Kevin Y. Kawamoto
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

There was a time when the study of human aging tended to focus on “sick care” and aging-related diseases. The years after a person retired were thought to be a gradual disengagement from the community as older people quietly lived out their limited twilight years and experienced physical and mental decline.

Today, thanks to a variety of factors, people are living many years beyond retirement — a phenomenon known as “longevity.” In Hawai‘i, longevity is especially strong, with average life expectancy estimated to be around 82 years, several years higher than the national average.

Some ethnic groups in Hawai‘i fare better than others when it comes to longevity. A population analysis published in 2017 (based on an analysis of 2010 U.S. Census data) by University of Hawai‘i and state Department of Health researchers found that people of Chinese, Japanese and Filipino ethnicities tend to have longer life expectancies than those of other major ethnic groups in the state. Females tend to have a higher life expectancy than males once they reach old age, although no one knows for certain why.

Although Hawai‘i tops the charts in longevity, the gains in life expectancy over the decades are a national phenomenon, and the study of aging is gradually evolving to reflect this reality. It is not only about sick care, but also about “well-care” — the mindset and activities that result in healthier aging biologically, psychologically and socially.

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Kevin Y. Kawamoto is a longtime contributor to The Hawai‘i Herald.

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