She was just pausing at the entrance of the grocery store, I paused as well to ask if I could be of assistance. She said no, she just needed to stop for a minute for her eyes to adjust to the dim light of the store on this sunny August day. She shared that she was now 86 years old and she had to be more careful. How very fortunate she was, shopping alone, car in the lot, very attractive slack outfit on and gray hair piled on top of her head in a very fetching bun.

As anyone knows who finds themselves sitting with a group of seniors chatting about their health issues, people do not age in the same way at the same rate. Even identical twins will age differently. If we all aged exactly the same everyone would become more and more alike as they get older, and that is not the case.  Older adults vary in the same way younger people do in their attitudes, recreational activities, how they look, and social connections.

But physically there are some similarities:

  1. Vision, as with the lady in the grocery store, aging causes a greater sensitivity to glare. Adapting to changes in light levels is slower and there is greater difficulty seeing in lower light.
  2. Heart, the heart muscle thickens with age and the body’s ability to extract oxygen from blood diminishes.
  3. Arteries, stiffen with age, making it more difficult for the heart to pump blood forward through arteries that are less elastic.
  4. Lungs, between the ages of 40 – 70 breathing capacity diminishes about 40%.
  5. Brain, the aging brain loses axons and neurons that connect with each other.
  6. Kidneys, gradually become less efficient in removing waste from the blood.
  7. Bladder, the bladder capacity declines.
  8. Body fat, with aging fat tends to settle more in the deeper organs of the body causing more of a apple shape.
  9. Muscles, without exercise muscle mass will decrease about 23% between the ages of 30 and 70.
  10. Bones, bone mineral is lost and replaced throughout the life time but at the age of 35 you no longer replace as much as is lost.
  11. Hearing, it becomes harder to hear higher pitches with aging, and background noises make hearing more difficult.
  12. Personality, does not change with the aging process. However seniors who experience chronic pain, or a significant loss are at risk for depression.

Virginia Garberding RN

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing