Video: Seniors' weighty issue

By Tom Costello Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/17/2005 8:09:46 PM ET 2005-03-18T01:09:46

In San Antonio there is revelry for the retired, followed by 30 minutes of tapping, snapping, swaying and the occasional chicken dance.

It's all part of a city initiative to trim down seniors' tummies and get a diabetes epidemic under control.

It’s a daily struggle for 65-year-old Mary Sanchez.

"I don't even have to eat the food!" she laughs. "I just smell it and I gain some pounds."

There’s a growing problem for retirees. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 76 percent of men and nearly 71 percent of women between the ages of 65 and 74 are overweight. And a new report in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine says life expectancy in America may actually drop by as much as five years because of obesity and its side-effects. "We're seeing patients who are more than 20 percent above their ideal body weight, which is where the problem lies," says Dr. June McKoy, a geriatric specialist with the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.

Dr. McKoy says her obese patients tend to suffer from hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and arthritis.

"So their joints become damaged, their knees become damaged, the ankles become damaged, and the vicious cycle goes on," she says.

Jesse Auerbach, 64, is on the cusp of retirement and admits he was caught up in the cycle until a doctor warned him last year he was at risk of diabetes. He's since lost 45 pounds and now counts calories and walks every day.

"Old men’s diseases were coming and I didn't want that," says Auerbach. "I wanted to be around for a while."

It's simple metabolism: As we age, we slow down. And it happens just as we have more time on our hands to snack.

Weight gain is costly. If Americans keep gaining weight, researchers estimate, by the year 2020, one-in-five healthcare dollars will be spent on treating obese people. The solution, no matter your age, is to eat less and move more.

"For older patients, we say walk until you feel you can't go any more," says Dr. McKoy.

That’s why, back in San Antonio, Augustine Espinoza is dancing.

"You know, life is so beautiful," she says. "You try to do the best with your own life."

She' dancing with a determination to make the golden years last.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments