AGING AND THE NERVOUS SYSTEM
The aging brain
does lose neurons, but this is only a small percentage of the total and not the
usual cause of mental impairment in elderly people. (Far more com-mon causes
are depression, malnutrition, hypotension, and the side effects of
medications.) Some forgetful-ness is to be expected, however, as is a decreased
abil-ity for rapid problem solving,
but most memory should remain intact. Voluntary movements become slower, as do
reflexes and reaction time. Think of driv- ing a car, an ability most of us take
for granted. For elderly people, with their slower perceptions and reac-tion
times, greater consciousness of
driving is necessary.
autonomic nervous system ages, dry eyes and constipation may become problems.
Transient hypo-tension may be the result of decreased sympathetic stimulation
of vasoconstriction. In most cases, how-ever, elderly people who are aware of
these aspects of aging will be able to work with their physicians or nurses to
adapt to them.