Overview of Natural Age-Related Changes to Skin and How to Protect an Older Person
As an individual ages, there are natural changes that occur to a person’s body, bodily functions, and bodily systems. There are changes that do occur as the result of disease or illness. On the other hand, there is a wide array of different types of natural age-related changes. In this article, we discuss age-related changes to skin.
Skin: Largest Organ in the Human Body
The skin is the largest organ (sometimes referred as the largest bodily system). The skin performs a number of important functions:
- Regulation of body temperature
- Aids in touch
- Works in synthesis of vitamin D
- Prevent loss of bodily fluids
As a person ages, there are a number of natural changes that occur to an individual’s skin. These include:
- Increased pigmentation
- Decreased elasticity
- Loss of subcutaneous tissue
- Thinning of dermis
- Reduced ability to protect against the sun
Because of the natural progression of aging associated with the skin, an older individual is at risk for a number of different medical issues. These include:
- Greater risk of pressure ulcers
- Skin breakdown as the result of blood flow decrease
- Decreased response to injury
- Reduced thermoregulation capabilities (body temperature regulation)
- Decreased touch receptor response
- Delay in wound healing
Tips for Caring for an Older Individual’s Skin When Bathing
A primary tip for caring for an older person’s skin begins with proper bathing. At the heart of healthy bathing practices for an older individual is the use of a gentle, fragrance-free, moisturizing soap, cleanser, or body wash.
When an older person bathes, warm and not hot water should be used. Hot water strips a skin of its natural oils.
Another tip for when an older person bathes is to use a soft cloth. A bath brush or a buff puff should not be used because it is more apt to irritate an older individual’s skin.
An older person is wise to keep a bath or shower short. A common recommendation is to keep a bath or shower to under 10 minutes. Some people who have been bathing daily ultimately decide that they do not need to take a bath or shower every day.
Another recommendation is to pat water gently from the skin after bathing. An associated recommendation is to leave a bit of water on the skin. Having some water on the skin when moisturizer is applied helps hydrate skin. A creamy, fragrance-free moisturizer should be used after bathing.
Protect Your Skin From the Sun
Another key area of concern in regard to an older person’s skin is protecting it from the sun. Wrinkles, age spots, bruises, and blotches appear on an older person’s skin. This leads some people to wonder why protection from the sun is even necessary.
The reality is that protecting an older person’s skin from the sun helps to prevent new age spots and blotches. It also aids in reducing further thinning of the skin as well unnecessary drying. Protecting the skin additionally serves the highly important purpose of lowering the risk of cancer.
There are some basic tips to keep in mind when it comes to protecting an older person’s (or any person’s) skin from the sun’s harmful rays:
- Seek shade when out of doors, particularly between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
- Wear suitable clothing that protects the skin from the sun
- Apply a broad-spectrum and water-resistant sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher when outside
- Use a Humidifier
- Another strategy to employ to protect an older person’s skin is to make use of a humidifier. The reality is that heating and air conditioning are notorious for stripping natural levels of humidity from the air. When the air becomes too dry, it can have a negative impact on an older person’s skin. Indeed, it can negatively impact the skin of a person of any age.
Ideally, attempt to keep indoor humidity between 45 and 60 percent. In addition to getting a humidifier, you might also want to invest in a hydrometer. A hydrometer can be purchased at any hardware or home improvement store.
Examine Skin for Signs of Cancer
The risk of developing pre-cancerous growths or skin cancer increases at around the age of 50. The risk continues to rise as an individual ages. Therefore, another practice that needs to be employed in regard to an older individual’s skin is to regularly examine it for signs for cancer.
When skin cancer is detected early, it usually can be more easily removed. This very well may be the only treatment necessary. If skin cancer spreads, treatment can become increasingly more difficult.
Regular skin examinations should focus on identifying any noticeable changes in the skin, areas that are particularly “itchy,” or spots on the skin that seem more prone to bleeding. If any of these conditions or changes are noted, a prompt appointment should be made with doctor.