Getting older means getting used to changes in your body, both physical and mental. But what is actually going on in there as the years pass?
Aging in the Body
The physical changes in your body are often the most apparent as you age. Wrinkles are a classic sign of aging, although people actually develop wrinkles all throughout life. Older skin is less elastic and thinner and is therefore more prone to developing wrinkles.
Your heart also gets slower as you age. It’s important to maintain good cardiovascular health as you get older, because your ticker needs more attention than ever! Going on daily walks and sticking to a diet full of fruits and vegetables are good steps to keep your heart pumping as it should.
“These old bones” isn’t just a turn of phrase—your bones also need attention as you get older! Bones shrink over time and lose density, which makes them more susceptible to breakage. Sometimes people may even lose an inch or two of height as their spine shrinks slightly. Osteoporosis is a big problem for older people, especially women, so make sure to take calcium and vitamin D supplements and incorporate physical activity into your daily routine.
Your ears are also not immune to aging—age-related hearing loss is one of the most common health conditions that affect older Americans. Known medically as presbycusis, age-related hearing loss often manifests in both ears and is a gradual hearing loss: many people do not realize they have it until they experience major hearing loss.
Age-related hearing loss is mainly caused by the inner ear losing function. It is not possible to prevent age-related hearing loss, but you can avoid compounding it by being vigilant about your ear protection and avoiding overexposure to loud noise.
Aging in the Brain
Aging is a big factor in cognitive function. Much like the rest of the body, the brain actually shrinks as you age. The most apparent age-related cognitive change is memory. For the large majority of older adults, cognitive changes are mild and do not greatly affect daily life. However, short-term memory does show noticeable changes as we age. Long-term memory stays relatively stable throughout life.
Slower reaction times and reduced-problem solving are also side effects to cognitive aging. The parts of the brain where information is stored and retrieved work less efficiently and you may experience difficulty in recalling names, dates, and other facts that you once knew immediately.
The aging brain is still able to learn new skills, however! The wisdom and experience that comes from aging lends itself to learning new things—older people can draw on their life experiences to improve their skills and learn new activities.
You can keep your brain running smoothly by keeping it in shape, the same way you do your body—play memory games, eat a healthy diet, and wear hearing aids if you suffer from hearing loss! Research shows that wearing hearing aids can mitigate a decrease in cognitive function as you age.