Internal organs

The unique developmental task in old age is to clarify, deepen, and find use for what one has already attained in a lifetime of learning and adapting (Butler et al. 1998). Erickson (1963) stated it as ego integrity, the psychosocial task of later life involving accepting one’s life in order to accept impending death. The possessor of this integrity is ready to defend the dignity of his or her own life style against all odds, and they know that life has meaning. Paradoxically this sense of personal significance allows them to accept their insignificance in life-that is, the reality of death (Belsky, 1999).

According to Atchely (1994) & Butler et al. (1998) the ability of the older person to adapt and thrive is contingent on physical health, personality, earlier life experiences, and on the societal supports he or she receives; adequate finances, shelter, medical care, social roles, recreation, and the like. As is true of children, adolescents, and middle-aged, it is imperative that older people continue to develop and change in a flexible manner if health is to be promoted and maintained.

Optimal growth and adaptation can occur throughout the life cycle when the individual’s strength and potentials are recognized, reinforced and encouraged by the environment in which he or she lives. Popular ideas of human development need revision to encompass the experience of older persons. In our too quick assumption that old age is a relentless downhill course, we ignore the potential of older persons for strength as well as for a richer emotional, spiritual, and even intellectual and social life than may be possible for the young.

Overall physical health of the body plays critical role in determining the energies and adaptive capacities available to older people. They experience a great deal more acute and chronic disease than the younger population. If significant breakthroughs occur in research and treatment of diseases of the aged (heart disease, cancer, arthritis, chronic arteriosclerosis, and acute and brain syndromes), one can envision a very different kind of old age. Assuming adequate environmental supports, including proper nutrition, old age could become a time of lengthy good health with a more gentle and predictable decline.

The Process of Becoming Old The kind of personality one carries into old age is a crucial factor in how one will respond to the experience of being old; personality traits produce individual ways of being old. But we will explore the general characteristics of old age and the changes that are fairly common to the aging population at least in the west particularly in the United States, which could also be attributable to other countries (Butler et al. , 1998).

Physical changes: Some of the outward alterations experienced by older persons are graying of hair, loss of hair and teeth, elongation of ears and nose, loss of subcutaneous fat, particularly around the face, wrinkling of skin, fading of eyesight and hearing, postural changes, and a progressive structural decline that may result in a shortened trunk with comparatively long arms and legs. Not all of these changes happen to everyone-nor at the same rate.

Recent researches have revealed that some or perhaps many of these changes are results of disease states that occur with greater frequency in late life and may be treatable, either by slowing the course of the disease or by preventing it entirely. The potential for life can be lengthened and enhanced, but mysterious flow of human existence from birth to death will prevail (Schaie & Willis, 1996; Hurlock, 1982 & Peterson, 1989). Although internal changes are not as readily observable as external ones, they are nevertheless are pronounced and as widespread. The muscles tend to become progressively less elastic over time.

The most obvious consequence of diminished muscle tone is tiredness and decreased physical strength (Peterson, 1989). The density of our bones become more porous, brittle, fragile (Belsky, 1999) and are subject to fractures and breaks, which are increasingly slow to heal as age progresses (Hurlock, 1986). Internal organs go through a marked transformation. Atrophy is particularly marked by spleen, liver, testes, heart, lungs, pancreas, and kidneys. Perhaps the most marked change of all is in the heart and least and the last affected are the gastrointestinal tract, the urinary tract, and the smooth muscle organs.

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