Though the AARP classifies anyone over age 50 as a senior, at least for membership purposes, this group’s definition of this demographic seems almost too broad. For residents of Anamosa and elsewhere, the term ‘senior’ may be more accurate if it includes different stages, from someone just entering this age range to someone who is entering hospice care.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care knows that age is more than just a number. Although there are certain biological behaviors that are more common for certain age ranges, like the differences between someone in their early 60s vs. someone their late 90s, many individual seniors remain unique in terms of their physical and mental abilities as well as a general outlook on life and attitude.
This month is a good opportunity to learn about seniors in your life. Aug. 21 is National Senior Citizens Day, an occasion to appreciate the important roles that seniors are able to provide in our community. The occasion also encourages seniors to find opportunities in their local communities to give back.
For instance, not everyone knows that the number of seniors is expected to grow.
According to the U.S. Census in 2018, if population trends continue, by 2030, all Baby Boomers will be over 65 and there will be more people over this age than under this age, a demographic situation that has never happened.
The data estimates that there will be 78 million Americans over 65 and 76.6 million under age 18.
Depending on the group doing the defining, seniors can follow various stages.
Some of these are physical as the body changes, some can be mental as the brain changes, and there are other factors such as economic and social (Are you working or retired? How much money do you have to live on? Where do you live and who do you live with?). Some are emotional (How do you feel? What’s your support system like?) and some are spiritual (Are you thinking more about what happens when you’re gone? Are you more or less religious?)
Often, being a senior is defined by what’s happening to your body.
The Koshland Science Museum, an online resource, suggests that “old” should be divided into three categories: Young-old, which is between ages 55 and 65; Middle-old, between ages 66 and 85; and Old-old, which is 86 or older. However, the museum doesn’t discuss differences in each group, only that there are common traits at all three levels, including more brittle bones, greater vision impairment, worsening sense of touch, and a higher susceptibility to chronic diseases.
It does say that mental abilities are known to decrease in many but there are also ways to stay alert or at least reduce the rate of decline. Efforts to stimulate the brain, such as memory puzzles and learning new tasks can help as well as increased physical activity. The latter can be especially beneficial by helping the whole body.
Instead of ranking changes by age or lumping all seniors together, WebMD focuses more on when changes from aging often begin to happen in typical human development.
For instance, many people begin to have vision changes associated with aging as early as age 40. Significant hearing loss often begins at around age 60, especially in men. Strength and stamina will also decrease as the heart rate slows, and there is also a higher rate of high blood pressure by age 60 and anemia by age 65.
Memory problems are also more likely to take place, which doesn’t necessarily mean dementia. These can include general forgetfulness or difficulty remembering details. Some dementias, such as Alzheimer’s disease, are distinct and more about not being able to retain new information or general physical deterioration of the brain.
The Mayo Clinic also presents a similar look at what’s happening to your mind and body as you age and what to do about it. This covers everything from taking precautions when out in the sun to protect your weaker skin to eating a healthy diet to improve your physical and mental health.
A big way to boost your health, no matter your age, is to quit smoking and also see a doctor, dentist and optical care professional regularly. Daily exercise can also go a long way to better all-around health.
Both medical- and wellness-focused sites emphasize that it’s impossible to stop the aging process, but being open to opportunities to make healthier choices can pay off in big ways in terms of more time being active with your friends and loved ones.
That isn’t to say there are ways you can make yourself look and feel a little younger, whatever your age. There is certainly a variety of health and medi-spas that have a big focus on improving the different parts of the body.
There are also behaviors that can change, such as trying to sit up taller if nature wants your body to slump forward a little more as you age. This also can strengthen your core muscles.