The old-age population is rising quickly. 16% of the population was 65 years or older in 2018. By 2050, that number will climb to 22%.
So what is old age and what does that look like physically? Read on to find out.
What is Old Age?
Old age doesn’t have a firm, definitive definition. Generally, old age is the period of time that nears or passes the life expectancy of humans.
In the US, the average life expectancy is 78.6 years. So, as people reach their 70s, their bodies begin a process of decline. Here is what that looks like physically and mentally.
How Aging Affects Your Body
As an older adult, you will start to notice changes in your body. But, that doesn’t mean that there is no hope. There are many ways you can take control of your health as an older adult and feel great.
As you age, your blood vessels and arteries stiffen and develop fatty deposits against the artery walls. As a result, the heart has to work harder.
During physical activities, your heart rate won’t rise as much as it used to in previous years. That can lead to a risk of high blood pressure.
Getting cardiovascular exercise and fueling your body with good food will help keep your heart healthy and strong.
Bones, Muscles & Joints
When we age, our bones shrink in size as well as in density. That’s why older adults might become shorter than they were in their prime.
Weak bones are dangerous because it means more risk for fractures. Also, muscles, tendons, and joints begin to lose strength and flexibility.
Weakened joints and muscles can affect your coordination and balance.
The best solution to fight this decline is exercise. Strength and flexibility training will keep bones and muscles strong. Getting enough calcium will promote bone, joint and muscle health.
Women age 51 and men over 71 should get at least 1,200 mg of calcium. You can get calcium from supplements or from food such as dairy, kale, salmon, tofu, and broccoli. Vitamin D is also useful for bone, muscle, and joint wellness.
Physical activities like walking, weight training, tennis and climbing stairs can help slow bone loss.
It’s a common misconception that older adults aren’t interested in sex. Though sexual needs and performance may change as people get older, sex can continue throughout your older years.
Keep in mind that illness and medication can impact your ability to enjoy sex. Vaginal dryness and impotence are concerns that you can discuss with your doctor. He or she may have treatment suggestions so you can enjoy sex once more. For example, vasopressin and oxytocin can help boost libido.
Again, regular exercise improves the release of sex hormones. It also improves flexibility and cardiovascular health as well as mood and self-image. All of these can contribute to your sexuality.
The human metabolism slows as we age. Usually, that is partly due to reduced levels of exercise.
Unfortunately, a slower metabolism typically leads to weight gain. A slower metabolism means that your body can no longer burn off the calories it once could. You will no longer be able to eat the way you did in your 30s and stay trim.
You can either reduce your calories or increase the number of calories you burn off.
Swallowing may become harder for older adults due to the esophagus contracting less forcefully.
Also, the digestive system becomes less efficient at digesting food. Generally, this means older adults face issues such as constipation.
The good news is that you can prevent constipation by drinking lots of fluids, eating a high-fiber diet and exercising regularly.
Aging means losing cells all over the body including in the brain. That decrease in cells can result in memory loss, slower reflexes and becoming easily distracted.
You can promote cognitive health with many of the things that promote health in other areas. Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain. A heart-healthy diet may benefit your brain.
Participating in mentally stimulating activities like reading, word and number games, and learning new skills can keep your mind sharp.
Also, being social can keep memory loss at bay by reducing stress and depression. Now is a good time to volunteer in your community and get involved in many of the hobbies you could not do when you were busier.
Eyes & Ears
Vision can change as people age due to the cornea becoming stiffer. It can be harder to see close objects and to see in low lights.
Common eye problems related to old age include cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. Regular appointments with your optometrist can ensure that your eye health is as good as possible.
Over the course of your lifetime, all the noise you are exposed to can lead to hearing loss as an older adult. Seniors often have trouble hearing certain sounds such as high-pitches and hearing well in noisy areas.
An accumulation of earwax can also impact hearing.
Hair, Skin, and Nails
As you age, your skin becomes dry and brittle. This is what causes wrinkles. Also, you are less likely to sweat because the fat layers under your skin become thinner.
This means you are at risk for heatstroke in hot weather. You will also notice that your hair and nails grow slower and are brittle. Your hair will go grey because the pigment follicles die.
Hair loss or thinning is also possible for both men and women.
To keep your hair healthy you need keratin and amino acids. You can get it from a good diet or from supplements.
There you have it! Now you know what happens to your mind and body as we age.
Hopefully, you’ve learned that there is much you can do to slow the decline of health and wellness. What is old age after all but a state of mind?
Come back soon for more articles to help you live your best life.