Vignettes on Aging – Frailty

Occurring mostly in older people, frailty is characterized by an excessive vulnerability of an individual to internal and external stressors. Being frail generates a high risk of developing illness or other negative health-related events.

We know frailty.

We have friends and family members who are frail. We might even be considered frail ourselves. What does being frail mean to you? Is it thin and bent over elders who look like they might break in half with a swift wind? Do they sit back without participation, seemingly oblivious to their surroundings?

Being frail looks scary. Don’t we take more care when someone is frail? Aren’t we more patient, more helpful, more empathetic with a frail person?

Anyone can be considered frail, regardless of age. It happens when a person feels weak, when they have trouble standing without assistance or when they aren’t able to grasp or hold on to something. You’re considered frail when you feel exhausted and when everything takes a big effort or when you can’t get going the majority of the days of most weeks. Most frail people who consistently manifest the identifying characteristics signal a life winding down with a life expectancy of approximately 3.5 years. Once identified as being frail, can individuals come back to a stronger place to carry on with increased vigor? Absolutely, it just depends on the individual.

There are three main ways to keep strong and put off being frail or keep it at bay entirely, in most cases, and these ways are:

~stay active
~eat well
~keep your mind active and optimistic

It’s not ironic that  these ways are the hallmarks for a richer elder life in general.

As we age, it is always best if we move our bodies most days, trade junk food for increased nutrition, and by being the optimistic person people want to be around. Frailty can still creep in, but doing these things increases your odds of strength and less vulnerability.