Overcoming the Struggles of Aging: 9 Challenges Facing the Elderly

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Seniors and the elderly deal with a unique set of challenges. The most important issues for older adults have to do with health, finances, emotional needs, and abuse.

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Challenges Facing the Elderly

Summary & Highlights

Most of the common issues that elderly people face stem from three main obstacles:

  1. Physical and mental health complications due to various elderly health issues, chronic illnesses, and even cognitive decline.
  2. Financial challenges due to limited income and difficulty accessing necessary benefits.
  3. Social isolation and loneliness due to not adapting to technology or the social norms of a different world.

Unfortunately, each challenge forms a degrading cycle by feeding on each other. But there are many ways you can help promote successful aging for senior citizens you love!

Our elderly loved ones face daily challenges in their later life, from physical limitations to managing financial resources.

Physical limitations can include mobility issues, poor health conditions, and sensory or cognitive impairments that make it difficult for seniors to complete everyday tasks and manage their daily activities.

Financially, seniors may have to manage limited resources and live on fixed incomes. Additionally, the cost and difficulty of accessing health care are common occurrences.

All of these challenges can lead to social issues and disconnection from loved ones and the community as a whole. 

Most Important Challenges for Older Adults

1. Communication with Loved Ones

Communication is a common problem that challenges older adults mainly due to decreased physical and cognitive abilities.

These often lead to misunderstood conversations, not hearing what others are saying, and a reduced response time when expressing themselves.

A lack of technical skills or an outright fear of technology is another significant barrier to communication for elderly people today.

Younger people, such as adult children and grandchildren, don’t answer the phone; they text. They don’t send grandparents photographs; they post them on social media.

Older adults may feel isolated and disconnected if they haven’t learned to use these technologies.

To help address this issue, provide older adults with access to the technology and resources needed to stay connected with their loved ones.

Video calls, emails, and social media platforms bridge the communication gap between them and their loved ones.

Provide the older population with access to the appropriate devices and services, teach them how to use technology, and offer classes or workshops to help them better understand new technologies.

Additionally, spend quality time with the older adults in your life. Check on them regularly. Pick up the phone and call them occasionally.

Older adults are more likely to be emotionally and mentally healthy when they feel connected and supported. Communication reduces the feelings of loneliness and isolation that many experience.

Additionally, communication helps seniors and the elderly stay connected with their families and friends and in their communities.

2. Staying Active

Physical limitations and chronic health issues make it difficult for the senior population to stay active, move around, and exercise.

Sometimes, the need for more social support, appropriate transportation, and financial resources limits an elder’s access to activities that promote physical health and well-being.

Physical pain and mental health issues may lead to a lack of motivation and interest in physical activities.

We can help older adults be more active by creating safe and accessible environments for them to exercise in, such as outdoor parks and trails or indoor facilities such as gyms, swimming pools, and community centers.

Community-based organizations should provide social activities and events that promote physical activity, such as senior centers, walking clubs, and dance classes.

Additionally, providing transportation through volunteer drivers and public transportation helps older adults access these opportunities.

Finally, provide the elderly with the appropriate technology that can help promote physical activity and wellness. Examples are online classes, fitness trackers, and apps that can help motivate and track physical activity

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3. Financial Concerns

Financial issues are a significant challenge for aging adults, as they may need a steady income, adequate savings, or financial resources and benefits to cover basic living.

Older adults with decreased cognitive abilities may struggle to understand complex financial concepts, such as taxes, investments, and insurance, leading to a higher risk of economic insecurity and making sound financial decisions.

Additionally, scams, fraud, and exploitation of the elderly are all increasing concerns.

We can help elders address financial security by providing them with access to pro-bono legal services and legal aid, financial advisors, and counselors who help older adults understand their financial situation and make sound decisions.

Social programs such as Medicaid and Medicare provide access to the necessary health care and financial assistance they need. Educating the public at large on scams, fraud, and exploitation of older adults reduces the chance of them becoming victims.

Improving their financial literacy education helps them better understand finances to make more informed decisions. 

Challenges Facing the Elderly comfortable life
We can help the elderly by assisting them and providing access to helpful resources.

4. Living a Comfortable and Fulfilled Life

Living a comfortable and fulfilled life is challenging for some older adults because of the physical and mental health issues we’ve discussed, as well as mobility issues, a lack of social support, and feeling disconnected from life.

The elderly may feel limited in their activities due to these difficulties. These limitations in choice lead to difficulty adjusting to changes in their lives and the lives of beloved family members.

Fewer financial resources and less access to goods and services make living a fulfilled and comfortable life difficult.

We can help seniors and the elderly by providing access to health care, mental health services, social services, social activities, and transportation options. Providing access to educational resources and classes helps them stay engaged and learn.

Volunteer opportunities and social activities connect them with their age group and community. Assist them with getting the goods and services with transportation to the grocery store, doctor’s office, or department store.

5. Living with Chronic Health Conditions

It’s a vicious cycle. Living with chronic health conditions leads to a lack of energy and physical strength, which makes managing healthcare complex.

Some older adults find understanding their medical condition, managing their medications, and accessing necessary medical care difficult.

Navigating the healthcare system and insurance and financial matters related to medical care is confusing and frustrating, no matter your health status.

Multiple chronic conditions (many elderly adults have two chronic conditions or more simultaneously) are costly and might lead to financial difficulties, making daily living even more challenging.

All of this compounds, leading to feelings of isolation and depression and possibly a decline in quality of life.

To help older adults with chronic health conditions, ensure they have access to necessary healthcare professionals for medical advice, treatment, and support. Several apps help the elderly manage their chronic illnesses also.

Bring in social services, such as personal care aides, home healthcare, nursing care, long-term care, and support groups, to help manage their medical condition and give them companionship.

Research financial assistance, such as pharmaceutical payment programs and grants and loans, to offset the cost of their medical care.

6. Access to Healthcare

Speaking of chronic health conditions, reliable access to adequate care exacerbates these problems.

A lack of transportation to medical appointments, difficulty understanding the causes and treatments of medical issues, navigating our bloated healthcare system, and an inability to pay for necessary medical care are all factors.

These factors lead to essential health care being unavailable, cost-prohibited, or just an unknown option due to the inability to research their conditions.

Help elders by providing transportation services for medical appointments with healthcare professionals who offer the necessary medical advice and support.

Make sure they understand their health insurance options, such as Medicare or Medicaid, and for which medical expenses they will – and will not – pay.

Research their treatment options and discuss them with the seniors so they can feel empowered and educated when talking with their medical team. If they want, go to the appointments with them and help them with these critical discussions.

7. Access to Nutritious Food

Nutritious food usually requires fresh ingredients and longer cooking and prep times. Lack of transportation and financial challenges are the major contributors to seniors’ difficulty accessing nutritional foods.

Difficulty understanding nutrition labels and ingredients, preparing their meals, and navigating the latest health advice are also factors.

Sometimes, the elderly may not know about the food assistance programs in their community because they don’t have the tools necessary to research their options. Finally, fresh and organic foods are expensive or may have limited availability in their area. 

You can help by offering rides to the grocery store. Provide the elders you love with simple but healthy, nutritious recipes. Research food assistance programs, such as SNAP or WIC, which help elderly people afford healthy food.

Discuss food and grocery delivery options available through apps like Instacart or grocery store websites. Arrange for healthy cooking kits or fully prepared meals to be delivered periodically.

8. Safety and Security

Older adults may be more likely to become victims of crime or exploitation due to cognitive impairments, reduced access to law enforcement or emergency services, and an inability to protect themselves from physical harm due to age-related physical limitations.

Many elderly people are more vulnerable to psychological or emotional abuse or neglect due to social isolation and feeling disconnected from family or friends.

Some seniors are at increased risk of being taken advantage of financially due to limited income, age discrimination, being too trusting of others, or being unaware of scams.

We can start by educating them on basic safety precautions, such as who to call in an emergency.

Provide them with home safety resources, such as a safety checklist or safety tips, to help them assess the safety of their home and make necessary changes.

Connect them with local law enforcement, such as the police or sheriff’s department, to make sure they have access to help if needed. Check-in on them regularly and discuss any concerns they may have.

If they’re comfortable with it, connect them with support groups, volunteers, or health aides who can provide emotional support and companionship.

9. Social Connection and Engagement

Often, older adults have difficulty connecting with younger generations due to generational gaps, social isolation due to the death of loved ones, friends, and other social contacts, or an inability to use modern technology to communicate with others.

Limited mobility or lack of access to transportation services dramatically reduces a senior’s ability to participate in social events, leading to feelings of depression or anxiety due to loneliness or lack of purpose.

Another less-known factor is changing social norms and how people engage with each other today.

Arranging transportation to social activities and events, such as community centers or senior centers, is a great place to start. Training elders on technology helps them stay connected to loved ones.

Research social support service options in your area, such as counseling, senior centers, or peer support groups, to help older adults form meaningful relationships and connect with their community.

Challenges Facing the Elderly resources
Here are some websites that seniors can look into for their specific concerns.

Resources to Help the Elderly Navigate Life’s Challenges

1. The National Council on Aging (NCOA)

The NCOA provides various resources, including information about benefits and health programs, to help the aging population stay independent and connected to their communities. 

2. The Eldercare Locator

This website, operated by the U.S. Administration on Aging, allows you to search for resources and services near you, including meals, transportation, legal assistance, and more. 

3. The Area Agency on Aging (AAA)

The AAA provides resources and services to help older adults stay independent and connected to their communities. 

4. The National Institute on Aging (NIA)

The NIA provides information on home health care, including resources, research, and tools to help older adults stay safe and healthy. 

5. The American Association for Homecare

This organization provides information, resources, and advocacy for home health care providers. 

6. The Family Caregiver Alliance

The Family Caregiver Alliance provides resources, support, and advocacy for family caregivers.

7. The National Institutes of Health

The NIH provides health information, research and training, plus grants and funding to help services that assist the elderly.

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Infographic: Most Important Challenges For Older Adults

Most Important Challenges For Older Adults infographic
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Summary

The elderly often face many challenges associated with aging, such as physical and mental health issues, financial difficulties, and social isolation. Fortunately, many resources are available to help the elderly navigate these challenges.

Remember that the elderly need our support, compassion, and understanding to overcome these challenges and maintain a high quality of life.

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Senior Home Safety Specialist (SHSS)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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