Some of the issues with growing older.

Here are some of the issues with growing older.

The mental and physical burden of loneliness can have a big effect on a person especially for older adults. Usually defined as the perception of being isolated from significant others, whether friends or family, people feel lonely because of the gap between the kind of social relationships they would like to have and the ones they see themselves as having. Since nobody’s life is ever truly perfect, we all feel lonely from time to time, though the feeling is usually manageable and temporary.

Still, there are numerous studies showing the link between loneliness and the development of health problems, as well having a shorter lifespan. Along with depression and other psychological problems, chronic loneliness can also lead to sleep problems, hypertension, an impaired immune system, and the breakdown of the body’s endocrine system.

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The problems associated with loneliness often grow worse with time due to the natural health problems that come with age. As a result, loneliness is frequently a chronic problem in older adults due to increasing health problems which can make it harder for them to stay socially active. Age-related medical issues can also lead to greater psychological distress, including depression, and this can lead to people feeling even lonelier. Medical problems such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease, or cancer, can make many older adults feel more disabled and helpless.

Growing older can also lead to a reduction in social support networks, whether through the death or illness of friends and family members, or through major life changes such as divorce or retirement. Losing this kind of emotional support can have a devastating impact on the ability of older adults to cope with stress. In many life-span developmental theories, old age is often the time when older adults are especially vulnerable to loneliness which, along with the strain of coping with chronic illness, could cause them to sink into a downward spiral of depression and despair from which they may never recover.

Along with the challenges that come with age however, there are also effective coping strategies that can help protect older adults and keep them from sinking into this downward spiral. According to the motivational theory of lifespan development proposed by Jutta Heckhausen and her colleagues, people can cope with stress life changes by engaging in either goal engagement strategies or self-protective strategies to build up a sense of control over their lives.

Goal-engagement involves expending time and energy to accomplish specific goals, whether through learning new skills or learning to compensate for health problems that may keep them from familiar activities. Using goal-engagement strategies also means finding the motivation to overcome obstacles instead of sinking into apathy or feeling helpless.

This in turn leads into the need for self-protective strategies to cope with the stress that can come with life changes. By recognizing the difference between attainable and unattainable goals, older adults can mentally prepare themselves to handle emotional distress, whether by reassuring themselves about their ability to accomplish realistic goals or by “disengaging” themselves from goals which are no longer attainable. As people grow older, accepting physical limitations and learning to compensate for them can be an important part of living well, even with chronic illness.

As one example, older adults who develop serious heart problems may become afraid of engaging in any sort of physical exertion, including sex, for fear that what might happen. Learning to accept these limitations and finding ways to work around them, whether by starting new hobbies that are less physically exhausting or finding new ways to do enjoyable activities can be an important part of staying active. Along with learning to attain health-related goals, it is also essential to overcome the low self-esteem and feelings of depression that can lead to becoming more isolated.

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