The Merriam Webster dictionary defines it as — Gradual change in an organism that leads to increased risk of weakness, disease, and death. It takes place in a cell, an organ, or the total organism over the entire adult life span of any living thing. There is a decline in biological functions and in ability to adapt to metabolic stress. Changes in organs include the replacement of functional cardiovascular cells with fibrous tissue. Overall effects of aging include reduced immunity, loss of muscle strength, decline in memory and other aspects of cognition, and loss of colour in the hair and elasticity in the skin.
Physiologically the body repair and rejuvenation reduces. The functional efficiency also decreases to a certain extent. This results in impaired sensory efficiency like diminished audibility, visibility perception of taste, smell. There is also decreased mobility and delayed reflexes. The digestive system also reduces in efficiency leading to decreased availability of nutrition.
Advanced aging comes with the need for constant care, which is quite a psychological trauma for the aging. Psychologically dementia and Alzheimer’s could set it too. Rapid changing society renders the senior citizen quite bewildered and isolated (This is a personal observation made on the sharing of my senior citizen patients.)
As age advances the ability to contribute to physical work force reduces making the senior citizens economically dependent at times.
Population Ageing is defined as a process which increases the proportion of old people within the total population, is one of the main problems of this century. It affects the developed and the developing countries, and figures on the agenda of meeting of all kinds including NATO that does not however mean action has been taken yet. In 40yrs the situation will be such that 1 in every 3 individual will be a pensioner and for every 3 individuals over 64yrs there will be one child below 15yrs.
There is a massive need to relook at the work force and pension schemes. One would also have re-assessed the health care. There are more social issues like senior citizen care their social needs and a right to live with dignity.
WHO has now come up with/ concepts for senior citizen friendly urban and rural planning. To address the issue of the senior citizens, the first world assembly on aging took place in 1982; a 62 point International Plan of Action on ageing was created. It deals with specific action on issues like health, nutrition, protecting senior consumers, housing, environment, family, social welfare, income security and employment.
In 2002, the second assembly on ageing held in Madrid aimed to design an international policy on ageing for the 21st century adopting a political declaration and The Madrid International Plan of Action On ageing. This calls for changes in attitudes, politics and practises at all levels to fulfil the enormous potential of ageing in the 21st century. Its specifics recommendation for action gives priority to older persons and development, advancing health and well-being into old age and ensuring and enabling supportive environments.
In 1991 the general assembly adopted the United Nations Principles For Older persons enumerating 18 entitlements for older people this relates to independence, participation, care, self fulfilment and dignity. The conference on ageing held in 1992 came up with an action plan, adopting a proclamation on ageing based on the conference recommendation. On the recommendation of the conference the UN General Assembly declared 1999 the International Year Of Older Persons.