Normal Aging

The aging process happens during an individual’s lifespan. The changes aging individuals experience are not necessarily harmful. With age, hair thins and turns gray. Skin thins, becomes less elastic, and sags. There is a slowing down of functions which goes forward throughout adulthood – loss of function of bodily organs. In the gastrointestinal system, for example, production of digestive
enzymes diminishes, reducing the body’s ability to break down and absorb the nutrition from food.

Scientists theorize that aging likely results from a combination of many factors. Genes, lifestyle, and disease can all affect the rate of aging. Studies have indicated that people age at different rates and in different ways.

Normal aging brings about the following changes:

  • Eyesight – loss of peripheral vision and decreased ability to judge depth.
    Decreased clarity of colors (for example, pastels and blues).
  • Hearing – loss of hearing acuity, especially sounds at the higher end of the spectrum. Also, decreasing ability to distinguish sounds when there is background noise.
  • Taste – decreased taste buds and saliva.
  • Touch and Smell – decreased sensitivity to touch and ability to smell.
  • Arteries – stiffen with age. Additionally, fatty deposits build up in your blood vessels over time, eventually causing arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
  • Bladder – increased frequency in urination.
  • Body Fat – increases until middle age, stabilizes until later in life, then decreases. Distribution of fat shifts – moving from just beneath the skin to surround deeper organs.
  • Bones – somewhere around age 35, bones lose minerals faster than they are replaced.
  • Brain – loses some of the structures that connect nerve cells, and the function of the cells themselves is diminished. “Senior moments” increase.
  • Heart – is a muscle that thickens with age. Maximum pumping rate and the body’s ability to extract oxygen from the blood both diminish with age.
  • Kidneys – shrink and become less efficient.
  • Lungs – somewhere around age 20, lung tissue begins to lose its elasticity, and rib cage muscles shrink progressively. Maximum
    breathing capacity diminishes with each decade of life.
  • Metabolism – medicines and alcohol are not processed as quickly. Prescription medication requires adjustment. Reflexes are also
    slowed while driving, therefore an individual might want to lengthen the distance between him and the car in front and drive more cautiously.
  • Muscles – muscle mass decline, especially with lack of exercise.
  • Skin – nails grow more slowly. Skin is more dry and wrinkled. It also heals more slowly.
  • Sexual Health – Women go through menopause, vaginal lubrication decreases and sexual tissues atrophy. In men, sperm production decreases and the prostate enlarges. Hormone levels decrease.