The aging process begins the moment we are born. As we grow older, wear and tear take their toll. With age, there is a gradual loss of lean muscle tissue and bone mass. If there is too much bone loss, the bones become brittle and are more likely to break. The hunched back that sometimes afflicts the elderly is not due to poor posture, but is the result of tiny fractures in the brittle vertebrae of the spine.
However, not all health problems of the elderly are caused by old age. Upon visiting her doctor for a pain in her shoulder, one great-grandmother was told: "Well, you know, that shoulder is 83." She snapped back: "So is the other one, but it doesn't hurt a bit." Furthe examination revealed a severe sprain.
Much of the aging process can be slowed by proper nutrition and physical activity. Men and women over 65 who took up a regime of exercise and weight lifting actually increased their muscle and bone mass.
Many older people are more sensitive to the effects of medication than when they were younger. With age, the liver, which is responsible for breaking down the compounds in food and drugs, works more slowly. So do the kidneys, whose job it is to clear waste out of the body. Thus symptoms such as dizziness and memory loss, which are often associated with old age, may be the result of an adverse reaction to certain foods or even to prescription drugs. Some drugs, such as the tranquilizer Valium and the arthritis painkiller Feldene, have caused a number of harmful side effects among the elderly.