Aging is a universal process that begins at birth and equally affects the young and the old.  From the moment we are born, we are aging.    Yet it might be viewed positive or negatively depending on the person's age.  For example, the aging of children and adolescents are typically viewed as positive.  A common reaction to a child that is growing  is "Wow!  Look how big you've grown!".  Similarly, adolescents view aging with anticipation as it allows them to legally perform activities such as driving. 

In adulthood, however, aging is viewed negatively and is often asociated with senility, loss of cognitive function, and many other stereotypes.  These stereotypes has led to ageism (discrimination based on age) and many of the negative attitudes towards the elderly.  Not only are these myths incomplete and inaccurate, they'll also affect the self-esteem of the elderly and they underscore the richness of their experience. 

We undergo many physical changes as we become older but aging does not have to be associated with decreased mobility and decreased cognitive abilities.   I plan to show you several of the more common age-related changes, how they affect the elderly population, and interventions you can take to help them age gracefully.

Musculosketal Changes

The following are musculoskeletal changes associated with aging:  decreased muscle mass, osteoporosis, and accumulated "wear and tear" of the joints.  In addition, curvature of the spine develops and leads to a decrease in height and the downward movement of the chest.  This not only affects the mobility of the elderly, but the downward movement of the chest also causes stomach organs to be pushed together which can lead to stomach pains.

Health Promotion Activities for Musculoskeletal

Musculoskeletal changes related to aging makes it more difficult for the elderly to perform activities of daily living (ADL) and increases their risk for falls and fractures.  It's important to educate them on the importance of exercise and daily movements in order to prevent osteoporosis and decrease muscle strength.  It's also important to take measures to prevent falls through the use of nonslip footwear and assitive devices such as railings in the hallway and the use of canes.

Vision Changes

All adults experience age-related changes in vision at approximately 50 years of age.  Decreased tear production and pupil size interferes with eye's ability to receive light and makes it more difficult for the elderly to focus on objects.  Presbyopia, or dificulty focusing clearly and quickly on objects of different distances, is also common and often correct with reading glasses.

Healthy Promotion Activites for Vision

Safety is a big concern when dealing with vision changes.  It's important to discuss these changes with the elderly and to explain how they affect activities such as driving a car,  going up and down the stairs, and moving in dark environments.  Annual screening for glaucoma and cataracts should also be encouraged.

Hearing Changes

Presbycusis, which is the term used to describe age-related hearing problems, also begins at the age of 50 and is related to physiologic changes of the hearing organs.  The combination of wax buildup due to longer, thicker hair and the decreased functionality of hearing organs contribute to progressive loss of hearing.

Health Promotion Activities for Hearing

It's common for relatives and caretakers to experience frustration and resort to yelling or "elderspeak".  However, patience and compassion is needed in order to help the elderly to adjust to these changes.  The following are great ways to improve communication with a hearing-impaired person:  stand or sit directly in front of the person, eliminate any background noice, and do not yell at the individual.  Hearing aids are also a good tool to help the elderly adjust to their decreased ability to hear.


The physiologic changes that I've just mentioned are not all-encompassing and they are just some of the common age-related changes we often encounter.  The process of aging is associated with many different challenges, but do not believe the stereotypes!  Adulthood can be a rewarding time filled with new and exciting experiences.  We can all age gracefully.  Take care of your body now and your body will take care of you.