According to the Mayo Clinic, there are multiple stages of the aging process and, unfortunately, the signs become more and more noticeable as the years’ progress. Aside from the obvious physical signs of aging, there are also many changes on a psychological and standard of life level as well. (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/healthy-aging/in-depth/aging/art-20046070).
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None of us know exactly how long we have on this planet and the ones who get to live a long lifespan are the ones that get to fully experience the stages of aging. This is not a bad thing, far from it, in fact, living and loving your life is important. The longer we are here the more we can learn so aging is just a part of our ongoing journey of discovery.
Currently, we have the geriatric position that aging is not about birthdays, but is a developmental and maintenance process, and that successful aging is associated with all aspects of well-being and a high level of life satisfaction.
Gene Cohen has a great book, The Mature Mind. Cohen begins by debunking the prevailing stubborn myth that aging is negative, an illness, stagnation, a falling apart, and is dominated by the inevitable decline of body and mind.
We’ve also learned that older brains can process information in a dramatically different way than younger brains. Older people can use both sides of their brains for tasks that younger people use only one side to accomplish. A great deal of scientific work has also confirmed the old “use it or lose it” adage.
5 Stages Of The Aging Process
Let’s look at the aging process in 5 stages to break it down more.
Stage 1 – Independence
The first stage of aging is Independence. This is the stage of life between when we become responsible for our own lives up until on average our 60s-70s. Ages can obviously vary, as some people stay very independent into their 80s while others may lose independence earlier due to illness or injury.
During this phase of independence, we are able to take care of all of our own needs and are fully capable of looking after ourselves. It is the phase of our lives in which all normal tasks are routine and easy for us to accomplish. Our mobility is solid, we may not be in totally perfect health, but we still have control over it.
Stage 2 – Interdependence
The next stage of aging is interdependence, this is a point in which people start to need assistance with certain things.
According to Live in Place Designs, this is the point in life where new physical or cognitive challenges arise. We may no longer be able to balance on a ladder or to clean a gutter or perhaps failing eyesight may impair our ability to drive. (https://liveinplacedesigns.com/aging-in-place-lifestyle/the-5-stages-of-aging-at-home/#:~:text=However, experts generally break down aging in older, Dependency 4 Crisis management 5 End of life).
It is during the interdependent stage that people may need help to achieve certain functions of daily life. This does not mean they have lost their independence merely that they need extra assistance. This may come from younger family members or part-time in-home help.
Stage 3 – Dependency
As more and more health issues occur such as failing memory or serious physical limitations people head toward the dependence stage of aging. Our bodies deteriorate as we age meaning we can no longer do the things we once could.
When we reach this stage, we may need more extensive help to function and to help protect ourselves from harm. This is a stage of life when falling becomes a serious health risk and hits most seniors in their late 70s. Dependency, of course, can begin sooner depending on potential health factors of advanced cognitive deterioration.
Stage 4 – Crisis Management
This is a stage of aging that many people reach in their late 70s and is characterized by a need for extra vigilance in protecting one’s health. It is a phase of life in which a simple fall or illness can quickly escalate and become life-threatening.
As we age our bodies weaken and no longer recover as well as they once did. Those in the crisis management phase often need to be close to medical assistance or regular health care options. This can often mean round-the-clock care from an in-home assistant or possibly placement in a senior care facility.
Stage 5 – End of Life
End of life is a stage that can come at any point during a person’s life but when associated with older individuals it is brought about by age. As our bodies shut down increasing medical issues arise until such a time as our bodies finally give out. This can happen in many ways but hopefully, it comes after a long and happy life.
May all of us who are older be thoughtful as we journey through our stages and create our own successful aging.