Gerontology: The most common problems in old age

The physical changes that occur with age also bring with them health problems. Some of the most common problems that gerontology deals with include, for example,  incontinence , injuries from falls or the development of diseases such as dementia. We present these and other typical health problems in old age below.

Which problems are most common?

Many illnesses such as  high blood pressureheart attack  or stroke occur more frequently in old age than in younger years – but they are not typical signs of aging. The situation is different with signs of illness that occur when several organ systems are restricted in their function due to signs of aging and there is a problem with the interaction between the brain, nerves and muscles.


About 15% of women over the age of 65 and about 7% of men are affected by incontinence, and among those over 80 it is already 25% – if they live at home. For nursing home residents, the numbers are twice as high. A total of around 5 million people in Germany are incontinent.

risk of falling

Due to loss of muscle mass and strength, deterioration in vision and balance, 30% of those over 65 and 50% of those over 80 fall at least once a year.

gait disturbances

As people get older, more and more people need a walking aid: Gait changes are the result of poorer movement sequences and general unsteady gait due to reduced activity of the sensory organs. The walking speed decreases every year – if the speed falls below 1.4 meters per second, everyday difficulties arise, for example during the green phase of a traffic light.


More than a quarter of all 65-year-olds complain of dizziness, which is often caused by the poor interaction of the balance organ, eyes and musculoskeletal system.


40% of all over 80-year-olds suffer from dementia, which is important insofar as people with dementia are dependent on the help of others – two thirds of all dependencies of old people are caused by dementia.


In many older people,  swallowing difficulties , reduced hunger and chewing problems, for example due to an ill-fitting prosthesis, lead to a long-term undersupply of proteins and  micronutrients . While this problem affects approximately 4% of all elderly people, it affects two thirds of all nursing home residents. Persistent malnutrition leads to an increase in morbidity and mortality.

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