As people age, they become vulnerable to unique health issues. As the human body ages, some certain deficiencies emerge. Regardless of whether older people are sick or healthy, naturally, the aging process is usually difficult to overcome. However, older adults can still lead healthy lifestyles either individually or under the home care services and therefore prevent and control some of these health challenges while improving the quality of their lives. There exist numerous means that can be done to ensure that the elderly obtain optimum health.
Eating a healthy diet is one of the components to ensuring that an individual stays healthy at all stages of life and more importantly at the older age. Healthy eating avoids common health problems in older adults such as diabetes, obesity, heart diseases, stroke, and high blood pressure among others. Getting enough night sleep is advisable for the elderly. Doctors recommend that the elderly should sleep for about seven to nine hours every single night. Getting adequate sleep ensure that they are well rested which consecutively help maintain their energy levels throughout the day and lower the associated health risks. Lack of enough sleep can lead to a decline in cognitive functioning, depression, and irritability (Hwang, 2010). Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and other stimulants as well as developing and sticking to a sleeping schedule help older adults to get proper sleep and rest. Spending quality time outdoors exposes the elderly to fresh air, sunlight and friends. The older adults who spend time in active outdoor activities experience quality lives. Fresh air help in avoiding sleep disorders as well as improving cognitive functioning and physical mobility. Older adults an also utilize social media for social networking with family members and their friends. Social media has the potential to improve their mental and physical health since they prevent depression and loneliness. Brain games can help the aging people to exercise their brains. Also, being involved in activities that will stretch their cognitive abilities can better the functioning of their brains and avoid memory loss. Older adults require being treated with compassion and empathy. Care providers must, therefore, be patient, understanding and respectful when handling the aging adults in the society.
As people age, the less they feel doing normal errands such as cooking, washing among others. Optimal aging is the capacity to live and function at the highest potential across different domains: emotional, spiritual, social, physical, cognitive and functional to an individuals satisfaction regardless of an individuals health (Ramezani, 2011). The three ways through which optimal aging can be achieved include renewing or continuing engagement with life, preventing and managing health conditions, and building and maintaining cognitive and physical function.
Renewing or continuing engagement with life is one the foundations for optimal aging. This foundation focuses on relationships with human beings and animals as well as engagements in meaningful activities. Maintaining the previous relationships with other people and constantly developing new relationships is crucial to the older adults (Aldwin, Igarashi, Gilmer, & Levenson, 2017).. However, due to visual changes, memory loss, and mobility challenges, it becomes difficult for the elderly to maintain past relationships. Failure to start and build new relationships may result in loneliness, isolation and consequently depression when earlier friends, colleagues and relatives age and die. Older adults especially those suffering from chronic diseases should have a pet. Research has shown that older adults benefit from pet ownership as well as other animal-assisted therapies in health institutions. The older adults should be encouraged to be involved in meaningful activities that act as a source of meaning to life and which the elderly may find important. Meaningful activities that the older adults should engage in include volunteer work and hobbies such as literature work, and enjoy music among others.
Disease prevention and management is another foundation for optimal aging. Illness prevention involves immunizations and reduction of risk factors. In both illness prevention and management, the elderly suffering from different illness especially the chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes Type II must make lifestyle decisions and choices that will minimize the risk factors for illness progression, complications or exacerbation.
Building and maintaining physical and cognitive function is also an important foundation for optimal aging. Exercising helps the elderly to improve their cognitive and physical functions and minimize functionality decline (Birren & Schaie, 2001). Regular exercising has many benefits to the aging adults. Illness and disability prevention is among the benefits of exercising to the elderly. The aging adults must, therefore, be guided by the appropriate exercises, intensity, duration and frequency of exercising.
Primary aging is the inevitable and gradual process of deterioration of the human body that takes place throughout the life of human beings. Physical aging also involves the accumulation of biochemical damage that causes fading vision, slowed movements, increased susceptibility to illnesses, reduced stress adaptability and impaired hearing among others (Anstey, Stankov & Lord, 1993). Primary aging involves physical changes such as the formation of wrinkles and growth of gray hair. Primary aging is characterized by physical changes.
Secondary aging is the process of bodily deterioration and accumulation of biochemical damages due to illnesses and improper health practices which are preventable. Improper health practices include lack of exercising, excessive intake of fats, smoking and drug abuse, and other forms of self-damage. These diseases and improper health practices can be avoided through either making the right lifestyle choices and decisions or through treatment using modern medicines (Anstey, Stankov & Lord, 1993). Secondary aging is as a result of environmental aspects that lead to either good or poor health practices or illnesses. These factors fasten the aging process and can even lead to serious conditions. Also, secondary aging can be a result of illnesses caused by primary aging or by the extent we take care of our body.
In middle adulthood, people face the challenge to develop the concern for the welfare of future generation and to make their contributions to the society through work and family according to Erik Erikson, generativity vs. self-absorption is the challenge that people in this stage face. The major tasks in the middle adulthood are: accepting and adapting to physiological changes including menopause, self-actualization, and satisfaction in one's career, caring for aging parents, among others (Craik & Salthouse, 2011). At midlife, that is when people realize that half of their life is gone. Upon this recognition, some people feel like time is running fast and therefore must make drastic changes for them to achieve their goals in life. Other people concentrate on making the best of their present lives.
Late adulthood is also referred to as old age and begins around 60 years. To resolve the conflict of integrity vs. despair, Erik Erikson argues that it is more important to seek life meaning and satisfaction rather than becoming bitter and disillusioned (Ramezani, 2011). Aging does not necessarily substantiate physical and mental deterioration since there are many aged people who are happy and engaged in various activities. At this stage, usually, people reach their peak of their physical strength and endurance. Bone mass decreases and the circulatory and respiratory systems become ineffective and inefficient. Sensory modalities decrease their sensitivity. The skin dries as the muscles become weaker. Cognitive changes in this stage include intellectual changes where fluid intelligence decline while crystallized intelligence rises. Dementias disorders are also common at this stage.
Aldwin, C. M., Igarashi, H., Gilmer, D. F., & Levenson, M. R. (2017). Health, illness, and optimal aging: Biological and psychosocial perspectives. Springer Publishing Company.
Anstey, K., Stankov, L., & Lord, S. (1993). Primary aging, secondary aging, and intelligence. Psychology and Aging, 8(4), 562.
Birren, J. E., & Schaie, K. W. (Eds.). (2001). Handbook of the psychology of aging (Vol. 3). Gulf professional publishing.
Craik, F. I., & Salthouse, T. A. (Eds.). (2011). The handbook of aging and cognition. Psychology Press.
Hwang, J. E. (2010). Promoting healthy lifestyles with aging: Development and validation of the Health Enhancement Lifestyle Profile (HELP) using the Rasch measurement model. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 64(5), 786-795.
Ramezani, A. (2011). Aging with dignity (Doctoral dissertation, Carleton University Ottawa).
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