Though genetics, socioeconomic levels, access to healthcare, physical activity levels, and eating habits play a significant role in how and how quickly the body ages, all people experience gradual decreases in mental and physical capabilities as they get olderMedical professionals refer to the common conditions older people experience as geriatric syndromes, and these often result from a variety of underlying factors.
About half of seniors over the age of 85 experience some form of dementia. It occurs as nerve cells in the brain lose connection with each other and die. Although everyone loses brain cells as they age, those with dementia lose more. This affects thinking and social abilities, as well as memory. While memory loss is an early sign, it does not necessarily indicate dementia. Some forms of dementia can significantly improve with treatment.
The eyes undergo natural changes as a person ages. Cataracts are an age-related condition that can occur in one or both eyes, generally by the age of 80. The proteins in the lens of the eye start to break down around the age of 40, then they clump together and form a cloudy area on the lens which becomes the cataract. Family history, certain health conditions like diabetes, steroid medications, smoking, and spending too much time in the sun without eye protection may cause faster development of cataracts. Surgery is usually successful.
Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, occurs in one in three people over the age of 65. It affects a person’s ability to hear high-pitched noises, but usually not low-pitched ones. Others’ speech may sound slurred or mumbled. Inner and middle ear changes, genetic factors, diabetes, heart disease, and changes along the nerve pathways to the brain are some causes. Assistive devices like hearing aids and telephone amplifiers help.
Osteoarthritis is an age-related condition and the most common type of arthritis. It develops slowly over months or even years, affecting the fingers, thumbs, spine, knees, hips, and big toes. Inflammation or injury to a joint causes the tendons and ligaments to deteriorate. As a result, the cartilage breaks down. Swelling, pain, and joint deformity follows. Most people who will get osteoarthritis experience it by the age of 55, and the effects are often visible on an x-ray. Obesity, diabetes, decreased estrogen, and genetics play a role.
Medical problems, the death of loved ones, retirement, and other major changes that occur in a person’s later years can lead to feelings of uneasiness, stress, and sadness. Generally, these feelings go away once the individual becomes accustomed to the changes. But for some people, the symptoms do not subside. They may experience hopelessness, have sleep disturbances, or feel anxious, guilty, helpless, or worthless. Fatigue, loss of appetite, restlessness, and aches and pains are additional signs. Although depression is common in the elderly, it is not part of natural aging and requires treatment.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Age-associated COPD has become more prevalent in people over 60 in recent decades. This is partly due to larger populations of older adults. According to research findings, structural and functional changes in the lungs during the aging process may lead to a higher susceptibility to the condition. Tobacco smoking is a primary risk factor. Symptoms include breathing difficulty, wheezing, and excess mucus production.
Around 30% of the people doctors diagnose with Type 2 diabetes are over the age of 65. As the population ages over the next two decades, researchers expect those numbers to double. Older individuals with diabetes are at a higher risk of circulatory and vascular complications as well as visual impairments and renal disease. Common treatments include lifestyle modifications such as exercise, a healthy diet that is not overly restrictive, and medication therapy.
Back and Neck Pain
Although back or neck pain can begin as young as 30 but is more prevalent in older adults. Ongoing back issues begin between the ages of 40 and 60, an inevitable part of getting older. Herniated discs are more common in older adults due to the surrounding cushioning drying out. Spinal stenosis, a narrowing of areas of the spine, is another cause of pain. Excess weight puts additional pressure on the musculoskeletal system and increases the risk of back pain.
Nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia — difficulty seeing things up close — are common vision problems that develop with age. Blurry vision, headaches, eye strain, a glare around bright lights, or double vision are symptoms of a refractive error. Cornea shape, eyeball length, and the aging of the lens, the inner part of the eye, are typical causes.
Addressing Health Issues for Older Adults
Better research into aging issues and creating long-term care solutions specifically for older people are a few of the ways health communities are dealing with the growing population of seniors. Geriatric health practitioners say that ageist stereotypes are a problem. Depicting older individuals as weak and helpless leads to discrimination and negatively affects policies that could improve quality of life.