As people age, they experience many changes in their bodies. In this lesson, we'll examine some of the changes in physical appearance that happen in older adulthood, as well as how people's sleeping habits change in late life.
Leon is getting old. He's in his late 70s and is noticing lots of changes going on. When he was younger, he was very muscular, but now he's weaker and flabbier. He's also noticed that he's having trouble sleeping at night. Some nights, he's lucky to get just a few hours of sleep.
Leon is in late adulthood, or the time of life after age 65. During this time, people go through many changes associated with aging. Their reflexes are not as quick as they used to be. They begin to forget some things, and they change physically, as well.
Let's look closer at how physical appearance and sleep patterns change in late adulthood.
Leon doesn't look like the dapper young man who fought in the Army. He's older now and has noticed a lot of changes. His hair is grey. He has wrinkles, and he's flabbier than he used to be. Not only that, but he is pretty sure he's shorter, too, though he can't imagine how that could happen!
Leon's experience is not unique. As people age, their physical appearance changes. There are many physical changes that go on in a person's body in late adulthood, but three common changes in physical appearance are increase in wrinkles, decrease in muscle mass, and loss of height.
Leon definitely has wrinkles! Every time he looks in the mirror, he's a little shocked by how many wrinkles he has. They seem to be all over his face!
Wrinkles are one of many physical changes due to changes in collagen, which is a protein in many organs in the body that gives them their elastic properties. For example, if you pinch your skin and pull it out a little bit, then let it go, it will snap back into place. This is thanks to collagen.
But as we age, collagen loses its elastic properties. It becomes harder and harder for things to 'snap back into place.' Whether it's Leon's heart, his joints, or his skin in the form of wrinkles, this loss of collagen's elasticity causes physical changes.
Wrinkles aren't Leon's only problem, though. He's weaker than he used to be and more flabby. Things that used to be nice and muscular, like his arms, now wiggle and jiggle.
As people age, they slowly lose muscle mass. This is usually due to a combination of factors, including normal aging and a decrease in exercise. For example, Leon used to go to the gym all the time and lift heavy weights. But he doesn't really work out anymore.
A decrease in muscle mass is a normal part of aging, but it can be mitigated by activity. If Leon focuses on working out more, he can gain back some of the muscle he's lost. More importantly, he can slow the process and avoid losing very much more muscle.
Remember that Leon thinks he might be shorter than he used to be. Reaching the top of his cabinets isn't as easy as it once was. But he thinks that can't be possible. Can it?
Actually, many people in late adulthood experience a loss of height. This is largely due to the compression of the spine and the softening of muscle and bone tissue. These things work together to squish Leon's body down, and he ends up shorter than he was as a young man.
Gaining wrinkles, losing muscles, and becoming shorter aren't Leon's only problems. Lately, he's been sleeping less than he ever has before. He finds himself up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep. He's always believed that eight hours a night is important, so he's worried that he might be doing something bad for his body.
Leon isn't alone. In later life, people need less sleep. Infants might sleep sixteen hours a day, and adults in middle age might need seven or eight hours of sleep. But by late adulthood, many people find that they only need about five hours of sleep per night.
As long as Leon is feeling like he's getting enough sleep, he's probably okay. But besides the general decrease in sleep in older age, many people also experience insomnia, or a disruption in normal sleep patterns.
Insomnia can be a problem at any point in life, but it is particularly prevalent in late adulthood. Partly, this is because some medications can cause insomnia and many older adults are on more medications than their younger counterparts. More medications mean more of a chance that they are taking one that can cause insomnia.
Another reason that older adults might experience insomnia is due to health issues. Whether it's just the aches and pains of growing older or something serious, like blood pressure or breathing issues, some people in late adulthood find that their health keeps them up at night. If Leon is worried about his sleep patterns or if they change suddenly, he should talk to his doctor to make sure everything is okay.
Late adulthood is the time of life after age 65. During this time, people go through many changes in their physical appearance, including an increase in wrinkles due to less elastic collagen, a decrease in muscle mass, and a loss of height. In addition, sleep patterns change in older adulthood, when many people find that they only need about five hours of sleep per night and some people are haunted by insomnia.
After reviewing this lesson, you should have the ability to:
- Identify when late adulthood begins
- List the reasons that older adults experience an increase in wrinkles, a decrease in muscle mass, and a loss of height
- Explain why sleep patterns change in late adulthood and discuss insomnia