HEALTH CHALLENGES OF OLD AGE
Old age is one of the occurrences in human lives. It is the desire of everyone to live long enough to see their children’s children and eat the fruit of their labour. The World Health Organization classify people greater than 65 years as Aged while the United Nation categorize such to be above 60 years. Most individuals in this age group are part of the “dependent” in the population and are at higher risk of medical problems.
Ageing refers to progressive generalized impairment of function resulting in a loss of adaptive response to a stress and in a growing risk of age associated disease. The consequences of ageing are brought about by inability of the body to respond to its milieu at the stipulated rate and state as before thus leading to decline of function and ability.
If you have ever lived with an aged, you will know being old is a blessing and at the same time can bring about some inconveniences on the part of the care giver. One of the recognized problems is inability to cater for self. Most of them because of their weak nature, moving around becomes difficult and hence performing daily routine roles like bathing, clothing, eating, brushing of teeth and so on, on their own are impaired. However, this is just an aspect of the aged in the population as some are very healthy.
Decrease visual function is one of the major health challenges confronting the old people. This is as result of increase opacification of the lens due to senility. As a result, there is progressive visual impairment resulting into medical correction with spectacles or surgical implant of new lens.
It is often most challenging when talking to an aged and you have to raise your voices above the normal threshold especially when you are very close to them. This is because of decreased auditory function. It is often explained that senility affect auditory cells and as a result those functions performed by them wouldn’t be optimal.
Senility brings about many changes to the human body. The ability of the body to fight against infections is reduced and hence, it make them to be predisposed to various infections depending on locally endemic diseases associated with the region they find themselves. It is expected that they should be nourished well through balanced diets so as to overcome this.
Another major concern for most old people is arthritis. It is the inflammation of the joint causing pain. There have always been lots of clinic complaints about this. The physiologic changes of ageing bring about reduction in the joint spaces due to loss of the cartilage that prevents those bones from rubbing against each other. The loss of those structures allow more friction and hence the gliding or contact of those bones against each other causing pain. This is often more serious for aged who are obese as more of the weight would be transferred to the adjacent bones and increasing the intensity of pain. They may even experience theirs before ageing due to increased weight bearing on the adjacent bones. The commonest areas where these pains are experienced are knee joint and the spine which present as low back pain.
There are some other diseases that have been associated with old age. These include cardiovascular problems like Hypertension, heart attack, myocardial infarction and so on. Others are Diabetes Mellitus, erectile dysfunction, benign prostatic enlargement, Urinary incontinence for men while osteoporosis and reproductive tract tumors for women.
The common central nervous system problems confronting them include poor sleep, amnesia and dementia. Have you ever wondered why old men forget things easily or find it very difficult to recollect information? The brain changes as a result of atrophy and loss of neurons due to senility limit network of information processing and memory decoding hence leading to memory loss and dementia. Some have inability to initiate sleep and few that do so are easily arouse by slightest sharps of sounds. They lack quality sleep at night and often compensate with day time somnolence.
The frequent falls experienced by these aged people is due to decreased neurotransmitter at the neuromuscular junction which is not far-fetched from physiologic changes of ageing.
The management of the health challenges of these aged men include active collaboration from: individuals at the family level through supportive care, Government by providing services (like free health services, regular pension scheme and free transportation) that improve their welfare since they constitute part of the dependent ratio in the population, non-governmental organization that foster support groups for old men to share life experiences and avoid loneliness.
Sir James Sterling Ros exclaimed that “You do not heal old age, you protect it, promote it and extend it…” Hence, it lies in our hands to support them and as youth make adequate preparation for this unavoidable stage in life if God permit.