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Aging, Frailty and Altered Sensory Perception


Aging can be regarded as a complex combination of processes affecting both the physical state and psychological condition of people. Many age-related changes can be observed in individuals who are classified as older adults, i.e. are 65 years old or older. These changes inevitably affect the lifestyles of older adults and may prompt them to change their behaviors or adapt to different schedules, everyday practices, and other aspects of their lives. Two particular widespread changes that affect the way older adults live and feel are frailty and altered sensory perception.

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Frailty can be defined as “a consequence of the age-related decline in multiple physiological systems, which collectively results in a vulnerability to sudden health status changes triggered by relatively minor stressor events” (Clegg, Young, Iliffe, Rikkert, & Rockwood, 2013, p. 752). Frailty is a concept in health care that promotes the recognition that older adults are in need of additional and more considerate health care services to address the growing number of risks occurring in this population. However, this is not only a theoretical concept but also a state that is displayed in several conditions and experiences described by a patient in his or her complaints; these conditions and experiences may include fatigue and weakness.

Therefore, frailty is connected to both physiological and psychological manifestations. To help frail patients, health care providers should encourage them to lead active lifestyles to a maximum possible extent. Frailty is largely associated with the feeling of vulnerability; an active lifestyle with exercising, going out, meeting people, and maintaining a normal schedule can help patients feel less weak and helpless. Encouraged to engage in social activities, older adult patients are less likely to experience depressive moods and more likely to address their health problems properly instead of accepting them as inevitable consequences of aging.

Another category of changes widely associated with aging is altered sensory perception, which primarily includes vision and hearing impairment. These changes are particularly disturbing for patients who have not faced vision- or hearing-related health problems previously, e.g. have never worn glasses or used any kind of hearing aids. Similar to frailty, altered sensory perception can cause negative psychological effects for older adult patients, and these effects may include social isolation, despair, and aggression (Li-Korotky, 2012).

In the relevant academic literature, it is primarily stressed that health care providers need to understand the effects of impairment and the patients’ widespread unwillingness to address their vision- or hearing-related health problems due to the fear of aging. Therefore, the purpose of health care providers should be to communicate with patients openly and deliver the understanding that these problems are normal consequences of natural processes and are not a factor that should make older adult patients become withdrawn or depressed. The use of special devices to improve sensory abilities should be promoted to enable patients to lead healthy and active lifestyles. Even if difficult treatments or serious interventions are required to address age-related impairment, nurses should encourage patients to consider accepting such interventions and should explain that refusal to lead an active lifestyle is not a favorable option.


In the two identified age-related changes—frailty and impaired sensory perception—it is important for health care providers to ensure that older adult patients receive necessary support and encouragement to live actively and healthily. This will help prevent patients from feeling vulnerable and isolating themselves from social activities. Open communication and the provision of comfortable conditions are major tools for health care providers to achieve it.


Clegg, A., Young, J., Iliffe, S., Rikkert, M. O., & Rockwood, K. (2013). Frailty in elderly people. The Lancet, 381(9868), 752-762.

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Li-Korotky, H. S. (2012). Age-related hearing loss: Quality of care for quality of life. The Gerontologist, 52(2), 265-271.

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