Everyone dreads old age because of its attendant problems. As we know, ageing is an inevitable phase in our journey of life. The irreversible process of ageing involves both physical and psychological changes and it continues throughout an individuals life time. Though nothing on this earth can prevent the ageing process we can slow it by following some therapeutic life style changes that include exercise, proper diet and a positive and holistic approach to life besides certain healthy practices that enrich the soul and the mind. Many consider experience a direct proportionate of age. No doubt ageing brings in social respect, wisdom, knowledge and experience. But still people are hesitant to welcome ageing as it brings in lot of physical changes like wrinkled skin, grey hair and most importantly dependency. The functioning of cells, the secretion of enzymes and hormonal balance slows down with age and as the cells are totally interdependent, if one cell dies it may affect other cells and it may result in failure of an organ. If we consider that ageing is a natural process and make our mind to cope with these changes our life in old age would be a meaningful one.
Here we discuss some of the physiological and the psychological changes taking place in the body in old age.
Loss of Teeth
Gum disease is one of the common problems of the aged. There is a gradual loss of teeth due to the atrophy of the root. The loss of teeth makes chewing very difficult for the elderly people. They can avoid food that needs chewing for digestion. They can, however, take those food which need little mastication.
Loss of sensory stimulation
Visual and aural impairment is perhaps the first sign of ageing. Old people lose the ability to see distant objects and face difficulty reading and identifying people. The taste buds of the seniors begin to reduce and thus their ability to taste food diminishes and the ability to smell the flavor of a food item also declines resulting in poor intake of food.
Changes in the gastrointestinal system
The production of hydrochloric acid and digestive juices reduces as one ages as a result of which food stays in stomach for a longer time delaying digestion.
Changes in Musculoskeletal system
The decrease of calcium in the bones creates conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis as a result of which the bones become weaker and are prone to fracture. The atrophy of muscle mass and cartilages of the back tend to make a stooping posture.
The functioning of various glands like thyroid declines which may affect body metabolism. Owing to the decreased function of the metabolic system difficulty in the conversion of food into energy ensues. Due to the decline in the metabolic rate calorie intake decreases gradually resulting in chronic fatigue, weakened immune system, etc.,. In men, changes in prostrate gland causes difficulty in urination.
This condition is common among the 65 plus and is characterized by loss of memory, emotional conflict, sleeping disturbances, verbal outbursts, pacing, hallucinations, etc.,.
Owing to the destruction of hair follicles,hair becomes grey.
It has been proved that worry and stress make a person age faster. But old age causes worry and stress.It is a vicious circle.
Depression, stress, fear of death, health ailments adds to anxiety disorders in elderly. Care and affection to the elderly can help prevent anxiety disorders in elders.
Loneliness is an emotional feeling of emptiness and isolation. After retirement from service, most of the family commitments of the aged people are over and their grown-up daughters and sons are away from them after marriages and their circle of friends and contemporaries becomes smaller leaving them in a despondent mood with nobody to care for them. Despondency, solitude and neglect cause depression and a host of health disorders.
The financial resources of the elderly often diminish with time and this increases their dependency levels.
Deficiency diseases in elders
Obesity is a common problem among people of all ages. It is most commonly seen among elders. Lack of physical activity, hormonal imbalance, stress and high calorie consumption may be quoted as some reasons for obesity. There is a strong inter connectivity between obesity cardio vascular diseases and diabetes.
Osteoporosis is nothing but decline of the bone mass and density. The bones become thinner and fragile and it is prone to fractures. Bone loss starts at the age of 35 and it continues throughout the life period. Osteoporosis is seen most commonly in women after their menopause. This is due to estrogen deficiency.
Constipation is facing difficulty in passing out the leftovers in the body. Constipation may be due to inadequate intake of fluids, stress, depression, prolonged medication and low fiber diet. Chronic constipation may lead to discomfort in abdomen, pain and even piles.
Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease which is due to impaired glucose tolerance and decline in the insulin sensitivity of cells.
The changes in the cardio vascular functions like thickening of the artery walls, narrowing of the lumen, etc., may lead to atherosclerosis, acute myocardial infarction and congestive heart failure.
Malnutrition in elders may be due to various reasons like lack of knowledge about nutritional needs of their body, financial crisis, physical inactivity, etc.,
Nutritional requirements for elders
1. Due to decrease in physical activity the energy requirements also decreases. Foods that are rich in calories like sweets and fried food items should be avoided.
2. Fruit juices, butter milk and soups can be consumed to prevent constipation and other kidney related problems.
3. Tea, coffee and alcohol consumption should be avoided.
4. Milk can be consumed to compensate degeneration of bones due to the decrease of calcium.
5. Fresh fruits, sprouts and green leafy vegetables can be made a part of the diet to aid easy digestion.
6. Starchy and fatty foods should be avoided as this may lead to obesity.
7. Increase the intake of fluids especially water to avoid constipation and dehydration.
8. Platelet deficiency and anemia are the common problems that affect the elderly. It is good to have leafy vegetables, red meat, lentils and beans that are iron rich foods.
9. Consumption of foods rich in folate such as leafy vegetables, legumes and egg yolk helps in rapid cell growth.
10. Vitamin A, B, E and D rich foods should be consumed in appropriate proportions.
Twilight years are not the period of darkness and gloom as many of us say. Advances in medicines and technology have enhanced the life span of man though the quality of life of the elderly people is a questionable one. Yet, old age can be an enjoyable one if one makes some life style changes and attitudinal changes in life. After all,old-age is not a disease;it is only a natural process that is unavoidable in life.
The following are some tips to make the afternoon of life a delightful one:-
Old age is no excuse to start a regimen of health. It is never too late to learn a new thing in life. Thirty minutes of exercise a day five times a week is a must. Brisk walking is ideal. Stretching exercises keep the body supple and increase pliability of stiffened joints.
We are not human islands in the great ocean of humanity. We are gregarious by nature. So, elders should keep connected with the people around them.
Insomnia is a problem of old age. Most of the elderly people find it difficult to embrace sleep at night and they are sleepy in the day time. It is, therefore, necessary for the seniors to enjoy 7-9 hours of restful sleep every night.
A positive attitude will go a long way in making life an enjoyable one. Say NO to worry and stress. It is said that stress accelerate the process of ageing. Take genuine interest in life;Meditation and relaxation soothes our body, mind and soul. Laughter is the best medicine to the old and the young alike. Sense of humor makes one live longer. An active brain keeps the body and mind healthy. Elders should become interested in puzzles and cross-words to keep their brain active.
Ours is a country where old people are treated with reverence and respect. To us, old age signifies wisdom, resourcefulness, compassion and considerations. In the olden times of joint family system, the elders had their say when the younger folk of the family never hesitated to seek the advice of the eldest of the family on almost all important maters relating to the family. The wise counsel of those people guided the younger generation in the right path. It is doubtful in our age of micro families whether the seniors are treated with dignity. It is a matter of concern to see old age homes in every nook and corner of big cities and town on a par with the nursery schools. It seems that elderly people have become a burden on the family tree. This situation in not in keeping with our tradition and culture. So, the younger generation should take responsibility to uphold family values and take care of the aged. Likewise, the burden of evolving an effective mechanism to strengthen geriatric care system lies with the government.
|Guest Author: Prob 17 Mar 2014|
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