How much do you know about aging? (part 3)

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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 (Parts 1 and 2 were in December and January):

  • All women develop osteoporosis as they age.
    False. Osteoporosis (“porous bone”) is associated with increasing age and is more common in women (especially White and Asian women) than men, but it is not an inevitable outcome. Gradual loss of bony tissue causes brittle bones to fracture more easily in both men and women as they age. Deficiency in bone mineral density occurs in 50% of women over 50 years to 57% of women 70 years or older, but decreases to 45% for those over 80 years. Women rarely develop osteoporosis until age 70 years. Bone mineral density (BMD) is typically measured through a DXA (dual-­‐energy x-­‐ray absorptiometry) test. Results are compared to the peak bone mineral density of a healthy 30-­‐year old adult. Low bone mass that is not low enough to be diagnosed as osteoporosis is referred to as osteopenia.

    Prevention of osteoporosis begins with adequate calcium intake in one’s teens and thereafter with increased attention to getting adequate amounts after menopause. Adequate vitamin D (from sunlight, foods, or supplements) is essential to absorbing calcium. Weight bearing exercise, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), decreased alcohol, protein, salt and caffeine consumption, and smoking cessation can also minimize bone loss. HRT may offer some protection against heart disease, cognitive impairment and bone loss, but also may present risks for cervical cancer.


  • A person’s height tends to decline in old age.
    Due to osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and a lifetime of wear and tear, upper vertebrae are weakened; joint spaces and buffering tissues wear, and muscles atrophy. These changes foster decreased padding between vertebral discs, which accounts for a loss of height.

    Starting at about age 40, people typically lose about .4 inch each decade and height loss may be even more rapid after age 70. The tendency to become shorter occurs among all races and in both sexes. You can help minimize loss of height by following a healthy diet, staying physically active, and preventing and treating bone loss (osteoporosis). Getting
    enough calcium and vitamin D is also important to keeping bones strong. Exercises that strengthen back muscles and the body’s core may be particularly beneficial. Some research has suggested that yoga may be helpful in preventing spine curvature that contributes to height loss.


  • Physical strength declines in old age.
    True. Muscle mass declines, cartilage erodes, membranes fibrose (harden), and fluid thickens. These contribute to stiffness, gait problems, lessened mobility, and limited range of motion. Sarcopenia, the age-­‐related loss of muscle mass, strength and function, starts to set in around age 45, when muscle mass begins to decline at a rate of about 1 percent a year. This gradual loss has been tied to protein deficiency, lack of exercise, and increased frailty among the elderly. Research shows that weight bearing exercise, aerobics, and weight resistance can restore muscle strength, increase stamina, stabilize balance and minimize falls.


  • Most old people lose interest in and capacity for sexual relations.
    False. Sexuality, which Waite et al. (2009) define as “the dynamic outcome of physical capacity, motivation, attitudes, opportunity for partnership, and sexual conduct,” exists throughout life in one form or another in everyone. It includes the physical act of intercourse as well as many other types of intimacy such as touch, hugging, and holding. Sexuality is related to overall health with those whose health is rated as excellent or good being nearly twice as likely to be sexually active as those whose health is rated as poorer. The particular form it takes varies with age and gender. In general, men are more likely than women to have a partner, more likely to be sexually active with that partner, and tend to have more positive and permissive attitudes toward sex. While the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project showed that there was a significant decline in the percentage of men and women who reported having any sex in the preceding year (comparing 57-­‐64, 65-­‐ 74, and 75-­‐84 years), some of this decline relates to loss of partners. Those who remained sexually active with a partner maintained remarkably constant rates of sexual activity through 65-­‐74 and fell only modestly at the oldest ages. Normal aging physical changes in both men and women sometimes affect the ability of an older adult to have and enjoy sex. A woman’s vagina may shorten and narrow and her vaginal walls become thinner and stiffer which leads to less vaginal lubrication and effects on sexual function and/or pleasure. As men age, impotence (also known as erectile dysfunction – ED) becomes more common. ED may cause a man to take longer to have an erection and it may not be as firm or large as it used to be. Additionally, the loss of erection after orgasm may happen more quickly or it may take longer before an erection is possible. Medications taken for chronic conditions such as arthritis, chronic pain, dementia, diabetes, heart disease, incontinence, stroke and depression might cause sexual problems leading to ED in men and vaginal dryness and difficulty with arousal or orgasm in women. Patient education and counseling and ability to clinically identify sexual problems can help resolve some of these issues.


  • Bladder capacity decreases with age, which leads to frequent urination.
    True. Symptoms in the lower urinary tract are more prevalent among the older adults, and clinical studies have demonstrated advancing age to be associated with a reduced bladder capacity. The elastic tissue becomes tough and the bladder becomes less stretchy resulting in the bladder not holding as much urine as before. Blockage of the urethra can occur which in women is due to weakened muscles that cause the bladder or vagina to fall out of position (prolapsed). In men, the urethra can become blocked by an enlarged prostate.

    Aging increases the risk of kidney and bladder problems and can lead to bladder control issues such as urinary incontinence or leakage, or urinary retention which means you are not able to completely empty your bladder. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are also common as we age as well as an increased chance for chronic kidney disease.

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