Typical Physical Aging, Chapter 10
I. Physical Aging Across Adulthood
1. Whether it is body shape, skin, or hair issues, the psychological adjustment, both within the individual and in the ways others choose to respond to those signals of aging, can be dramatic.
2. The term “aging” can be divided into distinguishing between external or environmentally
a) Primary aging – normal or expected aging
b) Secondary aging – caused aging
c) Tertiary aging – decline seen just prior to death
II. Changes in Appearance
A. Changes in Body Shapes
1. Starting in young adulthood, though generally not noticeable until middle age, our bodies start to change their shape, particularly due to changes in height, lean muscle mass, and distribution of body fat.)
B. Changes in Skin
1. Like many other areas of primary aging, skin changes that become noticeable in midlife actually began in our mid-20s.
2. By middle age individuals start to notice more wrinkles, age spots, and general skin dryness.
C. Changes in Hair
1. Most telling signs of aging is the appearance of gray and/or thinning hair.
2. The medical term for baldness, or hair loss from the scalp, is alopecia. Generally associated with older men, it can occur in men and women of all ages.
III. Changes in Sensory Systems
A. Changes in Vision
1. The three most common eye pathologies (Mayo Clinic, 2008a; Schieber, 2006)
The following graphic depicts the increase in these eye disorders from 2010 to 2050. Cataracts being the most prominent but easy to treat (in our society).
c) Age-related maculopathy or Macular Degeneration
2. Starting at age 40, visual acuity – the ability to discern fine spatial detail in both close and distant objects – begins to decline.
3. While glasses, large print, extra lighting, and other adjustments may help, older adults with impaired vision may feel frustrated, isolated, and even depressed over their physical and social situation.
B. Changes in Hearing
a) The primary sort of loss is for sounds of high frequency.
b) Men are more prone to hearing loss than women.
2. While hearing aids can help in many situations, they are often rejected by older adults because of expense, maintenance, difficulty of use, and the sense that they signal frailty.
C. Changes in Balance and Movement
1. Consistent exercise can help older adults maintain a better sense of balance, proprioception, muscle flexibility, and reaction time, all of which can reduce the risk of serious injury due to falling.
D. Other Sensory Changes
1. Taste and Smell a. Reductions in the ability to taste and smell increase the risk that older adults will eat less and suffer from malnutrition.
A lack of sensitivity to pressure, pain, cold, or heat, any of which may allow a small problem, such as dressing for outdoor temperatures or caring for a small cut, to turn into a major problem.
IV. Changes in Body Systems
Although generalizations can be made regarding changes in body systems due to normal aging processes, it is sometimes impossible to separate primary and secondary aging, it is easy to make false assumptions.
A. Aging Cardiovascular System
1. Although our hearts are less efficient and do show signs of age, the normal, expected cardiovascular changes do not have major effects on the lifestyle of older adults.
2. With age our hearts become enlarged, slow in beating rate, and lessen in muscle flexibility, resulting in increased blood pressure.
B. Aging Digestive
The many expected changes to our digestive systems, due to normal aging, are small and generally go unnoticed.
C. Aging Bones
1. Our bones will start losing density in young adulthood, and if unchecked, could lead to serious consequences in late adulthood.
V. Changes in Sexuality
A. Issues in Sexuality Research
The groundbreaking work of Alfred C. Kinsey, who published Sexual Behavior in the Human Male in 1948, and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female in 1953, as well as William Masters and Virginia Johnson, who published Human Sexual Response in 1966, opened the door for the scientific and public discussion of health heterosexuality.
1. Risk of Heterosexism Link (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. in Sexuality Research (the site I have given you is an interesting fact sheet)
1. That early work, along with the predominant societal and religious premise that monogamous heterosexual behavior was the norm, made it easy to assume that non-heterosexual feelings, thoughts, and behaviors were deviant.
2. Rather than seeking to understand different sexual orientations and preferences, much of the interest in these groups revolved around questions of just how deviant they were and to what extent they tried to mimic “normal” relationships.
1. Trustworthy data is difficult to collect when researchers rely on self-reported information on questionnaires or in interviews.
3. Risk of Misunderstanding Research Findings
1. It is wise to view data on sexuality with some caution, allowing for the likelihood that some groups of individuals will be absent, choosing not to participate in research, while others may provide false or misrepresentative data.
B. Sexuality in Young Adulthood
1. Based on testing conditions that are anonymous, confidential, likely to be exposed, and subject to the bogus pipeline, researchers have found that participants sometimes give misinformation in studies of sexual thoughts and behaviors.
C. Sexuality in Middle Adulthood
1. Although most middle-aged adults have less sex than young adults, most maintain an active sex life.
2. Most adults fantasize about sexual activity with someone who has never been their partner.
D. Changes in Female Sexual Health
1. Managing Menopause
a) Perimenopause begins when a woman’s body first signals that the processes leading to menopause have begun, and it ends one year after her last period, when she has reached menopause.
b) It is common for the perimenopausal process to last anywhere from 2 to 8 years.
2. Women, Sexuality, and Aging
a) Recent studies have indicated that hormone replacement therapy for women can be harmful and should be used only in special cases.
b) Some women in middle age may find the menopausal process, highlighted by hot flashes and vaginal dryness, to be ultimately liberating and requiring minor adjustment, whereas others may have such difficulty with the process that they eventually develop female sexual dysfunction disorder.
E. Changes in Male Sexual Health
1. Most middle-aged men will experience andropause and the related symptoms including problems with sleeping, memory, and concentration, as well as depression, anxiety, irritability, loss of energy, and bone and hair loss.
2. Men experience a reduction in hormone production and related symptoms.
3. Men may also experience some discomfort due to enlarged prostate glands, a common condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (National Kidney and Urological Diseases Information Clearing House, 2006).
F. Sexuality in Late Adulthood
1. Levels of sexual activity usually continue to decline in late adulthood but may not stop completely.
2. There is evidence that sexual activity continues on some level for many
3. Some Factors for decline in sexuality (for men)
a) Erectile dysfunction in men; some illnesses can decrease sexual function and desire, such as arthritis and other types of chronic pain, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
b) Lack of interest in women (Mazur, Mueller, Krause, & Booth, 2002)
Here is a longevity quiz
Take the longevity quiz. What does it tell you about your own life? Did your score surprise you? How do you anticipate you will age? If you change your habits now, will it make a difference in your own aging process?
2. Risk of False Data in Sexuality Research