Functional Assessment in the Older Adult




The aging process in humans is a complex biochemical process which include all the changes  taking place socially, psychologically and physically.  The aging process is inevitable with signs and symptoms occurring throughout the body systems.  Normally, the process of aging in the human body starts in middle age around 45 years old.  The process and it effects depends on genetics and environmental factors and is different from person to person.  Aging causes a reduction in human cell replication and can cause cells to malfunction and die.   It also interferes with the growth and development of the body tissues which increase the risk of a variety of immune system disorders.   

The Aging Process in Women and Men

Women tend to put on weight on the onset of menopause and skin becomes less elastic and loss their natural moisture.  The skin becomes dry and starts to show fine lines and wrinkles on the skin.  Women bone mass, body mass and muscle strength decrease causing illness such as osteoporosis and arthritis.  Loss of bone tissue can lead to decreased in height and misaligned bone structure.  Women's hormonal changes can increase behavioral and emotional changes as the aging process advances. 

Men go through similar changes as women during the aging process but hormonal change tens to be the most importance change occurring as they age.  Men will see a decrease levels of testosterone, melatonin and dehydroepiandrosterone.  These changes lead to a decrease libido, muscle mass, and bone strength in males.  Other changes include increased forgetfulness, insomnia and irritability.  Men have a higher rate of Alzheimers disease, dementia and cardiovascular disorders.   They will be prone to prostate related disorders and cancer.   (Dhanya, 2012)

The Effects of Aging

Aging results from a combination of many factors. Genetic makeup, family history, lifestyle, and disease can affect aging. Aging occurs at different rates and usually results in decreased function of all body systems.  Functional decline seen during ages include:

  • Eyesight - loss of peripheral vision and decreased ability to judge depth. Decreased clarity of colors (for example, pastels and blues).
  • Hearing - loss of hearing acuity, especially sounds at the higher end of the spectrum. Also, decreasing ability to distinguish sounds when there is background noise.
  • Taste - decreased taste buds and saliva.
  • Touch and Smell - decreased sensitivity to touch and ability to smell.
  • Arteries - stiffen with age. Additionally, fatty deposits build up in your blood vessels over time, eventually causing arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
  • Bladder - increased frequency in urination.
  • Body Fat - increases until middle age, stabilizes until later in life, then decreases. Distribution of fat shifts - moving from just beneath the skin to surround deeper organs.
  • Bones - somewhere around age 35, bones lose minerals faster than they are replaced.
  • Brain - loses some of the structures that connect nerve cells, and the function of the cells themselves is diminished. "Senior moments" increase.
  • Heart - is a muscle that thickens with age. Maximum pumping rate and the body's ability to extract oxygen from the blood both diminish with age.
  • Kidneys - shrink and become less efficient.
  • Lungs - somewhere around age 20, lung tissue begins to lose its elasticity, and rib cage muscles shrink progressively. Maximum breathing capacity diminishes with each decade of life.
  • Metabolism - medicines and alcohol are not processed as quickly. Prescription medication requires adjustment. Reflexes are also slowed while driving, therefore an individual might want to lengthen the distance between him and the car in front and drive more cautiously.
  • Muscles - muscle mass decline, especially with lack of exercise.
  • Skin - nails grow more slowly. Skin is more dry and wrinkled. It also heals more slowly.
  • Sexual Health - Women go through menopause, vaginal lubrication decreases and sexual tissues atrophy. In men, sperm production decreases and the prostate enlarges. Hormone levels decrease  (citation
  • Psychosocial - social isolation, death and loss, emotional grief and sadness may occur due to physical and social losses.  (Area Agency on Aging of Pasco, 2012)
Risk Factors

There are many risk factor related to the aging process and early aging.   The aging process is strongly affected by diet, exercise and lifestyle.  Age tends to be a man risk factors for many diseases and illness affecting the older adult.   These risk factors include: 
  • Dietary and Nutritional Factors 
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking 
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Decreases sexual activity 
  • Social isolation
  • Physical Environment  (Area Agency on Aging of Pasco, 2012)
 It has been shown that regular physical activity, a balanced diet, social involvement, moderate or no drinking, and no smoking, can significantly decelerate the aging process.

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