One does not wake up one morning with grey hair and a walking stick. Old age is a long process of biological changes that affect relationships, pleasure and autonomy.
The loss of autonomy usually happens after the age of 70. It is explained by the cognitive, psychological, muscular and articular changes whose first symptoms start appearing between the ages of 40 and 50 years old.
Sight and Hearing
The first phase of old age concerns our relationship with others. And the first sign is long-sightedness. At the age of 44 on average, sight is affected by a loss of adaptation between distance and near vision zones. If you need to position a document further away to be able to read it, you may be suffering from it. The deterioration of sight is also reflected in glares, a greater need for light and the visual alteration of colours and details.
Hearing is affected around the age of 60: this is presbycusis. 34% of people aged over 60 years old have hearing difficulties. It becomes more and more difficult to hear high-pitched sounds or following a conversation if there is a noise in the background. This phenomenon increases with age until sometimes reaching the total loss of hearing. It leads to isolation and can also lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
Touch, Taste and Smell
The three other senses affected afterwards are: touch, taste and smell.
First, there is a loss of tactile sensation in hands and feet, and loss of preciseness in gestures. Then, the decrease of taste buds. Bitter and savoury tastes are harder to detect. And finally smell, with the increase in the number of nose hairs.
Physical and Psychological Aspects
With old age, both the brain structure and nervous system change. This translates into a decrease in the weight and volume of the brain for example, or the onset of brain injuries. With age, these cognitive changes lead to psychomotor retardation, an alteration in attention or in short-term memory.
Muscle wasting and chronic illnesses also lead to a gradual loss of autonomy. Between the ages of 30 and 70, the muscle’s weight is halved, leading to a decline in strength, endurance and balance. Thirty percent of people aged over 60 have difficulty climbing the stairs and 43% have trouble bending or kneeling down. Seventy-five percent of people aged 65-74 have arthritis or osteoarthritis in the spine, 60% in the hands and 70% in the neck. Bones are also affected by old age: they lose between 1 and 5 centimetres throughout our lives. However, arms and legs do not shorten. The chest cavity is reduced in size and ribs move downwards. The body arches and it becomes harder to read what is at a certain height.
Old age leads to other psychological changes like weight gain, skin dryness, lower immunity or even tooth loss.
Ability to Stay Happy
Despite the deterioration of sight, hearing, muscle mass, etc., human beings have exceptional resources and remain happy at the age of 70 and beyond. Discover our Happiness index for women aged 55+ (2016) by clicking on the link.
Sources (French language) :
– Seniosphère Conseil
– Insee: Handicap Health 2008
– Irdes: ESPS 2012 survey
– Le Figaro: http://sante.lefigaro.fr/actualite/2012/03/13/17783-perte-laudition-avec-lage-est-elle-banale
– Nursing: http://www.soins-infirmiers.com/vieillissement_physiologique.php
– Neuropsy Quebec: http://neuropsyquebec.com/2011/04/21/vieillissement-normal-et-changements-cognitifs/
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