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International Day of Older Persons: Living old age with dignity

By 2050, the number of elderly people will be 2 billion worldwide. Here are some facts about the diseases that effect the elderly, and precautions we should take in order to prevent them.

Written by Editorial Team |Updated : February 22, 2014 10:19 PM IST

Senior Indian ManOctober 1 is International Day of Older Persons.

A demographic revolution is underway throughout the world. Today, world-wide, there are around 600 million persons aged 60 years and over; this total will double by 2025 and will reach virtually two billion by 2050 - the vast majority of them in the developing world. Therefore, it makes it increasingly important for us to care for our elderly.

Contributions made by the elderly in today's times

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Even now, older persons make major contributions to society. For instance, throughout Africa and elsewhere - millions of adult AIDS patients are cared for at home by their parents. On their death, orphaned children left behind (currently, 14 million under the age of 15 in African countries alone) are mainly looked after by their grandparents.

Growth in number of elderly peopleIn Spain for example, caring for dependent and sick individuals (of all ages) is mostly done by older people (particularly older women); the average number of minutes per day spent in providing such care increases exponentially with the carers' age: 201 minutes if the carer is in the age group 65-74 and 318 minutes if aged 75-84 - compared to only 50 minutes if the carer is in the age group 30-49 (Dur n H, Fundaci n BBVA, 2002).

Fighting the stigma of old age

Unfortunately, the ones who have laid the foundation for the society we live in - face stigma in the form of abuse, neglect, insufficient care, etc. mostly due to financial reasons. Sensitizing our youth to their problems, developing a society that is considerate for them and promoting healthy living among our youth so that they don't face problems during their old age are some of the things that can be done.

Healthy ageing

You may be abusing your body in your youth eating junk food, not getting any exercise, working round the clock, partying hard and still are able to carry on with your life pretty normally. However, what you need to know is that internally, you are getting affected by every choice you make. So, whether you want to lead a happy, productive life in your old age or want to be pushed around in a wheelchair and get dependent on others the option is yours!

Old-age health concerns

Old-age is associated with many diseases and health problems like dementia, cancer, etc. Here are some of them:

Alzheimer's: Alzheimer's disease is a degenerative mental disease and the most common form of dementia. It results in loss of cognitive function beyond normal ageing and is usually seen in people who are older than 65. Symptoms include confusion, mood swings, long-term memory loss and a gradual loss of bodily functions.

Parkinson's: Parkinson's disease is an illness, which affects the brain, in which certain nerve cells, which play an important role in motor functions of the body, are lost or die. The loss of nerve cells takes place slowly over time and gradually spreads to several areas of the brain, as a result, new symptoms gradually develop over time and the initial symptoms become more difficult to control.

Cardiovascular diseases: Heart and blood vessel disease is called cardiovascular disease or heart disease. It includes various problems that are directly related to a process called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a condition where there is a build up of plaque within the arteries leading to a block which reduces the size of the artery, this in turn reduces the amount of blood that flows through it. If the artery is completely blocked, it stops blood flow to the organ or muscle completely leading to the death of that part. In relation to the heart, atherosclerosis can lead to a heart attack.

Arthritis: Arthritis is a joint disorder that causes the inflammation of one or more joints. The pain is caused due to the inflammation around the joints. Some of the types of arthritis include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, etc. Osteoarthritis is the most common form caused due to overuse or injury and can affect all joints. The other forms can either be genetic, caused due to skin conditions (psoriatic), immune disorder (rheumatoid) or by deposition of uric acid (gout). Almost 50 million people around the world are affected by one form or another.

Cancer: Cancer is a group of over one hundred diseases characterized by abnormal, uncontrolled cell growth. In a healthy body cells grow, die and are replaced in a very controlled way. Damage or change in the genetic material of cells by environmental or internal factors result in cells that don't die and continue to multiply until a massive cancer or a tumour develops. Most cancer related deaths are due to metastasis, malignant cells that penetrate into the circulatory system and establish colonies in other parts of the body. Great advancements have been made but cancer is still leading cause of death for people under 85.

Old-age and sexual health

Old-age and eye related problems

Old-age and diabetes

Old-age and stomach related problems

Old-age and orthopaedic problems

Old-age and kidney problems

Old-age and hearing loss

Old-age and headache

Old-age and Anaemia

So, let us make a pledge to care for the elderly people in today's times and also, to lead a healthy life that ensures us an independent, active and fun experience when we ourselves grow old!

With inputs from WHO

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