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Physical Development in the Elderly

by
author image Melissa McNamara
Melissa McNamara is a certified personal trainer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and communication studies from the University of Iowa. She writes for various health and fitness publications while working toward a Bachelor of Science in nursing.
Physical Development in the Elderly
Staying physically active throughout life lowers your risk of many illnesses associated with aging. Photo Credit senior female tennis image by Janet Wall from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Senescence is the overall aging process that everyone experiences. Your body ages every minute of the day, but the changes are too small to notice on a day-to-day basis. As you grow older, your physical development begins to change externally and internally. Although some changes are unavoidable, there are ways of improving how your body functions long into your elderly years.

Appearance

The most obvious change in the elderly is their physical appearance, which shows the skin thinning and wrinkles becoming prevalent. Wrinkles become more severe with age because the skin no longer has elasticity due to the reduction in the production of collagen.



In addition, hair turns gray or white and begins to thin. Thinning of the hair occurs all over the body.

Brain

According to author K. S. Berger in "The Developing Person," the elderly think more slowly than younger adults. There are several factors that can be blamed for thinking more slowly, such as the brain being less fluid because of slower cell-to-cell transmission impulses and slower cerebral blood flow.



In addition, the brain gets physically smaller. According to Berger, the shrinking of the size of the brain mostly impairs reaction time--controlled by the prefrontal cortex--and the ability to recall memories--controlled by the hypothalamus.



The elderly can keep their brain exercised with mental puzzles, reading and social interaction with others. According to the Franklin Institute, the elderly who frequently play Bingo minimize their memory loss and have better hand-eye coordination.

Body

As you age, your muscles have less flexibility since they begin to stiffen. This stiffening results in less range of motion. According to Berger, you will also experience reduced balance and strength.



Although this is a natural part of aging, you can reduce the amount of muscle loss and flexibility you experience by exercising. Exercising not only improves muscle strength for the elderly, but it can also improve the functioning of major body systems, such as the cardiovascular, respiratory and digestive systems.



According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, physical activity for the elderly lowers the risk of heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and the risk of falls and injuries. You are never too old to enjoy the benefits of becoming physically active.

Problems

When it comes to developmental problems the elderly experience, you must look at primary and secondary aging. Primary aging is universal, and secondary aging has an environmental influence. According to Berger, cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death for both men and women, and although the risk of death increases for the elderly, it is not a sign of primary aging. Smoking, lack of exercise, obesity and high cholesterol are all underlying factors of this disease. On the other hand, high blood pressure can be considered primary aging since even those who live completely healthy lifestyles may still fall victim to high blood pressure.



Since organs are unable to function at optimal levels for the elderly, the likeliness of death increases for heart disease, strokes, respiratory disease and cancer. Alzheimer's disease is also common in the elderly.

Centenarians

Those who live to 100 and above are called centenarians. According to Boston University's centenarian study, there are several factors that individuals who live to be 100 have in common. For instance, at least 50 percent have "first-degree relatives and/or grandparents" that lived longer than the average person.

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