Article Text

  1. P. Ginier,
  2. M. Brownell,
  3. S. Tordini
  1. VA Central California Health Care System, Fresno, CA


In July 2004 nearly 500 veterans aged 55 and older participated in the National Golden Age Games (GAG) in Fresno, CA. Since GAG participants are more physically active than their peers, this was a unique opportunity to elicit demographic and health status information and health attitudes from this unique group. We were especially interested in learning how these senior athletes felt about having diabetes. Our survey also queried attitudes about end of life concerns and choices. Forty-nine percent (240: 213 men and 27 women) of participants voluntarily and anonymously responded to a short written questionnaire distributed at the registration desk. Among those that responded 59% were 55-69 years old, 36% 70-80, and 9% > 81. Sixty percent were Caucasian, 27% African American, 7% Hispanic, and 7% Native American. The majority were from CA (27%), TX (15%), NY (9%), and IL (7%). Bowling, horseshoes, nine ball, shuffleboard, swimming, and table tennis were the most popular sports. Forty-six percent reported having cardiovascular disease, 42% had mental health problems, 40% arthritis, 35% hypertension, 30% diabetes, and 15% cancer. Of those with diabetes roughly two-thirds reported a score of 1-2 (on a scale of 1-5) as not being upset at all or only slightly upset about having diabetes, the amount of control they have over their diabetes, the uncertainty they experience in life as a result of diabetes, how upset they feel that their diabetes may worsen, about achieving good diabetes control, about their ability to cope with the disease, and that diabetes gets in the way of their life goals. However, 22% responded with a score of 4-5 that they were very upset to extremely upset that their diabetes may worsen. Eighty percent of those within the 60-69 age group responded as extremely upset to the latter question compared to 10% or less within the other age ranges. Seventy-four percent of all those surveyed indicated they had expressed their end of life preferences to their families and 60% had an advance directive. If severely ill with cancer, congestive heart failure, or emphysema 57% indicated they wanted to be kept comfortable. Of these 40% preferred to be at home and 17% in a hospice facility. In conclusion, the largest proportion of senior athletes reported cardiovascular and mental health problems. This may reflect that physical activity and social involvement are encouraged as therapeutic interventions for these disorders. These senior athletes seem to cope well with diabetes but concern of possible worsening is interestingly found most often in the 60-69 age group.

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