Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting older adults.  It often leads to several problems that they face in their day-to-day activities.  First, with hearing loss, seniors find it difficult to communicate with friends and family, have trouble in understanding a doctor’s advice, responding to warnings, and hearing doorbells and alarms.

The significant impact of hearing loss on communication and interaction with others often goes totally unnoticed by caregivers and healthcare providers. There are several kinds of hearing loss from mild to total hearing loss.  It can be hereditary or can be an effect of disease, trauma, medication, or long-term exposure to loud noises.

20% of the US elderly population has hearing difficulties that directly impact their interaction with others.

There is a direct link between age and hearing lossHearing loss in the elderly

  • 13.7% of adults between ages 45 and 64
  • 22.9% of adults between ages 65 and 74
  • 32% of adults aged 75+

26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 suffer from high frequency hearing loss because of exposure to loud noises at work or in leisure activities.

About 60% of deployed military service men and women have noise induced hearing loss (NIHL), tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and other hearing injuries.

High levels of cotinine(the chemical that indicates the exposure to tobacco smoke and second-hand smoke) has been directly linked to the higher risks of some types of hearing loss.

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As people grow older, they become more susceptible to various disability issues viz. a vision or a hearing loss, immobility due to arthritis, osteoporosis or paralysis. Several assistive devices like the wheelchairs, canes, crutches or walkers can help them defy their health problems to a large extent. It is estimated that by the year 2020 there will be more than 10.1 million disabled elderly in the US.  About 70% of the elderly prefer to stay at home for as long as they can. Once they have decided as to where they stay, the family members should become familiar with the appropriate services, products and devices that they would need to live comfortably.

assistive technologyThese devices are also called the rehabilitation equipment as they help the users in and around at home by enabling them with access to information, communication or other technical advancements viz. computers, phones, television etc.  that on one hand, promotes independent living, personal mobility and active lifestyle and on the other also aids in the safety and quality of life. Some of the useful technological gadgets to help them with their own daily-care, are as follows:

(A) Adaptive clothing – For some elderly who have recurring problems with arthritis or incontinence or who have Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, who are unable to dress themselves because of amputations and other post-operative conditions and for whom it is a time-consuming chore to dress themselves with difficult buttons or uncomfortable waistbands, they can adapt themselves to wearing clothes that are designed for convenience and comfort.

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The baby boomers (born between 1946 -1964), especially in the US tend to spend as much as four out of five dollars on luxury travel and are also the ones who make a big-ticket travel item purchased over the Internet as compared to that of any other millennial. They travel more than any other age group.Baby_Boomers_Traveling Everyone wishes for those golden years when they can gain the independence to pursue their dreams. Being in their late 40’s to early 60’s they have more time, money and above all inclination to travel. They are at such a stage in their lives where they can take as much time off as they want (because they are already successful), they have bigger incomes and are in a position to demand and expect better things.

In fact, the travel industry offers deals to them for whom there is an abundance of opportunities for convenient, affordable and educational travel. Mathew Upchurch, the chairman and CEO of Virtuoso says – “The Boomers were the first generation that did not see travel as a luxury. They saw it as a part of their lives and as their right”.

The seniors love to travel and collectively spend about $157 million on trips every year and hold travel as their top leisure activity. Their average of travel is about 3.7 trips a year. They are also the ones who spend more on dining out as compared to any other generation. According to the AARP (American Association for Retired Persons) survey, this age group cites travel higher in importance. Around 12,000 of its members prefer to drive than to fly and their travel destinations are invariably in and around the US and Canada.

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Sepsis, alternatively called the sepsis syndrome is a fatal whole-body inflammation usually caused by a severe infection. It can be fatal when the specific bacterial toxins found in the blood or tissues cause the infection. This condition is also referred to as systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS).  Sepsis occurs when the chemicals released due to infection go into the bloodstream and trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body. This inflammation can damage multiple organ systems, causing them to fail. Sepsis is also called bacteremia. It is a lethal medical condition that occurs in people of all ages, but is much more common and dangerous in the old and the weak.

Although the 65+ and older account for only one-eighth of the US population, they are almost two-thirds of all the sepsis cases. In the general population the chances of its occurrence is two people in 10,000. Sepsis symptoms in the elderlyEven though early treatment with antibiotics and intravenous fluids can help to improve the chances of survival, the number of deaths due to sepsis has doubled since the early 1980s. While we still do not exactly know how sepsis is becoming more prevalent, the answer seems to be the following reasons:

  • Increased instances of organ transplants that require suppression of the patient’s immune system.
  • Increase in the older and the elderly population.
  • Overuse of antibiotics to treat infectious illnesses that consequently results in the development of drug-resistant bacteria.

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Nearly 22 percent of the nation’s elderly reside in the rural and the suburban areas. They prefer to live far away from the crowds in the rural settings despite access to a fewer and a narrower range of health care and long-term care services. Health in old age is generally assessed on the basis of sensory impairments, oral health, obesity, smoking, air quality, prescription drugs, access to health insurance, access to health care services, and opportunities for access to disease prevention and health promotion. challenges of rural healthcare

Even though they are growing in numbers, older people living in the rural areas by almost all economic, health and social indicators are poorer and less healthier as compared to their non-rural counterparts. They have poorer housing, fewer options in personal and public transportation, and significantly more limited access to the health professionals and the community-based programs and services.

Life in many small towns is quite different from that of the big cities. It usually is full of friendly neighbors, fresh air, spectacular sunsets, close-knit communities and endless horizons. But at the same time people also have to deal with a lack of competent healthcare professionals and facilities that are easily accessible to the urban elderly. There are a fewer adult day-care centers and in-home health services, such as respite care or meals on wheels than in the urban and the suburban areas. The list of inequities between the rural and the urban elderly may be surprising for many who are unfamiliar with the real-life circumstances of the former. Many of these discrepancies contribute to their vulnerability to physical and mental health problems, as well as to a lack of access to services.

Programs such as The Eldercare Locator and The National Adult Day Care Services Association offer several ways to the caregivers to seek help for their elderly loved ones. People living in the rural areas are constantly marred with lower incomes higher unemployment rates making them more vulnerable to the physical and mental health problems, as well as to a lack of access to services. Some of the major problems that the rural elderly face are:

  • Access to care – In addition to a lack of mental health agencies and programs, the rural communities struggle to recruit and retain mental health professionals. As such many small rural hospitals have closed, while other healthcare facilities are in financial straits.  Around 40 percent of rural residents live in the areas with no public transportation system and about 57 percent of rural residents do not own a car and as a result the elderly are dependent on their family members, friends and neighbors for transportation that certainly become a barrier for access to care. Approximately around 15% of the US elderly have to face several barriers to access healthcare.
  • Scarcity of primary care physicians and healthcare providers – The number of healthcare providers and the hospitals and nursing homes are gradually on the verge of dissipating from the rural areas. Most of the staff is looking for options to join the managed-care organizations elsewhere. Medicare also pays lesser to the rural hospitals and the rural physicians.
  • Alcoholism and drug abuse – According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the American Geriatrics Society, risky drinking among those 65 years and older occurs when a person consumes more than seven drinks per week or more than three drinks on a single day. More often than not the elderly are not aware that the recommended limits are lower than for the younger adults. They are more sensitive to alcohol and are less able to metabolize it, both of which can contribute to adverse effects. With a scarcity of mental health professionals in the rural areas fewer than one in five rural hospitals have treatment services for these conditions.
  • Geographical isolation – Apart from the usual challenges of chronic diseases and functional decline, the rural elderly also have to face geographical isolation that leads to ecological threat, financial distress and economic downturn. All these can erode employment opportunities and the sense of community. People living away from the metropolitan areas are constantly marred with lower incomes, higher unemployment rates, higher poverty rates, less health insurance and more substandard housing.
  • Healthcare technology – Technologies such as telemedicine and other modern high-level medical machines offered to improve access to healthcare. Their most effective and efficient applications can be accessed only in the urban healthcare settings.
  • Rural residents tend to be poorer – On an average per capita income of the rural Americans is $7417.00 less than their urban counterparts. The disparity in incomes is even greater for minorities living in the rural areas.

Usually the people living in the rural areas are prone to several health risks because of their occupations like farming, fishing and acquisition of the natural resources like coal, lumber and natural gas. Other health risks associated with these occupations are –  farm-accidents that can cause loss of limb, black lungs etc. The behavioral factors also have an adverse effect on the rural residents especially the elderly. Most of the seniors indulge in alcohol and tobacco consumption, lead sedentary lifestyles and become prone to several health issues. They also have to deal with the environmental factors like the weather conditions, natural terrain, wild animals in addition to lack of adequate housing, clean water and healthy food that are beyond the individual’s choice.  All these are major health risk factors that can potentially contribute to chronic health conditions.

For many seniors aging healthy and gracefully can be too overwhelming because they have to adjust to a new role in the society, lose their independence and face social isolation. Besides this, the access to medical care and mental health services can be too daunting. If there is anything that the society can do is to start giving some emotional support and access to healthcare to the seniors.


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