Old age or the stage of the third age is a conception proposed by developmental psychology . This stage begins approximately from the age of 60 and continues until the end of a person’s life.
Erik Erikson suggests that at this time it is important to find meaning and satisfaction in life, rather than becoming bitter and disappointed, that is, resolving the conflict of integrity versus despair.
Increasing life expectancy in the human race poses a challenge in charting the developmental changes that take place in old age. Changes that we will detail below.
Changes in old age
Old age brings with it a wide variety of changes, both physical and psychological. Although these changes are inevitable, their intensity will be determined by the quality of life that the person leads at the time of entering this third stage of human development.
Some of the most common changes in old age are:
Energy stores and weight decrease- In old age, as muscle tissue weakens to death, older adults tend to lose weight. The low level of physical activity and the lower consumption of food, cause that the fat is consumed faster than normal and the fat deposits in the body are reduced. It should be noted that fat deposits are energy reserves, therefore, the lower the fat deposit, the lower the energy.
The systems of the body and the organs become less efficient – The breakdown of cellular coordination and the low efficiency of the organs and systems of the body lead to a deterioration of the immune performance. The immune system is no longer strong enough to protect itself from disease, therefore a minor illness could have serious consequences in an older adult.
Incontinence- This can occur due to the decrease and weakening of muscle mass or due to the functional deterioration of the bladder.
Pain in bones and joints- Loss of density of bone tissues affects bones and joints. In middle-aged women, decreased estrogen production could explain why 2/3 of women in old age suffer from osteoporosis . Other common bone diseases in old age are: osteoarthritis , arthritis and osteomyelitis.
Decreases height- As is lost bone density tends to decrease the height of the person.
Decreased senses- Hearing and vision are the senses that are most affected over the years. The lenses of the eye become discolored and rigid, and the ears begin to detect sharp sounds less and less. Reflexes are also lost, as the neural connections that activate them begin to work more slowly.
Chronic illnesses begin- Chronic illnesses become common in late adulthood. The most frequent chronic diseases in older adults are: arthritis, osteoarthritis, hypertension and Alzheimer’s .
Old age not only brings physical problems, it also brings understanding, patience, experience and wisdom, essential qualities for life, regardless of the physical changes that may occur.
Alzheimer’s in old age
Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, and it occurs mostly in people who have reached old age.
Research has shown that nerve tissue in the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s has tiny deposits, known as plaques and knots, that build up in the tissue. Plaques are found among dying brain cells, and they are made of a protein known as beta-amyloid. The knots occur inside nerve cells, and are made of another protein, called tau. These characteristics are normal in aging, but become more pronounced in those with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Repeat questions or phrases
- Successively misplacing personal items
- Forget important events
- Get lost on a familiar route
- Inability to make decisions
- Inability to manage finances
- Difficulty thinking of common words while speaking
- Difficulty organizing words in a sentence
- Lack of understanding
- Loss of empathy
- Lack of concentration
Similarities between adolescence and old age
There are several s imilitudes between the adolescent period and the period of old age.
The search for a place of their own: from the family point of view, both do not find a defined place, they try to find their own place. In the adolescent, that place they seek has nothing to do with that of a dependent child. They remain outside the family dynamics, in the case of the elderly, they do not occupy the level of father or son; surely the child or children of the same fulfill the role of father.
Activation of regression: the defense mechanism of regression is used a lot , which goes in the direction of development as it protects the psyche. There is a constant wake-up call, they act like children.
N egación bodily aspects: the adolescent may be manifested in not wanting to show distinct body, to hide their own secondary characters of age or doing activities like children. In the elderly, it can happen by wanting to continue doing activities for which they are not prepared.
Isolation: it is another characteristic shared both in adolescence and in old age. In the adolescent it is expressed when he locks himself up alone for many hours in the room, which implies the exploration of sexuality, turning himself over. For the elderly, it avoids the anguish of the environment, for example the constant loss of loved ones or not being able to carry out activities that they used to do on a daily basis.
Both periods are usually linked to changes at the biological and psychological level and what the environment gives them back. But you must be careful not to fall into a generalization that all adolescents or elderly people are the same or behave in the same way. As in all periods of human development we can find similarities and differences between subjects.
Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.