THE NEED TO CARE ABOUT THE HEALTH OF OLDER ADULTS
Most African countries consider an older adult as one whose age is 60 years and above. The population of older adults in Africa is estimated to be 74.5million as of 2022 and is expected to increase as much as three times by 2051
Though most people see old age as changes in physical appearance, for example, wrinkles, decrease in muscle size, retardation in height and thinness of eyelids.
However, the most significant changes to be looked at should be in line with health, as old age comes with many health complications.
In Africa, approximately 70% of older adults die annually due mainly to health complications and improper management of these health complications.
HEALTH COMPLICATIONS ASSOCIATED WITH OLD AGE
Old age is associated with several health complications that affect the proper functioning of the body’s different systems. This includes:
- Reduced immunity: Immunity is the ability of the body to defend itself against infections. Older adults usually have reduced ability to overcome infections, mainly due to malnutrition, especially deficiency of immunity boosters like vitamins and reduced ability of the body to produce adequate white blood cells that defend the body against diseases. This makes older adults more susceptible to infections like malaria, cancers, tuberculosis, Typhoid etc.
- Mental health disorders: Old age is usually associated with the inability to retain information and inappropriate responses to environmental changes. Impairments could cause this in the coordination of the brain as one age.
- health complications such as hypertension, high blood pressure, and diabetes come with hyperglycemia. Bone-related complications include osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, cancers, respiratory complications such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, etc.
HOW BEST CAN WE IMPROVE THE HEALTH OF OLDER ADULTS
With the high number of deaths of older adults, Africa needs to find ways to ensure older adults can become free from health-related complications.
First and foremost, Africa should train health specialists handling mainly old age-related health complications. This will mean that doctors will have a better and a broader understanding of these problems.
Secondly, health facilities such as assigned wards or hospital departments for older adults can be set up for quick response to health emergencies. Older adults have weakened immunity and need an immediate answer, which usually doesn’t occur in general hospitals, mainly due to the high number of people seeking medical attention.
Thirdly, caretakers should ensure regular body checkups for older adults. This will ensure the discovery of any hidden health problems. When health complications are discovered early, immediate action avoids serious side effects.
In addition, older adults should be given a regular balanced diet. They should be given foods rich in vitamins, carbohydrates and proteins, which help boost their immune system and regain energy. Anti-ageing supplements should also be given to them, which will help their bodies function well.
Finally, love and comfort should be extended to the elderly. Stress usually arises from the feeling that they are about to die due to health conditions; hence, their caretakers should show love and comfort, which can help reduce the high-stress level and prevent the acceleration of stress-related illnesses like hypertension.
The health of older adults should be a concern of everyone, that is to say, individuals, government and charity organisations. We need them around us; their knowledge and experience can help the young generation to learn.