A research brief

Therefore, it important to emphasize

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Therefore, it important to emphasize

individual differences, and to relate
the physical factors of old age with the
social, interpersonal, and psychological
Timiras’ (2007)
Physiological Basis of Aging and Geriatrics sets forth that, “One cannot adequately treat disease without considering the psychologic, economic, and social situation of each individual. This global, ‘holistic view’ of the individual should apply to all ages, of course, but it becomes crucial for the elderly, for whom loneliness, social instability, and often, financial hardship have enormous impacts on health and wellbeing” (Timiras 2007, 33).
Whitbourne’s (2002)
The Aging Individual:
Physical and Psychological Perspectives describes overall life-span themes and issues: “Although elders who share the same ethnic or cultural background may share certain life experiences, their reactions to these experiences are likely to reflect their own unique psychological and physical capacity to cope with the events in their lives” (Whitbourne 2002, 2).
Morgan and Kunkel (2001) illustrate this individual rate of physical aging in their book
Aging: The
Social Context (Morgan and Kunkel 2001, 5). Figure
1 shows how everyone experiences some physical decline as they get older, but not everyone changes at the same rate.
Figure 1. Optimal, usual, and pathological trajectories of old age.

Source: Morgan and Kunkel 2001, 5, used with permission.

page 5
Physiology of Aging
Table 1 below describes physical changes that come with aging, potential implications for policy, planning or design, and related references (see more in Table 5).
Table 1. Physiology of aging and policy or planning implications.
Health Resource
Example of Healthy Planning
Social and Physical Influences on Health
Access to barrier-free environments, quality transit, and safe roads and sidewalks
Universal design policies and planning, alternative transport options
Minimizes effects of decreases in bodily functions: hearing, vision, movement, strength, reaction time, organ function, etc.
Potentially reduces some of the increase in disability and hospitalization.
Access to healthcare, environmental quality (noise, air, soil, water)
Geographic healthcare accessibility, but also noise control, air pollution control
Respond to and potentially reduce some of the increase in chronic conditions: High-blood pressure, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, lung diseases
Access to affordable, stable, and appropriate housing
Universal design, housing options
(multigenerational, assisted living), near transport options
Helps respond to and potentially reduce housing instability and hospitalization, which tends to increase with age (especially 85+ years)

1. CDC 2013, ii; Federal Interagency (Forum) 2012, 27; Morgan and Kunkel 2001, 4; NIH et al. 2007, 3, 10; Taylor and Johnson 2007, xx; WHO 2010, 1, 8;
Research Briefs on geographic healthcare accessibility, noise, and air pollution.
Psychology of Aging

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