Ageing Issues and Challenges in Adulthood

Discuss the ageing issues and challenges in adulthood.

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Ageing is the organic process of growing older and showing the affects of increasing age. In the present day society, with increasing health consciousness, both men and women want to be physically and mentally fit. With advancing age certain inevitable and universal changes such as chemical changes in cells or gradual loss of adaptive reserve capacity take place. There are also certain cognitive changes taking place from middle adulthood onwards.

These changes are slow and gradual. Normally people see aging as a period of physical and mental health decline. These changes are mainly physical and cognitive in nature and may result in various issues and challenges for a person as discussed below:

1. Physical issues and challenges during adulthood and old age:

· It has been found that the body organs of most persons show a 0.8 to 1 percent decline per year in the functional ability after the age of 30 years. Part of this decline is normal, some are disease-related and some caused by factors such as stress, occupational status, nutritional status and many other environmental factors.
· The major physical changes associated with aging are described as external changes, internal changes and changes in the sensory capacities and cognitive abilities. Let us understand these changes.
o External Changes: This refers to the symptoms of growing old that can be seen in an individual. With many individuals the symptoms of aging can be seen as graying hair, aging skin, shift in posture and appearance of wrinkles and age spots and other changes. Decrease in strength and coordination – muscles wane out, flexibility and reaction time decrease.
o Internal Changes: These changes refer to the symptoms of growing old that are not visible. These include changes in the respiratory system, gastrointestinal system, cardiovascular system, and central nervous system.
o Changes in Sensory Capacities: With advancing age, there is gradual slow down in the sensory abilities. Ability to hear high-pitched noises disappears, hearing loss becomes perceptible around 40. There is a decline in vision – ability to focus declines and subjects need to be brightly lit to be seen properly. Losing in any of the senses can have profound psychological and social consequences. Age related diseases such as cataract, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma begin appearing in late adulthood.
· Diseases: During middle adulthood various diseases begin appearing especially due to the stressful lives that people live today. Heart diseases, Cancer, Diabetes, Goiter, Gout and Arthritis are common occurrences. During late adulthood diseases like Arthritis, Osteoporosis, Cancer begin appearing.
· Sexual changes: Women experience Menopause during middle adulthood, while males experience decrease in fertility.
· Obesity: Commonly observed in adults above 60 years of age.
· Immunity: Immunity also decreases with age causing increased susceptibility to infections.

2. Emotional and personality issues and challenges during adulthood and old age 

· During early adulthood, individuals need friends to share the thoughts and feelings, typically individuals in a similar situation. The individual also needs to cope with the issue of multiple selves – personality changing from one situation to another.
· During middle adulthood, relationships are about intimacy and commitment rather than physical passion. A high incidence of divorce has been found to be linked to heart-related issues for men. Due to the load of responsibilities the number of friends usually decreases in this phase. Family responsibilities also become challenging – managing both children and parents (commonly dependant).
· During late adulthood, the loss of spouse may be a major cause of emotional insecurity.
· Intimacy versus isolation occurs around the age of 20, and continues into a person's 30's and beyond. During this time in life, people face the crisis of being alone versus being involved in meaningful relationships.
· Generativity versus stagnation, as suggested by Erikson, occurs around the age of 25-30 and lasts into a person's mid to late 50's. During this time, people think about the contribution they are making to the world.
· Integrity versus despair occurs around the age of 50 and continues until the end of a person's life. During this time, people reflect back on the life they have lived, and they decide if their life was meaningful or not.
· About 10 percent of middle aged adults go through what is known as a "mid-life crisis", an emotional period of doubt and anxiety sometimes experienced by people who realize that their life is already half over.
· Younger people can experience a "quarter-life" crisis, in which they struggle to find their place in the world, and worry they will not have an impact or be successful.

3. Cognitive and mental health issues and challenges during adulthood and old age 

· During adulthood and aging various aspects of cognition like memory, learning, attention and speed of performance get adversely affected. The aged people often report forgetfulness, difficulty in learning new techniques and acquiring skills. Their concentration, and, responsiveness to environmental stimulus decreases.
· Dementia and Alzheimers are important diseases of old age. Depression is considered to be a natural condition of old age, often related to retirement and all of the factors that we discussed in physical and emotional challenges related to ageing.
Ageing is a biological process. This process gets affected by many other things such as stress, tension, habit, undisciplined life, ill health work habits etc. Leading a disciplined life means giving the body enough time to rest, proper work habits, less tension, proper nutrition and spirituality. One must not deny and accept one’s age and act in a realistic but optimistic manner. Various coping strategies are present to help in the cause. Mental or physical decline does not necessarily have to occur. Persons can remain vigorous, active and dignified until their eighties or even nineties. This is quite possible if they take adequate care of themselves right from their middle age years. The older persons have vast reservoir of knowledge, experience and wisdom on which the community can draw upon.

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Ageing is the process of growing old. During this process of growing old an individual faces various challenges and issues. These can be broadly categorized into three categories – physical issues (ex: change in sensory capacities and age-related diseases), emotional and personality issues (ex: dealing with multiple selves and loss of loved ones) and cognitive and mental health related issues (ex: memory, attention, learning capacity etc.). In case a person is not able to successfully cope with the various physical and emotional challenges faced by him/her they may become depressed. However, coping with these challenges can result in happiness unto death.

NIOS study material- 12. Adulthood and Ageing

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