Aging Process - What's Happening to Mom?
Mental and Physical Changes as We Age
The process affects each one of us in a different way, but a few basics are universally experienced by men and women throughout the process.
Depending on physical health, activity levels and mental status, Mom or Dad's aging can be at different paces than those of our friends, other family members or relatives. Heredity and genetics play a large role in how a given individual will age, as does lifestyle, nutrition, diet and exercise, as well as overall general health considerations.
Scientific research has determined that biological function between the ages 30 and 70 decreases. Function and changes in the digestive tract, bone structure, heart, lung and brain experience a gradual decline in functional capacity while aging.
For example, during the aging process, capabilities of oxygen uptake may decrease by as much as 60% by the time a person reaches 70 years of age, while muscle mass generally decreases by 30%. For some individuals, taste and smell may decrease by 90%, while the maximum heart rate may slow by as much as 25%.
A decrease in bone strength, cardiac output and vision acuity are just a few of the physical changes that occur while aging. For example, during the process nearly 49% of adults older than 65 years will experience hypertension, while nearly 40% will experience some form of hearing loss. Nearly 25% will experience some visual impairment or disorder, during the aging process, while nearly 40% may experience some form of arthritis.
While aging many of us worry about our future, but such worries often take an exceptional emotional toll on seniors. Seniors prone to anxiety and fear regarding the aging process may experience depression and feelings of isolation.
However, fewer open displays or expressions of emotion have been noted in individuals diagnosed with early forms of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
In many cases as the process continues, seniors are known to "mellow" as they age, while others, especially those experiencing forms of dementia, may be especially prone to impulsive thinking, embarrassing behavior, and inappropriate expressions of emotion such as engaging in lying, accusations or actions such as laughing in serious situations or by expressing him or herself with foul language.
Aggression, agitation and irritability are often unpleasant side effects of medications and disease processes, and determining the reason for such behavior may help reduce stress on caregivers confused and hurt by such behavior.
To date, there is no definitive research that backs up the claim that brain cells die off without regrowth as we age. While mental processing capabilities and speed may slow during the aging process, a 94-year-old can accomplish the same mental or thinking tasks as a 20-year-old. The premise behind the saying "use it or lose it" hold especially true for mental acuity.
While some age-related decline is understood and expected, the National Institute On Aging states that education, brain exercise and stimulation may help reduce and slow mental decline and may actually expand brain capacity.
Individuals suffering from various stages of dementia may experience a decline in mental acuity caused by damage to brain cells, nerves synapses and nerve pathways from the brain to various parts of the body. This decline during the process of aging may cause an individual to gradually forget how to make cookies, to cook a meal, to brush their teeth or to perform other daily tasks. Brain damage is also responsible for short and long-term memory loss, and those suffering from later stages of Alzheimer's commonly forget the names and faces of friends, relatives, spouses and children.
Every one of us will experience eventual changes in body function as well as how we react to such decline during the process of aging.
Understanding the process of aging and how it may affect individuals physically, mentally and emotionally may help children of aging parents deal with gradual or sudden changes in appearance, behavior, attitude or mental capacity. Watching a loved one age or experience any type of physical, mental or emotional decline is not easy, but understanding why and how such a decline occurs helps caregivers and children of aging parents provide secure, safe and comforting environments for their loved one.