Senior Health: Changes in the Body as We Age

As years turn into decades and the human body ages, changes of many kinds are bound to occur. Not everyone will experience all, but all will experience some.

While these age-related changes are bound to affect the appearance, the inside of the body is transitioning as well. As a result, any older individual can expect to see some differences in:

  • Body shape. As aging bones grow brittle, bodies can decrease in height while backs begin to curve. In addition, slowing metabolism will encourage the accumulation of fat deposits, and these will tend to gravitate to the buttocks and abdomen.
  • Bowel and bladder habits. Urination problems, constipation and even incontinence are frequent complaints of the older set.
  • Teeth. Tooth loss is common in the senior citizen, and remaining teeth can turn brittle. To make matters worse, gums can recede while salivary glands lower production, resulting in a dry mouth that encourages infections, bad breath and decay.
  • Facial characteristics. As the years go by, wrinkles and age spots can eventually mar the fairest of faces. In addition, changes in fat distribution will combine with looser skin, causing it to sag and droop.
  • Hair and nails. In addition to losing its pigmentation, aging hair can weaken and begin to thin while the nails, for their part, dry out and thicken. Toenails in particular often prove a breeding ground for troublesome fungal infections.
  • Bones, joints and muscles. During the process of aging, human bones lose density and become more likely to break. Muscles also grow weaker while joints can succumb to painful inflammation.
  • Hormones. Many older adults experience altered hormone levels. When these involve the thyroid gland, disrupted metabolism of fat and cholesterol often follow. Impaired insulin production can lead to diabetes, and diminished sex hormone levels will frequently lead to vaginal dryness or erectile dysfunction.
  • Memory. Thanks to a fear of Alzheimer’s disease, many older adults treat every misplaced key or forgotten name as a symptom of worse to come. In most cases, however, such memory lapses are nothing more than a normal token of aging.
  • Sensory abilities. As a person grows older, the senses may become less sharp. One in every three senior citizens will develop some degree of hearing difficulty. Others may experience dry eyes, cataracts, blurry vision or a diminished capacity to taste or smell.
  • Skin. As it ages, skin becomes looser, thinner, less flexible and more likely to bruise while a natural decrease in the body’s production of oil will cause it to dry out and flake.
  • Sleep patterns. A diminished quality of sleep is common among seniors, many of whom awaken repeatedly throughout the night only to lie awake for what can often seem like hours.

Although these changes may be disturbing, they do not always indicate an underlying condition. Most are just a normal part of aging, and although there is no way to stop them from happening, making every effort to live a healthy lifestyle will minimize their adverse effects on any senior’s general well-being.