When we’re young, life seems so new and inviting. We explore our world with wonder and curiosity, test our limits (and the patience of our parents), and learn at a rate of speed unmatched in adulthood.
But our formative years of childhood never quite prepare us for all of the changes that happens when we age. And once we grow beyond middle-age, these changes can be quite startling.
What Really Happens When We Age?
What happens when we age? For example, many people who find themselves having to depend on assisted living or nursing homes have gone through changes that can have impairing or debilitating effects, leaving them vulnerable to a variety of potential hazards.
Even with the rise of advocacy groups meant to protect older adults from neglect or elder abuse, it can be difficult, while in such a fragile state, to ensure your own safety in third-party care.
We all go through so many changes as we age. But what are these changes, and how can they affect our ability to care for ourselves? It’s okay to fear aging to a certain degree because it’s life-changing, but the sooner we can overcome that fear and prepare for it ahead of time, the sooner we can embrace the process and live a fulfilling quality of life.
Here, we’ll explore a few mental and physical changes that can affect you in your later years.
In our youth, and especially during our most formative years, we learn at an alarmingly fast rate. In fact, studies suggest that an infant processes information 30 times faster than adults due to the rapid firing of neurons as the brain develops.
But as we grow older, the prefrontal cortex of our brains develops enabling us to store memories. And though this is needed in order to engage in complex thought, it reduces our ability to learn at such a fast rate.
Once we reach the age of 60, our mental abilities tend to reach their peak, and thus begins a slow decline until the age of 70 where the pace of mental decline can advance at a faster pace.
Though the age at which our mental faculties begin to slow and decline can be as early as 45, or as late as 85, the fact remains that this will eventually happen to us all as we age.
As human beings, we rely not only on our cognitive abilities to survive and function in society but on our strength as well. And muscle mass plays a huge role in our overall strength.
Studies have shown that some individuals begin to lose strength in their mid-30’s, and though the changes at this age are subtle, once we reach our 40’s and 50’s, we may notice a significant reduction in strength and muscle mass.
Beyond our 50’s and into our 70’s, a man may lose up to 30 percent of muscle mass if regular exercise isn’t a part of his lifestyle. And women can lose around the same percentage and begin to store more fat.
Even though we will all lose a significant amount of strength as we age, studies in sports medicine have also shown that regular exercise can keep strength at optimal levels while keeping muscles toned as well.
Our mobility and coordination have a lot to do with our mental and physical health. And many who enter retirement age have reported that injuries they suffered during their youth come back as nagging pains later in life.
Surprisingly, many people don’t realize that balance and coordination begin to decline between the ages of 40 and 50. And this can advance at a faster pace after age 65. In fact, reports have suggested that people over age 65 will experience at least one fall each year.
The ability to move around effectively directly affects your ability to care for yourself in your later years. And this is why regular exercise is highly recommended throughout life.
In addition to regular exercise, a balanced diet and activities that occupy the mind have proven to be the best defenses against losing balance and coordination as we age.
We’re all going to get older. And though the many changes that happen along the way may be hard to deal with for some, taking care of ourselves as we age remains the best strategy to living a long and healthy life.