Coping with the problems of ageing

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 February, 2012, 12:00am


Defining 'old'

The saying goes, you are only as old as you feel. So someone who is 70 might think they are quite young, but someone who is only 60 might feel as if they are old. But in most countries, people are deemed old when they reach retirement age. This is usually between the ages of 60 to 70.

When most people retire, they rarely receive any extra income so they have to live off their savings and pensions.

In Asia, adult children usually pay their parents' bills. In Western countries, some governments provide pensions for the elderly, funded by public money collected through tax systems.

Elderly welfare in Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, people aged 65 or above can apply for a senior citizen's card. This card gives users discounted services, including public transport and medical services.

Retired Hongkongers receive HK$1,090 every month from the government. If their assets and income fall below what the government has defined as the minimum, they can also apply for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance. A single person will receive HK$2,820 a month.

But elderly people need more than just financial support. As people age, their bodies also start to fail. They are more vulnerable to certain diseases, which affect their motor skills and their memories. Older people need time, attention and love from their families. As they become older and their friends pass on, they need to have company to stop them from feeling sad and lonely. They might also need help to cope with old age and the problems it brings.

Why old people need special care

In order to understand their needs, it helps to become familiar with the so-called 'elderly diseases' and learn how they impact on their lives.


Dementia is a disease of the brain. It affects memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behaviour. It causes people to act strangely. They might become forgetful, or lose their way. They might think they are still young, or fighting in a war. It can be very scary for them, and for those around them. It can also be dangerous because sometimes they might decide to cook and then forget what they are doing and cause a fire. They need constant care, which is difficult if their children are working.

Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. It can also affect young people. In its early stages, sufferers find it difficult to do things they used to find easy. They may lose their way, lose things and often forget the names of common objects or how to speak clearly. Sometimes, sufferers' personalities change drastically.

As the disease worsens, the sufferer will forget who their family members are. They will lose all ability to take care of themselves and need 24-hour care.

Parkinson's disease

Parkinson's disease tends to affect those over 50. It causes their limbs to shake constantly, which makes it difficult to walk or to even feed themselves.

Luckily this can be helped by medicine. But the medicine can make patients feel sick, and it is important for them to remember to take the the correct dosage of the tablets.


Osteoporosis is a bone disease caused by a lack of calcium. This is why it is important to get enough calcium and exercise when you are young. As people get older - especially women - their bones become weaker. Eventually the bones break.

The situation can be made worse when people have bad eyesight because they could fall more easily. Having dementia or Parkinson's can also make it worse for the same reasons.


Although arthritis does not only affect elderly people, it is more common among those over 60.Arthritis affects the joints like knees, hips and elbows. The most common type of arthritis that comes with age is called osteoarthritis. As people grow old, the wear and tear on their joints takes its toll. The cartilage - the firm, rubbery tissue that cushions bones at the joints - breaks down and the bones rub together. This causes pain, swelling, and stiffness, particularly after exercise. Sometimes, the pain makes it too difficult to walk and move. And at its worst, intense pain will keep sufferers from being able to sleep.

Arthritis can make it difficult for a person to grip things such as taps, bottles and chopsticks. Many old-age homes have special taps that can be opened or closed using just the elbow.


Type 2 diabetes is a common disease among the elderly. It happens when the body is no longer able to process sugar properly. If sugar remains in the blood, it can cause many problems. A constant high blood sugar level can cause a stroke or heart attack.

Diabetes patients may find their wounds take longer to heal and get infected more easily. Their feet may be affected and they might have to have them cut off. The disease does not pose an immediate threat. But, in the long term, sufferers may go blind or suffer failed kidneys. Diabetes affects older people more because it is harder for them to look after themselves.

Other problems

At a certain age your body is unable to repair itself as well as it could. Over time, senses like eyesight and hearing begin to fail. Muscles begin to lose strength.

Another common problem is incontinence, meaning they cannot control their bladders or bowels.

But not all problems are physical. Loss of friends, loss of purpose, loss of mobility can all add up to elderly people feeling depressed. This needs to be treated through medication and possibly counselling.

With careful planning and good care, elderly people can live a long time and still enjoy their retirement. Having a loving family certainly helps. Hug a granny today!