Effects of ageing: Psychosocial, Behavioral and Biological Changes
The ageing process is characterized by various: psychosocial, behavioral and biological changes. With adequate healthcare interventions, the ageing individual is able to cope with these changes and live a fully functional life. The role of nursing in such a venture cannot be sidelined.
Psychosocial Effects of Ageing
Psychosocial effects of aging can best be explained using Ericksons’ theory of psychosocial development. Researchers posit that after approximately 65 years, an individual either undergoes integrity or despair as they reflect on their lives and the choices they made (Brown & Lowis, 2003). This need to reflect and the subsequent feelings are generated by an overwhelming realization of the eventuality of mortality. In most cases, particular life changes trigger the realization of mortality. These may entail: the onset of an illness, retirement or the death of a loved one (Brown & Lowis, 2003). Researchers posit that this review is more beneficial if the ageing individual involves the support of their loved ones (Brown & Lowis, 2003). This allows more fruitful introspection and prevents self judgmental tendencies.
The feelings generated by introspection determine how an individual embraces the ageing process and interacts with the rest of the society. An individual who feels satisfied with the choices they made in the past feels a sense of pride and accomplishment with their lives. This is referred to as ego integrity and is recommended for fostering a harmonious existence in old age. However, researchers caution that too much ego integrity may lead to the individual being unprepared for the challenges which come with old age (Brown & Lowis, 2003).
On the other hand, feelings of despair and regret may be fostered by the individual feeling that they made wrong choices in their lives. This is commonly evidenced in individuals who after a self review, feel that their lives were unsuccessful and would have been more meaningful if they made different choices (Brown & Lowis, 2003). Such an individual is pessimistic of the ageing process and fears death. Too much despair over the past, leads to disdain. This leads to a loss of interest in reality and a morbid occupation with the past. In such instances the ageing person becomes depressed, spiteful and largely pessimistic (Boyd, 2008).
Commonly, as a result of diminished physical ability and energy, ageing individuals are forced to relinquish most social interactions (Boyd, 2008). This may leave them feeling isolated and lonely. In addition, as a result of increased dependency, ageing individuals also feel as if they are burdens to their loved ones. This triggers feelings of hopelessness (Boyd, 2008).
To ensure that the ageing individual is content with their lives and equally prepared to deal with the challenges of ageing, there is need to ensure an optimal balance between these two extremes (Brown & Lowis, 2003). Erickson referred to this balance as a great value for wisdom (Brown & Lowis, 2003). This ensures that the individual is able to appreciate life and deal with the stresses of ageing such as those that result from: diminished physical abilities, death, increasing dependence, changing roles and different social status (Bengtson & Putney, 2009).
Behavioral Effects of Ageing
Behavioral changes among the elderly can be as a result of illnesses commonly associated with ageing and therefore require clinical nursing assessment. A key example of this is apraxia which is the inability to perform movement (Boyd, 2008). In this case, apraxia is not age related and is caused by other diseases such as Alzheimers’ (Boyd, 2008).
However there are common behavioral changes evidenced among the aged. Key among these, are behavior problems triggered by increased stress. Boyd (2008) posits that stress may be caused by: declining health, increased dependency and death of loved ones. In cases of bereavement, the ageing individual usually exhibits sorrow, anxiety and loss of interest in life. In such cases, nursing interventions may be required to prevent the development of suicidal tendencies and to address potential clinical depression (Boyd, 2008).
In addition, ageing individuals may also experience short term memory loss (Ebersole & Touhy, 2006). This accompanied by increased frustration by the inability to remember things. Memory loss can be optimally addressed by using behavioral interventions such as the use of reminders (Ebersole & Touhy, 2006). In addition, in many cases the ageing individual may also panic due to overwhelming feelings of the inevitability of death. This panic may be expressed as increased irritability, frustration and aggression (Ebersole & Touhy, 2006).
The ageing process may also trigger changes in sleeping patterns. This may be manifested as insomnia or increased sleep (Prinz, 2004). Researchers posit that these changes may result from increased anxiety or panic due to the inability to cope with the changing physical and mental abilities (Prinz, 2004).
Biological Effects of Ageing
Biological effects of ageing are exhibited through changes in the functioning of various organ systems. An avid example is in the functioning of the nervous system. The ageing process slows down the transmission of neural impulses within the central nervous system (Cavanaugh & Fields, 2006). This leads to coordination problems and slower reflexes (Miller, 2008).
In addition, the ageing process may also impair the ability of sensory organs leading to vision and hearing impairment (Prinz, 2004). Although studies have indicated that intellectual ability is not impacted by the ageing process in healthy individuals, ageing individuals experience changes in various cognitive functions (Anstey & Low, 2004). This is commonly exhibited by reduced memory and slower cognitive functions such as reasoning.
There are also changes in the cardiovascular system. Researchers posit that age is a risk factor in the development of cardiac anomalies (Miller, 2008). This is largely due to the fact that ageing reduces the efficacy of cardiac muscles and may also trigger hardening of blood vessels, increases the chances of developing hypertension and cardiac arrest (Miller, 2008). Ageing also alters the immune system increasing predisposition to different diseases such as bacterial meningitis (Miller, 2008). This can be addressed by using vaccines and implementing optimal lifestyle behaviors.
Ageing may also result in changes in bone density and muscle tone leading to decreased physical abilities. Ageing women loose bone density at a faster rate leading to increased chances of developing osteoporosis (Ebersole & Touhy, 2006). Ageing may also impair the respiratory system further limiting physical activities and the skin, leading to loss in elasticity and often triggering self esteem issues.
In conclusion, the ageing process is characterized by various psychosocial, behavioral and biological changes. These effects can limit the ability of an individual to function normally within the society. However, with adequate healthcare interventions, the ageing individual is able to cope with these changes and live a fully functional life. The role of nursing in such a venture cannot be sidelined.
Anstey, J. & Low L. (2004). Normal cognitive changes in aging. Australian Family Physician, 33, 783-787.
Bengtson, L. & Putney, N. (2009). Handbook of theories of aging. New York: Springer Publishing Company.
Boyd, M. (2008). Psychiatric nursing: Contemporary practice. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Brown, C. & Lowis, M. (2003). Psychosocial development in the elderly: An investigation into Erikson's ninth stage. Journal of Aging Studies, 17, 415-426.
Cavanaugh, J. & Fields, F. (2006). Adult development and aging. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Ebersole, P. & Touhy, A. (2006).Geriatric nursing: growth of a specialty. New York: Springer Publishing Company.
Miller, A. (2008). Nursing for wellness in older adults. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Prinz, N. (2004). Age impairments in sleep, metabolic and immune functions. Experimental Gerontology, 39, 1739-1743.