“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come”
– The Merchant of Venice
Ageing has its pros and cons. On one hand, there is the joy of growing and carrying all the experiences and memories of life. But on the other hand are the ill effects of growing old where one’s health starts deteriorating. Since the body becomes weaker, one faces a lot of acute as well as chronic problems. These become a regular thing in an aged person’s life. To tackle them, many steps to improve senior citizen health care are being taken. NGOs and hospitals work for this throughout the country.
As per 2011’s census report, there are 10.38 million elderly persons. Currently, 65% of the population have age of less than 35 years. So it’s important to understand what problems old people face on a daily basis. Especially for the young people who are a majority in India’s population. Following are 6 common health concerns to which the elderly are quite vulnerable-
1. Heart related risks
Once the person turns 65, he/she becomes highly vulnerable to cardiovascular diseases. Conditions such as increased blood pressure or high cholesterol levels increase the chances of the person getting a stroke, coronary or congenital heart diseases, arrhythmia, hypertension or other heart ailments. Unhealthy eating habits or excessive smoking/drinking habits can exponentially increase the chances of an ‘attack’ which may prove to be fatal.
2. Weakened Bones
One of the most visible ailments of ageing is weakening of the joints/bones. It can take in the form of arthritis. The level of pain increases as older the person gets. It becomes excruciating when arthritis takes place in the knees. Another agonizing disease is Osteoporosis. Low-bone mass is a major reason for the disease. This also causes feeble bodied elderlies to lose control over their body as a result, they suffer falls, some of which can cause serious injuries.
3. Vision and Hearing Impairment
So many times one comes across an old aged person who has weak eyesight or is not able to hear properly and seeing someone like that makes us feel really sad. The weakening of eyesight takes place due to macular degeneration, cataract, diabetes or glaucoma. Regular eye-tests and checkups should be done in order to understand the diagnosis. Hearing impairment is another painful problem.
It can occur because of constant exposure to loud noises in the city which affects the sensitive auditory nerves or due to natural causes. The NSSO, in its 58th round of survey (2002) found out that after sensory deficit, hearing disability was the second most common ailment in Indian households. Although hearing aids do help but not to a great extent. It’s reported that some impairments also lead to depression among the older adults.
4. Memory loss/Alzheimer
At times, we ourselves say, ‘I completely forgot about that thing’ or ‘I exactly can’t recall the incident’. This may be due to excessive stress or anxiety. In case of older people, the situation worsens. Senior citizens have a hard time remembering everything as in their youth. Such kind of demented situation can take the adverse form of Alzheimer’s disease. As per reports, Alzheimer has claimed over 90,000 lives. It usually affects a person aged 65 or above. In the USA alone, more than 6 million people are suffering from Alzheimer’s till this date.
Diabetes is a very common disease in India. Unlike the earlier times, even children are suffering from the disease that too, in inflating numbers. In elders, we come across senior citizens who are diabetic. With uncontrolled blood-sugar levels, the impact of diabetes worsens. Diabetes leads to cardiovascular and micro vascular risks. Type II Diabetes is majorly the case with the old people. Severe cases of diabetes have often resulted in causing visual impairment, myocardial infarction or lower-extremity amputation.
With ageing comes the loss of muscles and gain in fat which is why obesity becomes a common factor among older people. Plus, hours of inactivity add to the same. Obesity itself is quite harmful in the old age, in addition, it increases the risk of other diseases like Type II Diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and so on.
BMI is usually not a great determiner for old people as vertebral compression may decrease the height, which in turn will increase the BMI and may classify the individual as overweight or obese. Or, if his/her medical condition is Sarcopenic, i.e., loss of muscles and excess gain of fat will not reflect on the BMI calculator. Obesity in old age is a culmination of various things like reduced physical activities, unvarying dietary intake and low metabolism rate which give way for the stored fat in the body.
You must have seen your grandparents or parents or any old person going through the old age phase and their physical or cognitive abilities are slowly being diminished. To tackle such situations, medical conditions are being improved and proper care for old people is being taken into consideration by various non-governmental organizations. While there are other known diseases and medical conditions which a senior citizen goes through, these six are quite generic in our country. Can you tell us what all steps can be taken to improve senior citizen health care at homes?