From greater need for specialist care and more frequent doctor visits to mobility and cognitive challenges, growing older comes with its own unique set of concerns. However, taking the time to understand some of the biggest issues that seniors face as they age can help significantly in dealing with the hurdles that lie ahead... and make life easier and more comfortable for our elders. Here are five challenges that seniors frequently face.
As seniors age, they slow down - partly due to entropy and waning physical strength, and partly due to conditions that mainly affect the elderly, such as arthritis, bursitis, and osteoporosis. While such conditions can very often be treated, the impact can be slowed or delayed but not put off indefinitely - and even absent mobility-threatening conditions, seniors simply don't move as quickly as they used to.
Mobility problems are one of the top concerns of most people when they think about getting older. Mobility challenges can be lessened by working to maintain good health, especially through diet and exercise. Older adults already experiencing mobility issues can work with physical therapists or personal trainers to increase mobility, and with physicians experienced in elder care. Their friends and family should encourage them to remain as active as possible, and to pay careful attention to their medical care as the years progress.
Memory and learning ability tends to naturally decline with age, and older people can experience more cognitive disorders, including dementia and Alzheimer's disease. These challenges frustrate many seniors, particularly those who were more cerebral when younger.
While many elders who were mentally active in their younger years tend to remain so, greater levels of cognitive activity and social engagement are recommended for seniors, especially those suffering from conditions such as dementia. Intellectually stimulating activities such as puzzles, language learning, and music may lessen the impact of cognitive decline and may slow the onset of dementia-like illnesses. In addition, regular exercise can help to improve cognitive function.
Isolation & Grief
Many experience isolation when they get older. The children have long since grown and gone about establishing households and families of their own, their spouse may have passed away, and close friends may have, as well. Isolation can result in depression, cognitive decline and even suicidal ideation. The risk of suicide is substantial for elderly widowers.
Older adults should try to remain actively involved in their community as much as possible. For example, those with specialized skills may choose to teach classes at the local library or community center, or do volunteer work in the community that utilizes their unique skillset. Enrolling at a local senior center and attending events there several times a week can address not only social needs but physical and cognitive ones. Dances, game nights, and the like can go a long way to lift spirits. The families of elders should also try to visit their elders whenever possible to reduce the level of isolation.
Elders and their families must work to safeguard against these dangers by ensuring that both physical and mental health are being looked after. Elders should feel free to communicate their goals for their care to their physician, and their families should encourage them to seek out a mental health professional to assist them in constructively coping with the unique challenges of aging.
People are living longer and longer, but the challenges of aging have not diminished - particularly for those who require specialist or in-home care. Elders and their family should make it a point to make financial planning a priority both before and during retirement to ensure that the costs of living and health care can be met adequately. Investment returns should be carefully considered, as should regular income (i.e., Social Security, pension funds). And, insurance policies should be very carefully planned and monitored.
While the challenges seniors face are many, the help of their families and communities can assist them in continuing to live rich and fulfilling lives... all through their autumn years.
Jim Raychrudhury is a freelance writer and passionate blogger, who focuses on health, life and family related topics. He has written numerous articles and contributed to several other blogs. When he is not writing, he enjoys spending time outdoors with his family. He can be followed on Twitter (@JimRaychrudhury).