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Older Adult Population: Community Health Promotion

Introduction

Assessing the standard of living and the conditions in which a certain category of the population lives makes it possible to identify the key problems that people of this social stratum face and propose relevant interventions. As an object of analysis, older adults will be considered, in particular, their main demographic characteristics, mortality and morbidity risk factors, as well as potentially effective plans for promoting health. Such a comprehensive evaluation can reveal the most significant difficulties that the population in question has to overcome and develop valuable intervention programs aimed at combating dangerous risk factors. A large number of chronic diseases along with depression and loneliness are a threat to older adults’ health, and potential measures to counter these risks include promoting communication and timely diagnosing specific problems.

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General Information About the Chosen Population

The analysis of the proposed population group is relevant since the issues that medical employees raise are topical in the context of the national healthcare system. For instance, Glei, Goldman, Ryff, and Weinstein (2019) report that, according to a comprehensive assessment, Americans aged 50 experience difficulties with 2 of 10 everyday tasks, while in Europe, this threshold is at least 65 years old (p. 1068). Such statistics prove that older adults in the United States have health problems and are forced to encounter difficulties regularly, which, in turn, affect their morale and physical conditions negatively.

Today, the number of US residents over 65 is significant. According to Mather, Scommegna, and Kilduff (2019), this fact is due to the high birth rate two generations ago. Moreover, the authors argue that in 40 years (by about 2060), the population over 65 will grow from 54 million to 96 million (Mather et al., 2019, para. 4). In terms of racial and ethnic structure, the composition of older adults in the United States has become more diverse, and life expectancy has increased to 78.6 (Mather et al., 2019, para. 10). The analysis of the socioeconomic indicators of the group under consideration confirms that the poverty level has decreased significantly over several decades. Mather et al. (2019) note that since 1950, this parameter has fallen from 30% to 9% (para. 12). These parameters prove that, despite the existing difficulties, there are positive trends.

Global digitalization and the transition to new technologies in various spheres of life, including healthcare, create problems with access to medical services. Since many older adults live alone, they often have difficulties in making appointments with specialists of different profiles and have to cope with health issues on their own (Holt-Lunstad, Smith, Baker, Harris, and Stephenson, 2015). Regarding environmental hazards, such a risk as air pollution may be the factor, influencing the development of particular chronic diseases (Xie et al., 2015). In addition, natural hazards in the form of disasters can also carry a threat. The limited mobility of some elderly people creates difficulties for them to move, and in case of danger, an emergency evacuation may be complicated. In general, the range of problems affects medical and social issues, and key interventions aimed at helping the considered population group should focus on these areas.

Mortality and Morbidity Risk Factors

The factors that increase the risks of mortality and morbidity among older adults are the focus of this evaluation study. For analysis, four common criteria will be considered and assessed. According to Holt-Lunstad et al. (2015), social isolation is one of the causes of death. As the authors state, “few social network ties” and rare contact with other people creates depressive moods and, ultimately, leads to death (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2015, p. 227). According to the researchers, both subjective and objective social isolation has the same effect on the psyche and are severe risk factors (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2015). Therefore, this threat is worth mentioning in the context of planning interventions and promoting health.

Another risk factor relates to the problem of the development of chronic diseases under the influence of a polluted environment. Xie et al. (2015) note that cardiovascular mortality is higher in those places where the volume of harmful particles in the atmosphere exceeds acceptable norms. Older people, in turn, cannot take active steps to clean up the territory in which they live and are forced to adapt to current conditions. This risk factor is relevant today when mass industrialization entails an increase in the number of harmful emissions.

In addition to environmental hazards, chronic diseases are a serious risk factor. In particular, in accordance with the study conducted by Xie et al. (2015), of 53,247 patients with cardiovascular diseases, 49 deaths occurred daily, which is an extremely high rate. In addition to this problem, such an ailment is also common as diabetes, and the tendency of the elderly population to this problem is increasing. Therefore, chronic diseases as the factor exacerbating the overall picture of the health status of older people are a significant threat.

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Finally, another hazard is the wrong lifestyle, as a result, bad habits to which many older people adhere. Holt-Lunstad et al. (2015) mention a sedentary lifestyle and smoking as the most dangerous risk factors that affect mortality in this category of the population. Physical inactivity caused by isolation, concomitant health problems, and other causes is undesirable at any age. However, older people need to experience moderate exercise daily to maintain their body tone. Thus, by analyzing the aforementioned risk factors, one can note that they intersect with one other and are interdependent, such as smoking and cardiovascular disease or improper nutrition and diabetes.

Health Promotion Activities

In order to help older adults in solving urgent problems and minimize the risk of factors affecting their health, appropriate assistance programs should be developed. These plans may address the aforementioned issues to have the most significant impact. For instance, to help older people socialize and reduce their level of isolation, projects aimed at interacting with the target population may be useful. The communication of single people can be established both with responsible medical employees and with peers through meetings in clubs of interest and online chatting. For this purpose, teaching the target audience computer skills is essential because, in the case of the rational use of the Internet, many people can avoid being alone and, as a result, depression.

To minimize the harmful effects of the environment on the health of older people, more extensive intervention is needed. Xie et al. (2015) offer interested parties to establish a productive dialogue with the authorities on how to reduce harmful emissions, thereby decreasing a negative impact on public health. Educational work with older people is also a relevant measure. If they are aware of a possible threat that the concentration of harmful substances in the atmosphere poses to their health, they can take appropriate preventive measures, for instance, installing air filters at home.

The problem of chronic diseases among older adults is the most difficult to intervene in. In addition to regular preventive examinations, medical employees should promote educational materials aimed at helping the public in self-care. To reduce mortality from specific diseases, for instance, cardiovascular ailments, it is essential to organize seminars for those at risk. As a result, such interventions can increase the knowledge of the population about the current levels of the problem and, thereby, reduce the number of premature deaths.

Finally, to solve the problem of improper lifestyle, special training may be sufficient to educate the target population. At the same time, Loprinzi, Lee, and Cardinal (2015) note that heavy exercises in old age may be dangerous. The authors give examples of useful activities, for instance, “casual walking, stretching, light weight training, dancing slowly,” and some other simple actions (Loprinzi et al., 2015, p. 278). Dietitians can help older people to make the right nutritional programs, and communication with addiction specialists can push people to abandon bad habits, in particular, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

Conclusion

Assessing the key features of older people’s life leads to the conclusion that isolation and chronic diseases pose the greatest threat to this category of the population. In addition, poor environmental conditions and abnormal lifestyles increase the risk of death. To mitigate threats, special interventions may be developed to interact with both the target population and other interested parties in order to minimize harm to health and help older people adapt to life in society.

References

Glei, D. A., Goldman, N., Ryff, C. D., & Weinstein, M. (2019). Physical function in US older adults compared with other populations: A multinational study. Journal of Aging and Health, 31(7), 1067-1084. Web.

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Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T., & Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: A meta-analytic review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(2), 227-237. Web.

Loprinzi, P. D., Lee, H., & Cardinal, B. J. (2015). Evidence to support including lifestyle light-intensity recommendations in physical activity guidelines for older adults. American Journal of Health Promotion, 29(5), 277-284. Web.

Mather, M., Scommegna, P., & Kilduff, L. (2019). Fact sheet: Aging in the United States. Population Reference Bureau. Web.

Xie, W., Li, G., Zhao, D., Xie, X., Wei, Z., Wang, W.,… Liu, J. (2015). Relationship between fine particulate air pollution and ischaemic heart disease morbidity and mortality. Heart, 101(4), 257-263. Web.

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