Lungs usually achieve maturity by the time one attains 25 years of age. However, as a person ages, then there are certain changes in his/her respiratory system. Some of these effects include decrease in gas exchange and air flow and decreased lung function such as the volume of air that a person breathes out after a maximum inhalation (Hooyman & Kiyak, 2011). Other changes include weakened respiratory muscles, and the decrease in lung defence mechanisms. The effect of these changes is a reduced ability to perform vigorous exercises including aerobic exercises that include biking, running, and mountain climbing.
Certain changes occur in the cardiovascular system as one ages. These changes may happen in different rates among diverse people. They include enhanced stiffness and a decrease in elasticity in artery systems which lead to increased systolic blood pressure (Wahl et al., 2014). It also leads to changes in the left ventricle such as ventricular hypertrophy which lead to prolonged relaxation in diastole for the left ventricle. Moreover, the pacemaker cells decline and this leads to decreased heart rate. The cumulative effect of these changes is increased risk for heart failure, hypertension and diastolic dysfunction.
As people grow older, their immune systems may be compromised. There are different levels of changes that affect immune response for old people. These include a decrease in production of T and B cells in thymus and bone marrow (Rowe & Kahn, 2015). Another is the reduced functioning of mature lymphocytes which lowers immune response. Moreover, as people age they may develop autoimmune disorders which can attack and destroy healthy tissues in the body. Additionally, the ability of the immune system to perform detection and correction of cell defects is also compromised as people age, thereby lowering immune response for old people.
When people grow older, they experienced changes in the capacity of their senses. This includes their ability to smell, taste, hear, and see. Over 30% of people who are aged 65 and older have problems with vision, which leads to cataracts for many adults above the age of 75 (Hooyman & Kiyak, 2011). Moreover, people who age also face challenges in hearing and they are more at risk of developing conductive hearing loss, presbycusis, and sensorineural hearing loss. Moreover, old people are also predisposed to changes in taste and smell, and they face declining sensitivity to airborne stimulus and are more at risk of diseases such as burning mouth syndrome.
As people grow older, they face changes in their digestive system and are more prone to certain disorders that affect the digestive system. They experience decreased tension and strength of the esophageal muscles and the ability of their stomachs to handle damage is drastically reduced. This increases the risk of developing peptic ulcers especially for those who take medications such as aspirins. Moreover, old people face lactase decline in the small intestines which leads to the development of lactose intolerance. In the large intestine, people who age experience constipation due to reduction of movements within the large intestine and the decline of rectum contractions. .
As people age, they experience genitourinary changes. They usually face a steady and slow decline in the kidney weight and by the time that people attain the age of 40, they usually face a declining ability of their kidney to filter blood. Moreover, they also experience a narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the kidneys. Additionally, people who grow older usually face changes in the urethra and bladder and the volume of urine that can be held by the bladder diminishes. Moreover, old people face an increase in urine that is held by the bladder even after urinating. In women, their urethra becomes shorter and the lining starts thinning. These changes increase their risk of urinary incontinence since their sphincter muscles cannot close tightly.
Aging affects the reproduction system and in men, they face increased risks of erectile dysfunction, and changes in sperm production and testicular tissue. Men face gradual changes as they age and their levels of testosterone decrease gradually (Hooyman & Kiyak, 2011). Moreover, males also experience sclerosis as the tubes that ferry sperms usually lose elasticity. The production of sperm cells reduces and they face the enlargement of the prostate gland. For women, they experience low hormonal levels and their menstrual periods start to decline and eventually stop. Moreover, their ovaries stop creating progesterone and estrogen hormones. Women also experience thinner, less elastic and dryer vaginal walls. They also face menopause which is characterized by symptoms such as moodiness, hot flushes, and headaches.
As people age, their skin shows visible signs of aging and these include sagging skin and wrinkles. Moreover, they face graying or whitening of the hair. There are also certain changes that occur to the skin and the epidermis starts thinning and the numbers of melanocytes (pigment-containing cells) also decrease. Moreover, the connective tissues of the skin change and it loses elasticity and strength in a process that is called elastosis (Hooyman & Kiyak, 2011). In addition, the blood vessels start becoming fragile and they experience bleeding under the skin and bruising. As people become older, they also face enhanced risks of skin injury and tearing. The skin also starts repairing itself slowly and the healing of wounds may be four times as slow as it was when people were younger.
When people grow old, they are less able to engage in exercises since their physical fitness reduces. They require a lot of rest so that the body can repair itself. Moreover, there are certain benefits that exercises present to older people. Some of these include enabling them to lose weight, enhancing flexibility, balance and mobility, and reducing the impacts of chronic disease and illness (Wahl et al., 2014). In addition, there are mental benefits of rest and exercise and these are boosting self-confidence and mood, improving sleep and rejuvenating the brain. In order to overcome obstacles relating to exercise as people grow older, they should develop a regular exercised routine and seek the advice of an exercise professional.
As women age, they experience hormonal-related changes that are attributed to menopause. However, there are certain solutions to the problem through use of oral progesterone and estrogen which alleviate the symptoms. The progesterone and estrogen formulations are effective when used in the long term. Moreover, there are certain biomedical hormones that are developed from animal and plant sources but they have not been analyzed for their effectiveness and safety.
Old age affects the sensory and motor skills of humans. As people age, their sensory abilities decline and they are less able to hear, see, taste and smell. Most people above the age of 70 years experience problems with sight, such as development of cataracts (Rowe & Kahn, 2015). In addition, the motor abilities of older people decline and they are less able to move or engage in physical exercise. However, there are certain exercises that are tailored to the needs of older people and they present important mental and physical benefits.
As people age, their hearing starts to decline and it becomes problematic communicating with them. Additionally, their cognitive abilities also decline and they are less able to process information. When communicating with older adults, it is imperative that one speaks relatively loudly and slowly so that they can comprehend the message. In addition, it is essential that people are patients with older adults especially since they may take time comprehending the message.
When people grow older, they have less social support from family and friends. Most of their peers are either ill or have died, and the family members view them as a baggage since they do not have the ability to sustain their financial obligations (Hooyman & Kiyak, 2011). Old people therefore have less interpersonal relationships and it is imperative that they receive social support so that they can cope with the numerous challenges that they face.
As people age, the intellectual processes is affected and their cognitive abilities are start to slow down. The brain usually decreases in mass as people age and this affects their ability to perform intellectual tasks (Wahl et al., 2014). Moreover, people who are old usually perform well in tasks that involve learning and memory, and they are more susceptible to illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease which affect cognitive and function. In addition, older adults face problems in communication since the neurons in the brain are less able to communicate. These changes affect the intellectual processes that older adults participate in.
Old people are usually susceptible to stronger emotional responses as compared to younger people. The decline in cognitive abilities affects their emotional intelligence and they will likely elicit emotional reactions to situations that they face. In addition, older people face challenges in life that involve marginalization by society and financial disempowerment, and this too evokes strong emotional reactions. Older adults require social support to enable them to develop positive emotional responses to situations in their lives.
Many older people face a decline in functional and bodily abilities and this affects their perception of the self (Wahl et al., 2014). They view themselves as powerless and this problem is compounded if they do not receive support from family or the society. However, there is also an increase in the number of older people who are resilient to the challenges they face and they are able to maintain a positive attitude, if they receive support from their family and society at large.
Hooyman, N. R. & Kiyak, H. A. (2011). Social gerontology: A multidisciplinary perspective
(9th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education
Rowe, J. W. & Kahn, R. L. (2015). Successful aging. New York: Pantheon.
Wahl, H. W.; Scheidt, R. J. & Windley, P.G. (2014). Annual Review of Gerontology and
Geriatrics. Focus on Aging context: Socio-Physical Environments. New York: Springer Publishing Company.
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