Unit 4 – The Physical Changes of Ageing

Skin, Bones, Joints and Muscles

* Skin – thinner, less elasticated and wrinkled

* Bones – Less dense and more likely to fracture

* Joints – Stiffer, more painful and cartilage on bone becomes thinner

* Ligaments that reinforce joints become looser

* Spine cartilage compresses causing height loss and spine rounding

* Muscles become weaker



* Balance can become impaired

* Taste and smell deteriorates

* Vision deteriorates and possibly cataracts can develop

* Hearing deteriorates and can hear less high pitched sounds

* Lack of skin sensitivity means increased hypothermia risk



* Muscles in digestive tract become weaker increasing constipation risk

* Heart is less efficient at pumping blood

* Blood pressure can rise

* Nutrients are not absorbed from food as well

* Breathing becomes less efficient and respiratory muscles weaker

* Alveoli gas pockets are damaged decreasing efficiency of gas exchange

* Lower performance of endocrine glands reduces body metabolism


Hormones and Menopause

* Women have major decrease in oestrogen after menopause

* Decreased oestrogen is associated with osteoporosis

* Bone strength is influenced by oestrogen


Cardiovascular System

* Older people experience narrowing of arteries due to fats such as cholesterol deposited on walls. – Atherosclerosis (clogging up)

* Thinner arteries can cause higher blood pressure

* High blood pressure increases risk of stroke or heart attack – arteries to organs are blocked (Brain and heart)

* Sclerosis – elasticity in blood vessel walls can also decrease causing rise in blood pressure.

* Fatty deposits can break away from artery lining and cause blockages

* A blockage from fatty deposits can partially block the coronary artery and cause coronary heart disease. Symptoms include breathlessness and chest pains, potentially a heart attack.


Respiratory system

* Breathlessness resulting from blood being inefficiently pumped around the body

* Lung tissue may deteriorate

* Bronchitis is inflammation of the airways that connect windpipe to the lungs.

* Emphysema – Air sacs become damaged. This causes breathlessness and potentially respiratory or heart failure. ( is influenced by smoking – produces chemicals that damage air sacs in lungs)

* Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – Where air flow is obstructed potentially from bronchitis or emphysema. This disrupts air flow to the lungs. Some increase breathing rate to cope. Others may look blushed or be bloated due to lack of fluid removal and oxygen.


Nervous System

* May lose nerve cells that activate muscles

* Neurotransmitters (chemicals released that control muscles) also lose communication ability affectivity with age.

* Motor Neuron Disease – More common in 50-70 year olds. Nerves degenerate resulting in weakness and loss of muscle tissue.


Degeneration of Sense Organs

* Sight

* After 45 ability of the eye to focus weakens

* Cataracts results from peoples lenses becoming harder and cloudy which stops light being transmitted properly and lenses being able to change shape and results in blurred vision. (Diabetes can also increase risk of cataracts)

* Glaucoma reduces vision due to increased fluid pressure in the eye

* Hearing

* Can hear less high pitched sounds due to lessened sensitivity in nerve cells in inner ear

* Increase wax in outer ear can also block transmission of sound to sensory nerves.

Cognitive (Physical changes)

(Changes in a person’s thinking, memory or mental abilities that influence their behaviour)

* Loss of nerve cells in brain means reduced ability to transmit electrical signals – may affect memory and takes longer to do things (reaction time).

* Senile dementia is more common in over 85’s.



(Muscles and skeleton together)

* Muscle thinning – contributed to by lack of exercise

* Decline in mobility

* Arthritis

* Involves damage to the joints

* Cartilage that helps cushion our bones at the join as we move becomes thinner and weaker

* People experience stiffness and pain when they move

* Bony spurs can also restrict movement

* Can become worse after a period of immobility or over use of joints

* General reduction in skeletal muscles

* Absorption of nutrients, vitamins and minerals from food becomes less efficient. Especially become deficient in iron and fibre.

* Osteoporosis – weakening of bones and reduction in strength and density making bones more easily fractured.



* Reduced elasticity

* Fat stored under skin decreases – making skin looser and developing wrinkles

* Can be damaged by excessive sunlight e.g. freckles, age spots, wrinkles, rough or leathery skin.



* 20% of people over 80 get dementia

* Causes damage to structure and chemistry of brain

* Has problems understanding what is happening around them, communicating, reasoning, finding their way around and remembering events

* 2 types – Alzheimer’s disease and that caused by vascular disease


Effects of Smoking

* Major cause of lung cancer

* Also causes cardio-vascular disease due to hardening and narrowing of arteries – high blood pressure, heart attacks, and lowered blood supply to extremities strokes.

* DNA can be damaged due to toxic substances

* Skin looks more aged


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