How age Changes Our Minds and Bodies
It’s common knowledge that if there is one aspect of your life will inevitably and irrevocably change your body, it is ageing. We are all aware of aged or ageing relatives and the way that they have been changed by their battles with time. We naturally think of older people being more vulnerable to illness and disease, as well as being generally more fragile than they were when they were young. And it may well even be true that we place too much of an emphasis on cliché when we think of the old.
For so many people the first image that pops into their head when they think of old people in the wrinkled, dour old man with politically incorrect views and an aversion to change. They’re bad with technology, slow on the uptake and completely unwilling to change. But of course this is just the sort of stereotype that pigeonholes our opinions. So what is the truth of the matter? Let’s have a look at some scientifically valid examples of the way ageing actually changes us.
With regards to the belief in the rather right-wing-leaning opinions of the old, it seems that this might actually be more bluster than reality. According to one survey of more than 46,000 Americans taken between 1972 and 2004, adults’ attitudes became more liberal regarding their thoughts on politics, economics, gender, religion and even race and sexuality issues as they got older. While the survey did not look at the patterns of individuals, so we can’t tell whether conservative people specifically became more liberal as they aged, it was clear from the analysis that as people aged they were more likely to have a more tolerant attitude.
It also seems that it’s not only what’s on the outside physically that changes within our bodies, it is also our cells. Specifically we know that stem cells age just in the same way that other cells do. Stem cells are often thought of as being able to combat ageing as they replenish old or damaged cells, but it seems that they also feel the effects of the wear and tear of ageing. Research published in 2007 argues that stem cells’ regenerative abilities declines as you get older.
Another study showed that as we age we seem to naturally need less sleep – or at least this is one way of looking at the analysis that was presented. A study looked at the sleeping patterns of more than 100 healthy adults and allowed them eight hours of being in bed. The oldest group, who were aged from 66 to 83 slept for around 20 minutes less than people in middle age, consisting of those who were 40 to 55. The middle agers, in turn, slept 23 minutes less than the youngest group who were aged 20 to 30.
Becoming distracted more easily also appears to be a problem for older adults than it is for their younger counterparts. It seems to be true that as we age we find it more difficult to tune out the things going on around us and focus on just one thing at a time.
But perhaps the most predictable and common sign of ageing is certainly backed up by medical knowledge. We know very well that looking at the skin can be a very quick and easy way to ascertain if someone is ageing. It seems that this is partially down to the outer layer of the skin – known as the epidermis – thinning as we get older. This combines with the fact that the skin becomes less supple as the years mount up.