What mental health issues are common in the elderly population?

Ageing and senescence are inevitable. We all grow up, and our bodies degenerate with time. The elderly often have limited regenerative abilities, slower metabolisms, weaker immunities, and are more susceptible to diseases and injuries. Old age can be described as the age nearing the average life expectancy of human beings. 

However, now we have better medicine, healthcare, and disease prevention than before, leading to longer lifespans. As the life expectancy for humans increases, our perception of what age we consider as “old or elderly” also changes. So, “what age is elderly?” Is a tricky question to answer.

When are you Considered old?

Ageing is a daunting experience for a lot of people. When you notice your first grey hair or a few wrinkles on your face, or maybe you had difficulty hearing a normal conversation at the office today, you can’t help but ask yourself the question – am I getting old? 

So at what age are you considered “old”? What is considered elderly? Well, the World Health Organization (WHO) believes that most developed countries characterize old age starting at the chronological age of 60 and above. However, this may not be an accurate depiction of the situation in a place like Africa. In the African continent, where healthcare is not as advanced as other western nations, the average life expectancy is much lower. In a place like Africa, people may consider 50 year old adults as elderly. 

1. Prospective Age

The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently proposed a new measure for old age called, “prospective age”. The measure looks at the average number of years a person has to live. So according to the WEF, a person can be considered as old when he or she has an average of 15 more years left to live.

2. Retirement Age

In most countries, the age when you are considered old is around the time you retire and start receiving some form of pension. So, at what age are you considered a Senior citizen? The answer to this varies depending on the country you live in. For example, in China the retirement age is 60 for men, and 50 for female workers. In Libya, the retirement age is 70. Australia has a retirement age of 67, however, this is expected to rise to 70 over the next few years.

3. Perceptions Of Aging

A study published in the Frontiers in Psychology found that many people have a skewed perception of aging, particularly young adults. According to young adults in their teens and early 20s getting old equates to hitting the age of 50. Most participants agreed that middle age starts at the chronological age of 30. 

One interesting find in the study was that people’s perception of old age changes as they age. So, the older the people get, the more likely they are to feel younger. As people get older, they tend to shift to a more youthful idea of how they look, the interests they have, and the activities in which they participate. 

According to the study, this change in perception is due to the stigmatization of the elderly in our society. Hence, older adults tend to disassociate themselves from the older age group and the negative stereotypes associated with it. 

Media and Modern Society’s Portrayal of Older People

Our media seems to be notorious for perpetuating ageist stereotypes. Be it movies, books, television or social media there are several myths and false perceptions about seniors floating around. 

Be it poking fun at their computer literacy or driving skills to stereotyping them for being rude and mean. Such negative portrayals and stereotypes can leave older people feeling excluded and neglected from society. 

Most of these stereotypes have no evidence backing them up. For example, while elders are often portrayed as struggling with modern technology, this is far from reality. A large number of viewers on YouTube, approximately 36%, are, in fact retirees. Older adults over the age of 50 are one of facebook’s biggest demographic.

Age is Just a Number

At the end of the day, age is just a number. It is clear that there is no single definition for old age. A 75 year old woman can look youthful and exuberant, at the same time a 50 year old man plagued with health conditions can feel old. It all comes down to the way you feel physically and mentally. 

Our society often makes us feel that we should achieve everything we want in life by the time we reach 50. However, there are many so-called “old” people chasing dreams and accomplishing goals that people half their age could never do. If John Glenn can explore space at the age of 77 and Yuichiro Miura can become the oldest man to summit Mt. Everest at the age of 80, after suffering from a shattered pelvis and undergoing an open-heart surgery, who really gets to decide if you are “too old” to achieve something?

We cannot stop aging, it is natural and inevitable. However, what we can do is slow down the process and make the best use of what is often called the “golden years” of one’s life.

How to Slow Down the Aging Process

1. Eliminate processed foods from your diet

Processed foods contain several ingredients that can weaken your immunity and trigger inflammatory responses in your body as you get older. Avoid these foods and include natural wholesome foods in your diet. 

2. Stay hydrated

Elders are more prone to dehydration. So drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Water can give your skin the youthful glow you desire, lubricate your joints and flush out toxins from your body.

3. Get proper sleep

Not getting sufficient sleep at night can raise your cortisol levels, increase stress levels and leave you feeling fatigued throughout the day. Make sure you get a good night’s rest so your body has time to repair and rejuvenate. A good quality mattress can give you comfort and improve your quality of sleep so you wake up ready to tackle the challenges of the new day.

4. Physical activity

This cannot be stressed enough, getting some physical activity through the day is crucial for your overall health. Exercise can reduce the risk of chronic conditions, slow down cognitive decline, improve metabolism and relieve your body of stress. Simple breathing exercises and a regular brisk walk can make you feel 10 years younger when included in your daily routine.

5. Make time for friends and family

Humans are social animals. Feeling lonely can increase the levels of your stress hormones. This can also contribute to chronic conditions such as hypertension and heart disease. Make sure you take out time for your loved ones and cherish every moment with them. Being socially active can significantly improve your overall health and well-being. 

Conclusion

The answer to the question, what age is a senior? -Is a subjective one. While some people may feel young at heart others can feel older than their actual age. It all comes down to your mindset. In fact, research has shown that those people who feel younger than their age had a younger estimated brain age and performed better in cognitive and memory tests. This proves that age is just a number but it is not a hindrance. Hence, live life to the fullest and cherish every moment, because you get this life only once.