PSY317: Cognitive Functioning in the Elderly
June 25th, 2012
Cognitive Functioning In Older Adults
Not only is the country’s population growing, it is aging as well. Older adults are the fastest growing population on the charts right now. There is no point and time when a person overnight just becomes “old.” Obviously everyone knows we simply just age; it comes with getting older. This thing called “aging” happens to everyone at a different rate. As we age we all tend to slow down but that doesn’t mean our ability to function is fully compromised. Everyone is their own person and with that comes a different rate and way of aging. With the psychology of aging, there are certain things that can affect how we age. Intrinsic factors like heredity and extrinsic factors like disease, lifestyle, and environment can all contribute to ones aging process. When these factors start to affect us we all tend to slow down but that doesn’t mean our ability to function is fully compromised. One can still possibly function in the same way, just at a slower pace. In the absence of disease, many limiting effects of the normal aging process aren’t often felt till the age of 75. Even then, an older adult can adapt his/her normal routine to accommodate these physical-biological and social-emotional changes. As the saying goes, “Your only as old as your remember.” One question that has plagued scientist throughout history is “why do we age?” This has been a question that the answer has eluded numerous scientists. What we do know is that that aging is a process of one growing older and enduring physical and mental changes along the way. While looking for this exact answer, aging theories have been made along the way; some with more significance than the others. It’s important not to dismiss those theories because they are all important. It’s important to understand this question because so many things require the answer to “why do we age?” There is one group of theories; biological theories that look to explain what underlying biological mechanisms could be involved and how they are involved in the process of aging and dying. According to Edward Schneider (1992) “What we observe as biologic aging is the sum total of many independent causes, some operating at the level of individual molecules, others at the level of individual cells, and still others at the level of tissues, organs, and whole organisms.” Looking at random damage theories, Belsky (1999) states that it “points to accumulating faults in cells’ ability to produce proteins as the cause of aging and death. (p. 67.) So after a lifetime of cellular damaging incidents they begin to collect. After the body accumulates so many it becomes overwhelming for the body that then leads to a cellular decline. Once that decline happens in the end it leads to death. Programmed aging theories on the other hand; look at aging and death on some sort of biological clock. It’s all programmed into our system somewhere and somehow how to age and when to die. Those backing the theory suggest that our body has a plan and a clock and that our time is limited because we have a set life span. Some scientists look to the hypothalamus as a programmed aging clock. The hypothalamus is responsible for several functions; hormones, reproduction, sexual growth and development and physical growth to name a few. The hypothalamus is also responsible for sending women into menopause; this is done by the hormones. The hypothalamus decides when to decrease the production of certain ovarian hormones and then in return triggers the female farewell to conceiving and dealing with other monthly issues. It’s like the hypothalamus knows when to do this for each woman so therefore it must be on some type of a clock or system. As we all know, our immune system was made to fight against any foreign disease or intruder within our bodies. It’s...