Are Older Adults really getting Sick All the Time? By: Michaela Lecklitner



By: Michaela Lecklitner

Many health related disorders have had a significant impact on older adults and the amount of times they need to see a doctor. It is estimated that by 2050 the number of older adults (65 years and over) is expected to be more then doubled (Carroll, Fakhouri, Flegal, Ogden,1) The potential of higher health care services are expected as well due to health related issues. Health related issues are what have made a significant challenge on older adults and over all being able to maintain a heathy lifestyle. While being young and fit is something everyone strives to be our society, we have seen that what we are doing for our bodies can be healthy one second and unhealthy next. For example, smoking a cigarette is one of the worst things that a person can do for their body, but only in the 60’s did people start to understand the effects of smoke on the lungs. Cardiovascular disease is one of the top causes of death in the United States. While smoking may not cause cardiovascular disease, it increases the chance of developing any heart and lung related issues. Other health related issues that have a significant amount of stress for older adults are diabetes and a rang of different cancers. The Stereotype has overall given a negative aspect to aging. No one wants to go to the doctor all the time for simple things especially older adults.

The effects of aging will normally give a person the effect that they are sometimes sick and will send most of them into the hospitals and local doctors offices. Depending on how the person has taken care of their body will depend on how sick the person may be. Although research has shown that even if a person has taken really good car of their body they still might see some of the negative effects on aging (Elias, Lowton 2014).

A study done to talk about whether older adults over the age of 80 years old seek more or less medical help then other age groups. They took 80-95 years of age adults that were primarily recruited based on friend suggestion, and even some relatives (Elias, Lowton 2014). The Older adults were asked a series of questions for about an hour. The questions were all related to their own personal health. Some of the questions were simple such as “name a time in the last few days or weeks that you haven’t felt like yourself” The person asking the questions was a doctor or someone in the medical felid. But, the doctors in this case had to pretend like they were just simple interviewers so that it wouldn’t  not scare the older adults into thinking they might be over reacting for reasons they might not have felt like themselves. After the interview the older adults were then asked to take home a symptom diary for two weeks and write down anytime that they felt physically, or psychologically not well (Elias, Lowton 2014). At the end of the two-week period only four participants were able to actually return full diaries. The other older adults forgot, lost or didn’t want to help finish the study. The results showed that of the total 15 people that participated they had wide range of feelings and emotions. But over all research showed that most of the issues that these people were experiencing were conceptualized as such of being an older adult and didn’t bring medical attention( Elias, Lowton 2014). Part of the reason that the older adults didn’t want to go to get medical attention was because of the negative attitudes towards the older adults and the reason that they went to get help in the first place. Overall, we see that older adults are not going to seek help any more from doctors then normal people. This study looks at the negative stereotype that older adults get from gong to the doctor and showed that most of the older adults who actually need medical attention are ignoring the signs imply because they don’t want to look un educated.

Another study done with 146 participants to look at the decisions with the doctors and the effect that has on older adults wanting to go to the doctor.  The participants were separated by the level they can make a choice for themselves. Low choice making skills means the doctor makes all the decisions. Medium choice making skills means they share ideas and asks questions with doctors High choice making skills means they make their own decisions. The results showed that 1/5 older adults want their doctor to make a medical decision for them.  A result that the researchers didn’t predict was that even though some of the older adults who fit under the low category were still very interested as to what was going on. One common theme that was observed from the study was that older adults don’t want to get medical help is because they lack knowledge, have low self efficacy and fear with any illness they may have.

Part of the problem with older adults going to the doctor so often is because some adults don’t take care of their bodies. It’s a normal behavior when someone is alone they may want to stress eat or eat because they are lonely.  A study done with 11619 older adults tested the food patterns in which they eat and the related behaviors that go with it. The participants completed several questionnaires regarding their own background with anxiety and depression, life satisfaction, and overall support from a partner or friends (Canhao, Espnes, Rodrigues, Gregorio, Nguyen, Gronning 2017). Part of this study also looked at married couples and single people. Overall the study was able to prove that satisfaction and mental health are associasted with food consumption (Canhao, Espnes, Rodrigues, Gregorio, Nguyen, Gronning 2017). The study showed that if the older adults showed depression symptoms then they were more likely to experience high amounts of an unhealthy diet (Canhao, Espnes, Rodrigues, Gregorio, Nguyen, Gronning 2017). This can lead to a person getting sick more often because they are not eating a healthy diet. However, the study also showed that if a person wasn’t experiencing any anxiety or depression then they were more likely to see a healthy food diet (Canhao, Espnes, Rodrigues, Gregorio, Nguyen, Gronning 2017). Overall the study has a significant impact on the health of the older adults. While eating healthy is extremely important at all stages of life, eating healthy and working out is still very important for older adults. Lastly, without taking care of the body the body will shut down and cause anyone to go to the doctor.

Another important factor in maintaining a healthy lifestyle is working out regularly. A study done to prove that long term structure physical activity program is more effective then a health education programs and is overall reducing the major mobility disability (Pahor Guralnik, Ambrosius 2014). The study had the participants try and complete 150 min of physical activity per week. They had to try and work on all parts of the body such as strength, flexibility and balance training. They also had two-three center based visits per week as well as three to four at home availability based programs throughout the 2.6 years. (Pahor, Guralnik, Ambrosius 2014).

Over the 2.6 years of follow ups the physical intervention compared with health education significantly reduced major mobility disability (Pahor, Guralnik, Ambrosius 2014). For the physical activity program, they had 42 participants experience major mobility disability and 32 participants of the health education group from the physical education program (Pahor, Guralnik, Ambrosius 2014). One of the limitations from this study is that they felt like they didn’t get a good representation of the community to represent all people. Overall the study showed that 63% of the participants overall attended scheduled sessions. During the trail 210 participants went on medical least once. This shows that the physical activity program is more effective.

The negative stereotype about people always being sick and having to get medical help has made older adults timid about going to the doctor and getting the help that they need. Although the aging process has an overall huge effect on the human body not all older adults go to the doctor every week. The research did show that by eating healthy and working out most older adults are able to age well. The only issue that has a negative impact on is the older adults who need medical help but don’t like the negative stereotype that come with it. However, what they don’t understand is that going to the doctor is a normal part of aging, and it’s important that older adults go to make sure that everything is alright. But just as important as someone who is in their 30’s to make sure everything is alright.


Andre, B., Canhao, H., Espnes, G., Ferreira Rodrigues, A., Joao Gregorio, M., Nguyen, C., . . . Gronning, K. (2017). Is there an association between food patterns and life satisfaction among Norway’s inhabitants ages 65 years and older? Science Direct , 110(1), 108-115. Retrieved February 3, 2017

Chiu, C., Feuz, M. A., McMahan, R. D., Miao, Y., & Sudore, R. (2016). Doctor, Make My Decisions”: Decision Control Preferences, Advance Care Planning, and Satisfaction With Communication Among Diverse Older Adults. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 51(1), 33-40. Retrieved February 3, 2017.

Elias, T., & Lowton, K. (2014). Do those over 80 years of age seek more or less medical help? A qualitative study of health and illness beliefs and behaviour of the oldest old. Sociology of Health & Illness, 36(7). Retrieved February 3, 2017.

Fakhouri, T. H., Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D., Kit, B. K., & Flegal, K. M. (2012). Prevalence of Obesity Among Older Adults in the United States, 2007–2010. NCHS Data Brief, 106. Retrieved February 4, 2017.

Pahor, M., Guralnik, J. M., & Ambrosius, W. (2014). Effect of Structured Physical Activity on     Prevention of Major Mobility Disability in Older Adults. Jama Network. Retrieved February 5, 2017.

Michaela Lecklitner


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