A common myth about aging is that older adults are burdened by illness and feel lousy much of the time. In fact, the opposite is usually true. Most seniors report feeling distinctly positive about their health.

Consider data from the 2017 National Health Interview Survey (the most recent available), administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When asked to rate their overall health, 82 percent of adults ages 65 to 74 described it as excellent (18 percent), very good (32 percent) or good (32 percent) - on the positive side of the ledger. By contrast, 18 percent of this age group had a negative perspective, describing their health as fair (14 percent) or poor (4 percent).

This trend toward positivity is also evident among adults age 75 and older: 73 percent of this group said their health was excellent (12 percent), very good (28 percent) or good (33 percent), while only 27 percent gave a fair (20 percent) or poor (7 percent) evaluation.

How could this be true when the majority of older adults - about 60 percent - have two or more chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, arthritis, hypertension, heart disease or kidney disease, and higher rates of physical impairment than other age groups? The answer lies in how older adults think about their health. For many, good health means more than the lack of illness or disability. The components of health they tend to value more are vitality, emotional well-being, positive social relationships, remaining active and satisfaction with life, while poor physical functioning plays a less important role.

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