it is no secret that as we age our bodies change, and that the changes in mid-life and middle age tend to be deleterious to our health. research has also clearly shown that our lifestyle impacts both positively and negatively on these changes. the need to attend to our health by attending to our lifestyle is subscribed to by such revered organization s as the aforementioned american heart association, the american cancer society, the american lung association, and the many other highly regarded health-related organizations with which we are all familiar. we are advised to pay great attention to what we eat, to exercise regularly, not to perform such harmful activities as smoking or using recreational drugs, and so to preserve our physical and mental capabilities.
how do our bodies change with age?
what are the changes, and the sequence of the changes that our bodies undergo as we age, and what effect do these changes have on our health status? what are the social implications? perhaps most important, what are the alternatives?
in order to summarize the many ways our bodies change with age, i have organized the changes according to our body systems.
the body systems:
the reasons for, and the details of the physiological processes of these changes are not within the purview or the space allowance of this book, so i will merely state the changes, and address the subsequent issues in their regard.
the reader will please be aware that, not only do people "age" at radically different rates of change, but also within each person, the various parts and systems "age" at different - often radically different - rates.1. the skin:
|as the skin ages, it flattens due to the loss of: sub-cutaneous fat, skin cells, sebaceous (oil) glands, sweat glands, melanocytes (pigment cells), and hair follicles. lentigo (senile freckles) occur, blood flow to the skin is decreased, and nerve endings are lost or become less sensitive.|
as a result, the skin loses some of its effectiveness: as a protector against bacteria, as an insulator, as a thermal regulator, and as a sensory receptor. since these losses cause wrinkling, loss of elasticity, freedom of movement and expression are inhibited. the slowing of circulation results in slower healing. the loss of color is also seen, as the hair becomes gray.
the skin generally functions well throughout life though, and most changes in the skin due to aging are not life-threatening. most of the deleterious changes in the skin are cosmetic, as the drying and thinning result in sagging and wrinkling, the hair becomes sparser and gray or white, and the fingernails become ridged, tend to yellow, and are prone to splitting.
skin disorders more common in the aging skin are senile pruritis (itching), keratoses (thickening in patches), skin cancer, and decubitus ulcers (pressure sores), and herpes zoster (shingles).
the social implications of these effects are based, in the united states, on a significant cultural tendency toward ageism in virtually all of its forms. one's social life becomes more limited as younger people view elders as "not fun", "slow", "grumpy", and so on. these views spill into the work-place or what might be a potential work-place, as one who looks "old" is not considered as having much to offer.
the alternatives involve personal effort by the elders in making as much of an effort as they are capable in relating to others, social responsibility by the community to understand the limitations of the elderly and provide a social environment based on actual conditions rather than assumed limitations.
the elderly themselves have a direction for alternatives, biologically, to varying degrees. they can avoid excessive exposure to the sun, maintain moisture in the skin, provide adequate nutrition so that the skin can be maintained and repaired, and get regular exercise to maintain circulation in the skin.
i have included the first section of this chapter, "the skin". this chapter is very large, 11 sections! to obtain the entire chapter, how our body changes as we age, order now and get the complete book.
carl bourhenne, ma
copyright © 1976 - 2001 carl i. bourhenne.
all rights reserved.
writer�s guild of america west registration number 679848
carl bourhenne, ma
50-b peninsula drive #163,
rolling hills estates, california 90274.
websites by: websuites.com