It is tough getting old. Everyone feels that way. The internet is full of aging information that provides, on the one hand, false promises of anti or reverse aging ideas, to the other hand, discussions regarding the negatives of growing old. Thankfully, Rosanne Leipzig, a physician who specializes in geriatrics and palliative medicine can help set the story straight.
With advances in medical care and public health, people are living longer and longer. Although people tend to go though the same changes as we age, you cannot segment it by decades. Someone in their 60’s might start to experience one aspect of aging that another person might not see until their 70’s. People’s health vary greatly so you cannot pin point stages with age.
Here are some age-related issues that many do not know about and some actions you might want to implement:
Older people present different symptoms versus younger people:
A senior having a heart attack may be short of breath or confused as opposed to chest pain in a younger person. An older person with pneumonia may fall, have little appetite versus a fever or cough.
Action: Do not ignore changes in how you function. Seek medical help.
Older people may react differently to medication:
Because of changes in the body and the efficiency of various organs, older adults are more sensitive to some medications and often need lower doses. This also applies to alcohol.
Action: At the doctor’s office ask about your medications (why you re taking it, is the dose appropriate, is the
medication still needed)
Older people have reduced energy stores:
As we age, the heart becomes less efficient, lungs transfer less oxygen to the blood, and we need more protein for muscles. On top of that, our strength decreases. That means older people have less energy and need more energy to undertake everyday tasks. Hunger and thirst decline. The sense of taste and smell diminishes resulting in less interest for food. Loss of appetite increases and the risk of hydration increases as well.
Action: Be as physically active as you can. Eat more protein and drink fluids even if you do not feel thirsty.
Older adults process information more slowly and it is harder to learn new information. Multitasking becomes harder and reaction times are slower. This can also get worse depending on the type of medication needed for other things. These changes are all normal and do not signify the onset of dementia.
Action: Reduce multitasking and do things at your own pace.
Musculoskeletal system is less flexible:
The spine shortens, balance is compromised because of changes in the inner ear and brain, muscles weaken, and the range of motion in our joints contracts. All this contributes to increased risk of falls and fractures as well as difficulty in getting around and doing everyday tasks.
Action: Do balance and resistance exercises.
Older people need more light to read and it takes longer to adjust from sunlight to darkness. It is also more difficult to see the outlines of objects or distinguish between similar colours.
Action: Have your eyes checked every year and see your eye doctor if you notice any changes.
Damage to hair cells in the inner ear makes it harder to hear especially high pitches. It also makes it harder to understand people talking when they talk quickly and are in noisy environments.
Action: Get hearing aids so you can participate in conversations.
Sleep becomes fragmented:
Often it takes longer for older people to fall asleep and they sleep more lightly, often waking up more often during the night.
Action: Do not exercise, drink alcohol, or eat a heavy meal two hours before bedtime.
There are things we can do to improve our lives as we age. We just first need to understand what we are going through to determine how best to manage it.
For more information check out Dr. Leipzig’s book: https://www.press.jhu.edu/books/title/12807/honest-aging