattan.

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