Geriatrics: Frailty in Elderly People

Frailty is one of the signs of aging, together with grey hair, wrinkles, dry and pigmented skin, the decline of visual sharpness, and others. At present, an increase in the global aging population is observed. Thus, while there were about 461 million people older than 65 in 2004 in the world, this figure is likely to increase to 2 billion by 2050 (Clegg, Young, Iliffe, Rikkert, & Rockwood, 2013). Therefore, the clinical condition of frailty, which is one of the aspects of aging, is a problem for many people.

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The development of frailty is a result of changes in many physiological systems, which are related to age. Frailty can be defined as “a state of increased vulnerability to poor resolution of homeostasis following a stress, which increases the risk of adverse outcomes including falls, delirium, and disability” (Clegg et al., 2013, p. 752). In other words, elderly people who become frail are at higher risk of unexpected and disproportionate changes in their health condition as a reaction to minor stressors such as new medicine or a minor infection.

The issue of frailty has a complex nature. It can result from both genetic and environmental factors, which cause increasing molecular and cellular damage (Clegg et al., 2013). This damage leads to the reduced physiological reserve of the brain, immune, endocrine, skeletal muscle, cardiovascular, respiratory, and renal systems. In fact, these systems become frail. These changes under the influence of nutritional factors and physical activity result in the frail condition of elderly people, which usually presupposes increased care needs, more frequent admissions to healthcare facilities, and a higher incidence of admission to long-term care. On the whole, between one quarter and a half of people over 85 are frail (Clegg et al., 2013). Still, the issue of frailty development needs further investigation.

References

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

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