Gerontology is the study of old age, stressing the social and behavioral looks of aging. Although aging is a lifelong process and changes in its effects on individual people, old age has been generally stated as beginning at the age of 65.
Aging is not a disease. It is, actually, a series of processes that begin with life and continue throughout the life cycle. As individuals move through the processes, they become more and more different from everyone else. Thus, it is noted that the aging population is a very heterogeneous population.
Some social gerontologists make a distinction between the “young-old” (ages fifty-five to seventy-four) and the “old-old” (ages seventy-five and older). Still other gerontologists add a “middle-old” category between the young-old and the old-old categories.
However the aged is categorized, aging is a highly individual experience. Chronological age may differ considerably from a person’s functional age, and age-related changes occur at different rates for different persons. Age-related changes don’t begin at the same time nor do they all occur simultaneously. Changes as we age are normal and occur in all five senses.
Typically, the beginnings of change in the five senses are as follows.
* Hearing-the mid 40’s
* Vision-the mid 50’s
* Touch-the mid 50’s
* Taste-the late 50’s
* Smell-the mid 70’s
This is not to suggest, however, that a person experience change in any particular order. People may, for example, experience vision problems with no noticeable loss of hearing. Furthermore, some people advance into their later years with little or no perceptible losses in their five senses. Also, because individuals cope differently, the effect of those aging losses differs with individuals.
Generally, however, it can be said, that:
* Age-related changes within any one individual can differ greatly. For instance, intelligence and memory change in a complex manner rather than generalized declines.
* Age-related changes differ greatly from one individual to another in the same manner as each person differs from one another while moving from infancy to maturity.
* No sharp differences occur either physically or psychologically when a person reaches 65 years of age.
* Some impairments and deficiencies do occur as a person ages, but the person often finds ways of adjusting and compensating.
Whatever changes come with aging, older adults are in relatively good health. Physiological, sensory, emotional, and physical changes do occur, but the human body and a person’s ingenious method of compensation often allow the older person to successfully function in today’s complex world.
GROWING OLD BUT KEEPING FIT
Most people are scared, indeed, terrified of old age because they feel that aging is characterized by a progressive loss of essential body functions that they have learnt to take for granted over the years, for instance, loss of vision, hearing, teeth, memory, intelligence, sexual drive, muscle strength and vigour. However, it needs to be emphasized that you can become old healthily; remember that old age does not necessarily mean progressive deterioration or susceptibility to a plethora of ailments.
Despite the advertised claims to the contrary, there is no fountain of youth or magic potion that can prevent the process of aging. And no one has still answered the key question: why do we grow old* According to a popular theory, free radicals damage cells, tissues and organs progressively and as we age the body’s ability to neutralize such damages wanes.
In this context, it is useful to bear in mind that anti-oxidants are natural substances that fight these harmful free radicals. Some recent studies have indicated that anti-oxidants may help prevent heart disease, some cancers, cataracts, and other ailments that are more common among older people. Among the antioxidants available in food are vitamins C and E and beta-carotene which is why most experts recommend five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
TIPS FOR HEALTHY AGING
The following points should be borne in mind:
1. Ensure a balanced diet, including five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
2. Exercise regularly. However, check with your doctor before starting an exercise programme.
3. Go in for regular health check-ups.
4. Don’t ever smoke. If you have picked up the habit, it’s never too late to stop.
5. Practice safety habits at home to prevent falls and fractures. Always wear your seatbelt while driving a vehicle.
6. Stay in touch with family and friends. Remain active through work and play and interact regularly with other members of the community.
7. If you drink alcohol, moderation is the keyword. Let someone else drive the vehicle after each of your drinking bouts!
8. Adopt and maintain a positive attitude towards life. Do things that make you happy.
Fortunately, aging doesn’t have to be a downhill slides and gaining adequate knowledge about changing body patterns over time can help you age the healthy way. Older people have the reputation of being more mature, experienced and thoughtful. Whether or not you become wiser as you grow older, you are likely to become farsighted for sure! Farsightedness (presbyopia) is a change in vision that’s a normal part of aging. A gradual hardening of the eye’s lens, which impairs your ability to see up close, causes presbyopia.
Staying active is a terrific way to stave off the negative effects of aging because it helps your body maintain, improve and even repair itself. Physical activity increases flexibility, lowers blood pressure, strengthens bones, slows down the process of osteoporosis, and promotes weight loss. The remarkable aspect about getting fit is that it’s never too late to start. Fifteen to 30 minutes of exercise, with a warm-up and a cool-down, three or four times a week would be ideal. Remember to start out slowly, exercising for about five to ten minutes twice a week, and gradually build up to a higher level of activity. Choose an activity that you’ll enjoy, and try to get a friend to accompany you. Brisk walking, swimming and yoga are just a few of the options.
Ensuring a healthy diet pattern is also very important. Middle-aged individuals need to increase their intake of certain vitamins, such as D and B6, while also simultaneously reducing the number of calories they consume. Bodily changes caused by aging, combined with reduced physical activity, could lead to a situation when you may gain weight more easily in your 50’s than you did in your younger years. Be that as it may, that excess weight contributes to health problems more often in older people, including diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Contrary to popular opinion, most senior citizens want to enjoy active, and satisfying sex lives. The natural process of aging does entail physical changes that can sometimes adversely affect sexual intimacy and your capabilities during intercourse. Women may experience discomfort during sex because their vagina becomes drier and more fragile. As they get older, men often notice differences in their erection patterns, and it may take them longer to achieve an erection and to sustain it. Also, the erection may not be as firm or as large as during their younger years. Anxiety and depression, which often accompany a chronic illness, can also interfere with your libido.
A strong support system is an important aspect of good health, and seniors can benefit greatly by being socially active. Community organisations, clubs and religious places such as churches and temples are ideal meeting points for elderly people to socialize and to make friends.
Continue to remain productive, whatever be your field of activity; this is good for your self-esteem. Even if you have retired from your job, you can contribute your time and skills in many ways: for example, by volunteering for social service organisations; or teaching part-time in any educational institution. You could also learn new skills (such as a painting or becoming computer literate). The ultimate objective is to keep your brain active.
The twilight years are also likely to lead to an unfortunate increase in illnesses, accompanied by the additional burden of unwelcome medical bills and the fear of dying and death. As the body ages, biological systems start failing gradually, and one starts developing an assortment of medical problems. Consequently, older patients often have special health care needs. It is not uncommon for many older patients to suffer from multiple medical complications: for example, diabetes, hypertension and ischaemic heart disease often go hand in hand. Such a situation also means that they will need to be subjected to multiple medications; and perhaps consult many different doctors as well!
Most old people face a lot of difficulty in taking care of their own needs, because of persistent problems such as deteriorating hearing, failing vision, and decreasing memory. Many of them tend to be afraid of becoming dependent on others as they lose control over their bodily functions. Others dread becoming disabled and being confined to a wheelchair or bed. Instances of abuse and neglect of old people are becoming increasingly prevalent, as the joint family structure is breaking down in urban India. As a result, homes for the aged are becoming increasingly popular in India, so that older people can live together and support each other, when their own families are no longer willing to do so.
Remember that illness and aging need not go hand in hand. If you take well care of your body in the ‘morning’, it will take good care of you in the ‘evening’ of your life.
ROLE OF HOMOEOPATHY
Homoeopathy is the revolutionary, natural medical science. Homoeopathy is a gentle and effective system of medicine. The remedies are prepared from natural substances to precise standards and work by stimulating the body’s own healing power. It is a science, which believes in curing the disease from its root. It is a science, which is not only popular for skin diseases, respiratory diseases etc. but also helpful in life saving diseases. It is a science, which deals with holistic approach to a diseased individual as rather than concentrating on diseased organs as we believe that no organ can be sick but is individual who is sick or dieased. So, homoeopathy gives its emphasis not to the disease but for the diseased person and removes the disease from its root.
Homoeopathy also plays a part in this aging process. No system of medicine can reverse the aging process, but can help in coming out of the ailments of aging. Homoeopathy too can give the symptomatic relief in the complaints of the old people.
There are varieties of medicines in homoeopathy, which can be given for the symptom relief. These medicines help in giving the relief to the patients, only for the symptoms, but will not reverse the aging process.