Changes in old age depend on attitude as much as person to person. In 'young' old age some changes begin to take place in a person’s appearance. Wrinkles, warts, age spots begin to form on the body. Hair begins to thin or becomes grey and even height lessens because the bone density decreases. While in ‘old’ old age these changes are already permanent. Men might look distinguished if in good health, but women all look grandmotherly. In ‘young’ old age, cells begin to decay, and muscle mass declines and immunity is no longer as strong as it used to be. People lose energy as the age progresses.
‘Old’ old age brings in a lot of physical declines, profound changes in appearance and motor abilities, as also in sensation. Skin gets less elastic and becomes thin and blood vessels can break under the skin. The senses also begin to become dull. Eye lenses get affected and color perception and reading ability become very low. Hearing loss may lead to paranoia and ‘old’ old age people begin to think everyone is plotting against them because they can’t hear properly about what others are saying. The sense of smell also declines, but the taste remains almost intact.
In ‘young’ old age, reflexes also slow down and so do the motor abilities. By the time they reach ‘old’ old age most adults find that their response time has become quite reduced. This can be seen most in driving situations where it is difficult for ‘old’ old aged adults to operate their vehicles as they have poor spontaneous responses. The ‘young’ old adults do not lose as much of their motor abilities as the ‘old’ old adults, especially when holding small things like needles and pins. Of course, there are changes in sexuality and there may be a decline in the ability to have sex as men may not have an erection and women become dry due to a lack of female hormones.
Cognitive decline in 40% to 60% of older adults can be arrested with remedial training.
Despite all the changes, most people even in their 70s remain comparatively active, if they do not suffer from any illness. Mental, physical, and social activity is necessary to maintain the quality of life. Old people begin to withdraw from work and other important roles and allow younger people to take over. They are a lot happier as advised in Vedic literature as vridhashram. While activities are important, disengagement is equally important.
Memory loss becomes aggravated and other cognitive abilities begin to decline and there are many ‘old’ old adults who get Alzheimer’s and lose the ability to look after themselves. Old people also dwell on questions of death and sometimes go through a phase of denial and then anger that they have so little time left. Acceptance of death comes, but after a struggle and the idea of losing the family saddens them.
Old people require support in their declining years as they begin to lose their faculties.
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