By: Nikki Nies
Many say “just wait until you’re older.” That saying can be interpreted many ways, but for this blog post, that saying will mean “you won’t believe it until it happens to you.” Change is inevitable, it’s the only constant we’re guaranteed in life. How you handle change will dictate what path your life follows suit.
Listed below are some common physical, mental and social changes that are cited as common among elders.
- Skin—with age, skin becomes less elastic and more wrinkly; nail growth slows; glands start to produce less oil–>makes skin drier than before
- Hair—Normal for hair to thin gradually on scalp, pubic area and armpits; with a decline in hair pigment cells–>gray hair growth increases
- Height—by 80 years old, common to lose 2 inches in height; related to changes in spinal bones, spinal discs, compression joints and posture
- Hearing—changes in one’s ears makes high frequency sounds harder to hear and changes in tone/speech less clear; tends to accelerate after age 55
- Vision—eyes become less flexible; normal for night vision and visual sharpness decrease; can impact ability to drive safely
- Bones—gradually lose mineral content in bones–>less dense and strong
- Metabolism and body composition: With a need of less energy, metabolism slows; contributed to changes in hormones
- Heart and blood circulation: heart becomes less efficient as it ages; makes heart work harder during regular activity; gradual decline in energy and endurance
- Lungs: becomes less efficient over time; supplies body less oxygen
- Kidneys: declines in size and function; don’t clear wastes
- Urinary incontinence: increases with age
- Depression: neurobiological changes associated with age are associated with an increased susceptibility to become depressed; factors include being retired/unemployed, widowed/divorced; loneliness/isolation; physical disability and illness
- Dementia: decline in mental ability; impacts memory, thinking, problem solving, concentration and perception; occurs as result of death of brain cells or damage in brain that deals with thought process; often times confused; may seem irritable, tearful or agitated
- Alcohol Abuse: more likely to go unrecognized in older people; reasons can include loneliness, physical ill-health, disability/pain, loss of independence, bereavement, boredom, depression, retirement, etc.
- Medication: can cause side effects, such as confusion
- Physical restrictions
- Limited interaction with friends
The intention isn’t to get one down about possible physical, mental and/or social changes that may occur with age, but to be aware of the possible changes and to prepare people for possible questions posed to physicians.