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Physical Appearance and Sleep Patterns in Late Adulthood

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  • 0:45 Physical Appearance
  • 3:25 Sleep Patterns
  • 5:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

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.

Late Adulthood

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.

Physical Appearance

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.

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