The Autumn Years: Understanding the Challenges of Aging

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Posted on: 09 January 2017 by Jim Raychrudhury

Like growing up, growing older comes with its own unique challenges. From a greater need for specialist care and more frequent doctor visits to mobility and cognitive challenges, elder care comes with its own unique set of problems.

Like growing up, growing older comes with its own unique challenges. From a greater need for specialist care and more frequent doctor visits to mobility and cognitive challenges, elder care comes with its own unique set of problems. 
 
However, taking the time to understand some of the biggest issues that seniors face as they age can help significantly with preparation to deal with the hurdles that lie ahead - and make life easier and more comfortable for our elders. Here are five challenges that seniors face in their autumn years.
 
Mobility Issues
 
 
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 throughout their senior years.
 
Cognitive Challenges
 
 
Memory and learning ability naturally decline with age, and older people tend to experience more cognitive disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease. These challenges frustrate many seniors, especially those who were especially mentally robust in their younger years.  
 
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
 
 
Many older people 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 begin to pass away as well. Isolation can result in depression, cognitive decline, and suicidal ideation. 
 
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 takes the most advantage of what they can do. Enrolling at a local senior center and attending events there several times a week can address not only social needs but physical and cognitive needs, such as dances, game nights, and the like. The families of elders should also try to visit their elders whenever possible to reduce the level of isolation, and make sure that they are able to get out into their community wherever possible.
 
Financial Planning
 
 
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 - such as Social Security or pension funds - and insurance policies should be very carefully planned and monitored. 
 
 
Depression and Grief
 
 
Many elders lose their spouses in their autumn years, which can worsen the problems of isolation that so many elders face. The decline of body and mind can result in deep depression, making elders highly vulnerable to the risk of suicide - particularly elderly males. 
 
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. 
 
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. 
 
 
 
 

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