The Results of Aging


Prepared for Ms. Ferguson
Mark Trolley

Abstract

This report presents several aspects of aging. The report looks at a number of
theories of why we age, the physical and mental changes we undergo as we age,
and several ways of caring for the elderly.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.............................................iii
INTRODUCTION......................................................1
THEORIES OF WHY WE AGE............................................2
Genetics.....................................................2
Cellular.....................................................2
Physiological................................................2
PHYSICAL CHANGES..................................................2
MENTAL CHANGES....................................................5
Alzheimer's Disease..........................................5
Senile Dementia..............................................5
CARING FOR THE OLD................................................6
Retirement Communities.......................................6
Life-care Facilities.........................................6
House Sharing................................................6
Group Homes..................................................7
Low-cost, Government Subsidized Housing......................7
Foster Care..................................................7
Nursing Homes................................................7
CONCLUSIONS.......................................................9
WORKS CITED.......................................................10

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Tables 1. The results of aging...................................4


INTRODUCTION
The purpose of this report is to discuss several aspects of aging.
Several theories of why we age, based on genetic research, cellular
research, and physiological research will be examined, along with physical and
mental changes that are the result of aging. Specific mental changes that will
be explored are Alzheimer's Disease and Senile Dementia. The final aspect to be
looked at will be the care of the elderly in retirement communities, life-care
facilities, house sharing, group homes, low-cost government subsidized housing,
foster care, and nursing homes.

THEORIES OF WHY WE AGE
Since research into aging is not guided by any one universally accepted
theory, genetic, cellular, and physiological studies have yielded several
hypotheses.

Genetics
The most popular genetic theory, the Error Theory, assumes that aging is
the result of the accumulation of random genetic damage, or from small errors in
the flow of genetic information. The damage or errors would reduce or prevent
proper cell function.

Cellular
The best known theory of aging in cellular research is called the Hayflick
Effect, which is named after the American microbiologist Leonard Hayflick. He
found that certain human cells could only divide a limited number of times
before they die. This may suggest that aging is "programmed" into cells. This
could also account for the differences in the life spans of different animal
species, and the differences in the life spans between the sexes within the same
species.

Physiological
These theories focus on organ systems and their interrelationships. One
area currently being investigated is the immune system. As we age the immune
system gradually loses its capacity to fight off infections and other invaders.
As a result, antibodies are produced that cannot tell the difference between
"friendly" cells and "enemy" cells. Most experts now believe that aging
represents many phenomena working together (Miller and Keane 97).

PHYSICAL CHANGES
The physical changes that accompany aging are not necessarily
incapacitating, even though they may be discomforting or limiting.
The body has less strength and endurance as it ages. The rate of energy
production in the body cells is gradually lowered so that people tire more
easily and are more sensitive to weather changes. Sexual desire and ability
lower although they never entirely end for either sex. The capacity to bear
children ends in women with menopause, which is the time when the ovaries stop
functioning, causing the menstrual cycle to stop. Men retain their reproductive
function into the late years. The use of eyeglasses may become necessary, even
if they were not necessary earlier in life. Old people can hear low tones
fairly well, but their ability to hear high tones decreases. The capacity of
tissue and bone to repair itself is slowed, as is cellular growth and division.
Bones become brittle and skin loses its thickness and elasticity, causing
wrinkles. As brain cells die some capacity for memorization and learning is
lost. Breathing becomes difficult, and hardening arteries circulation to worsen
and blood pressure to rise. Joints lose their mobility and deteriorate from
constant wear and pressure. Finally, the liver filters toxins from the blood
less efficiently (Microsoft Encarta "Aging").
These are not all of the changed to the body that are brought about by
aging, but these are the major ones. There is hope in modern medicine, though.
Through the use of new technologies and drugs some of these changes can be
slowed or prevented.

Table 1. The results of aging

System Results of Aging Contributing Factors

SKIN -loses thickness and elasticity (wrinkles appear) -bruises more easily as
blood vessels near surface weaken Process accelerated by smoking, excessive
exposure to sun.

BRAIN/NERVOUS SYSTEM -loses some capacity for memorization and learning as cells
die -becomes slower to respond to stimuli (reflexes dull) Process accelerated by
overuse of alcohol and other drugs, repeated blows to the head.

SENSES -become less sharp with loss of nerve cells Process accelerated by
smoking, repeated exposure to loud noise.

LUNGS -become less effective as elasticity decreases Process accelerated by
smoking, poor air quality, insufficient exercise.

HEART -pumps less efficiently, making exercise more difficult Process
accelerated by overuse of alcohol