Older adults can face a lot of challenges that most younger adults don’t even consider. With the reduced mobility, reduced hearing, and vision loss that comes along with old age, normal day-to-day activities can become much more challenging.
The average lifespan is increasing year by year. There are more older adults in the world than ever before, and this means more people are living with long-term health conditions.
Despite the increased number of older adults across the globe, the incidence of chronic disease and illness isn’t rising at the same rate. Modern-day medicine has advanced to the point where limited mobility, deafness, and chronic illnesses may no longer be detrimental issues for the elderly population.
There is now a vast range of aids and tools that older adults can use to make their lives easier and less stressful. Older adults can now access a range of equipment, such as hearing aids, walking frames, and mobility scooters.
They can get home modifications, such as getting a walk-in tub with a shower installed in their bathroom or widening their doorways for safe movement around their homes. Each of these home modifications can tackle the physical problems that older adults tend to experience.
It’s not just physical issues that the elderly population has to navigate. Cognitive decline is also a common symptom of aging. They might begin to forget certain things or struggle to concentrate as much as they once could.
Research is highly focused on tackling the cognitive decline and memory loss that comes with old age and age-related diseases. However, there is still a limited number of aids and tools that are available to improve cognition in the elderly.
Let’s cover some of the main challenges that older people face in the world today and how these problems can be reduced or resolved.
One of the most common issues that elderly adults face is a significant reduction in mobility. Most of the time, limited mobility is caused by osteoarthritis, which is a condition that causes the joints to become inflamed.
When the joints are painful and swollen, they become stiff, making it much harder for the individual to move around properly. This can make general day-to-day movement difficult for older adults.
Osteoporosis, a health condition where the bones become thin and brittle, can also affect mobility and movement. Osteoporotic bones are more likely to fracture if the individual falls over, so there is an increased risk of injury.
Unfortunately, both arthritis and osteoporosis are incurable and tend to get worse over time. Usually, this leads to the older adult suffering from restricted mobility for the rest of their life.
However, there are treatments that can reduce pain and swelling around the joints, which may help to tackle some of the mobility issues. Strengthening the muscles and tendons around the joints can also be beneficial to support osteoporotic bones or arthritic joints.
An older adult can become incontinent with their bladder or bowels, or both, due to the decrease in muscle tone around the relevant organs.
When an older adult is incontinent, they struggle to hold in urine or feces. They might not be able to wait until they reach a toilet because the muscles have lost strength and tone.
Due to the weakening of the muscles, older adults might also struggle to fully empty their bladder or bowels when they do go to the toilet. Certain medical conditions can also cause incontinence, such as sarcopenia, nerve damage, diabetes, and cancer.
There are medications available to tackle the problem of incontinence and calm the muscles around the bladder and bowels. Older adults can also use bedpans, commodes, or pads to make toilet trips quicker and easier.
Nutrition can become difficult with old age. Elderly adults can struggle to cook the same nutritious meals that they once could, or they lose the motivation to try.
The digestive tract also becomes less efficient at absorbing nutrients the older person gets. This makes it very difficult for the elderly population to obtain the macronutrients and micronutrients that they need to stay healthy.
As a result, malnutrition in older adults is common. Despite the high incidence of malnutrition, it is rarely diagnosed in the older population, and it is often overlooked due to the presence of other serious health conditions.
Malnutrition can lead to a range of other complications, such as weakness, fatigue, confusion, poor immunity, dry skin, and mental health issues. Nutrition is extremely important for adults of all ages, and this does not change when a person becomes a senior.
To overcome the problem of malnutrition, family members should take steps to encourage healthy eating patterns in their older relatives. In professional settings, dietitians and nutritionists can’t help to create an individualized meal plan for older adults to follow.
If an elderly person is struggling to eat normal foods, they might benefit from a soft food or pureed food diet. In severe cases, enteral feeding is used, where high-calorie liquids are fed directly into the stomach through NG tube or PEG feeding systems.
Poor Oral Health
Tooth decay and oral health issues are widely accepted as a natural part of the aging process. However, oral health should not be overlooked. Many studies have suggested that there is a strong association between oral health and overall health and well-being.
Around a quarter of adults over the age of 65 no longer have their natural teeth. Most of the time, this is due to tooth decay and cavities, alongside other health conditions, such as nutritional deficiencies. Gum disease and mouth cancer are also more prevalent in the elderly population compared to other age groups.
With regular dental check-ups, oral health issues can be prevented, or their progression can be slowed down. It’s often worth getting dental insurance or registering for a dental plan to reduce the total costs of regular visits to the dentist.