How much do you know about aging? (part 2)

elderly couple smiling together

Aging – it can be something many people dread. But another way to look at it: If we’re lucky, we will grow old! Many are denied the opportunity.
If you’ve followed Senior Resources for any length of time, you know that we’re all about helping people age with dignity and independence, in the home setting of their choice. We thought it would be helpful to share some information from a “Facts on Aging Quiz” developed in 2015 (Breytspraak, L. & Badura, L. (2015). Facts on Aging Quiz (revised; baserd on Palmore (1977; 1981)). Retrieved from
We’ll share a few questions and answers here and then add some more in future posts (part 1 appeared in late December):

  • Clinical depression occurs more frequently in older than younger people.
    False. There is no evidence that depression occurs more often in older adults than younger groups, and it should not be considered a normal part of aging. However, it is the most common mental health problem of older adults. Depression may vary from feeling “blue” from grief over a loss to a diagnosis of clinical depression by the DSM-­‐5 criteria. Accurate diagnosis and treatment options are often hindered by the resistance to mental health intervention and by situational depression in older adults as they react to isolation, role change, illness, and medication effects.


  • Older adults are at risk for HIV/AIDS.
    True. Americans aged 50 and older have many of the same HIV risk factors as younger Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, persons aged 55 and older accounted for 26% of the estimated 1.2 million people living with HIV infection in the U.S. in 2011, and 5% of new HIV infections were among Americans aged 55 and older in 2010.


  • Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are significantly greater problems in the adult population over age 65 than that under age 65.
    False. There doesn’t appear to be substantial support for this idea. However, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted in 2010, nearly 40% of adults age 65 and older drink alcohol. According to the survey, most of them don’t have a drinking problem, but some of them drink too much. Men are more likely than women to have problems with alcohol. Research does support that older people might become more sensitive to alcohol as they age. As we grow older, our metabolism slows down so an older person will break down alcohol more slowly than a young person and alcohol will stay in an older person’s body longer. Additionally, as we age, the amount of water in the blood decreases so older adults will have a higher percentage of alcohol in their blood than younger people after drinking the same amount of alcohol. Furthermore, aging lowers the body’s tolerance for alcohol which means that older adults might experience the effects of alcohol, such as lack of coordination and slurred speech, more readily than when they were younger. As older people are dealing with more chronic health conditions, oftentimes they are taking more medications. Drinking alcohol can cause certain medicines to not work properly and other medicines to become more dangerous or even deadly. Due to these issues, an older person is more susceptible to develop problems with alcohol even though his or her drinking habits have not changed.


  • Older adults have more trouble sleeping than younger adults do.
    True. Older adults often experience sleep changes such as taking longer to fall asleep, frequent awakenings, daytime napping, circadian rhythm changes, lighter sleep (less time in deep sleep and REM sleep), more abnormal breathing events, and increased frequency of leg movements. The overall quality of sleep may decline with age even though more time may be spent in bed. Among the factors that may contribute to sleep problems in older adults are comorbidities, CNS disorders, GI disorders, or urinary disorders; pain; depression; polypharmacy; lack of exercise; life stressors; alcohol; smoking; environmental noises and institutional routines; and poor sleep hygiene.


  • Older adults have the highest suicide rate of any age group
    False. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reported that in 2013 the highest suicide rate was among persons 45-­‐64 years old (19.1/100,000). The second highest rate (18.6) occurred in those 85 years and older. The 65-­‐84 age group had roughly the same rate as 25-­‐44 year olds with the third highest rate. Adolescents and young adults aged 15-­‐ 24 had a rate of 10.9. This is a change from the past when older adults (65+) consistently had the highest rates. Males account for the majority of suicides in all age groups.


  • High blood pressure increases with age.
    True and False. There is evidence that blood pressure does increase with age. However, there is controversy over the criteria for establishing high blood pressure with increasing age. The systolic (higher number) measure is the pressure when the heart is stressed as it contracts and is recorded when the pressure cuff is first released after being tightened. The diastolic (lower number) is the blood pressure when the heart is at rest and is derived when the blood pressure returns to normal after the first rush of blood upon release of the cuff. In the general population, age 60 and older, the Eighth Report of the Joint National Commission on Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Pressure recommends drug therapy if the systolic pressure is 90mm Hg or higher, and aims for a systolic goal of less than 150 mm Hg (150/90). The report recommends relaxing the blood pressure goals in elderly patients in order to reduce concerns related to over-­‐treating hypertension and causing adverse events in this population that is specifically at a high risk for falls. However, there continues to be discussion related to a cutoff of 60 years versus 80 years of age for these revised recommendations.


  • Older people perspire less, so they are more likely to suffer from hyperthermia.
    True. Perspiration and quenching of thirst help to combat overheating. Older adults perspire less, are less aware of thirst and less able to feel or adapt to extremes in temperature than younger persons. Less sensitive skin sensors and less insulation of fatty deposits under the skin and the less efficient functioning of the hypothalamus (the temperature regulating mechanism in the brain) occur in older adults. Prolonged time for older adults to return to core temperature after exposure to extreme heat or cold begins at age 70 years and increases thereafter. Education and taking precautions may prevent most deaths related to temperature extremes. Increased fluid intake, gradual accommodation to climate change, rest, minimizing exertion during heat, use of fans and/or air conditioning, wearing hats and loose clothing and avoidance of alcohol are some strategies for hyperthermia.

    How did you do? Did you learn anything new? We’d love to hear feedback – feel free to email [email protected] with any questions or comments. And if you’d like to learn more about dementia and what is and is not a normal part of aging, you may be interested in joining one of our Dementia Friends sessions, or scheduling one for a group!

  • Memory loss is a normal part of aging.
    True. As one ages there is modest memory loss, primarily short-­‐term memory (recent events). Older adults are more likely to retain past or new information that is based on knowledge acquired or builds upon their life course or events. Retrieval of information may slow with age. The causes of these changes are unknown, but may include stress, loss, physical disease, medication effects, depression, and age-­‐related brain changes. Lack of attention, fatigue, hearing loss, and misunderstanding are among factors impacting memory loss in persons of all ages. Strategies such as activity and exercise, association, visualization, environmental cueing, organization by category and connection to a place may help to prompt memory.


  • As adults grow older, reaction time increases.
    True. Reaction time is the interval that elapses between the onset of a stimulus and the completion of a motor response, such as hitting the brake pedal of a car when the traffic light turns yellow or red. When processing ordinary stimuli, adults do show large increases in response time with increasing age.

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