Health and the Elderly: Essential Difference Between Chronological and Functional Aging

We have read a lot in the media about how important remaining active and exercising is to the issue of health and the elderly. The benefits of leisure activity and physical exercise to helping seniors function better has been well researched and documented in the literature.So why is it so important for seniors to stay active and to exercise? One important fact about the aging process to keep in mind is that it is not the same for every person. When we talk about the age of a person, we are usually referring to “chronological aging” which relates to how many years she has been on earth. However, another and often better way to look at the aging process when considering health and the elderly is to base it on the functioning of a person or “functional aging.”

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});
Forming an opinion of an elderly person’s capabilities based on chronological age can be misleading in relation to elder health and well being. For example, 85 years is the same for everyone who is that age but that does not mean that each person is functioning like an 85-yeaer old. There are a wide variety of factors such as chronic disease, depression, life experiences, and level of exposure to other people and activity that can make a huge difference in how a senior functions. There are many senior citizens who may be 85 years of age but who act like people 75 years of age. This is an important point because it suggests hope for elderly people in their ability to optimizing their own potential for “functioning younger.”We can use the analogy of a 1964 Ford Mustang to make this point clearer. We still see 1964 Ford Mustangs on the road fairly often but they all aren’t going to be in the same shape. Some have been well cared for and look and perform very well while others have not been cared for well and are functioning poorly (if at all). The point is that all 1964 Mustangs are 47 years old but not all are operating the same. This is the same in relation to elder health and well being.You might think that we’re finished with the Ford Mustang analogy but we aren’t. Cars can’t make decisions that can help with functional aging but people can. Seniors, with the help of others like you, can improve if not optimize their capabilities and actually lower their functioning age by making productive lifestyle decisions-like exercising and participating in leisure activities.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});
So the next time an elderly person tells you that she can’t take part in an activity because she’s “too old,” tell her about functional aging and that she’s “only as old as she feels” and not as old as her actual age suggests. YOU can make an important difference in the issue of health and the elderly by helping seniors optimize their functional age!