living your best to the end

As we age, do we become too thin-skinned?

In a word: Yep. Our skin thins and gets dry

Thin, dry skin often gets itchy. And that can lead to a mess of problems. Hence, the expression: thin-skinned. Perhaps not as talked about as the other issues of aging, but should be – considering how much skin we have.

Dr Richard Usatine

Dr Richard Usatine

Dr Richard Usatine my fellow Society of Teachers of Family Medicine (STFM) is a primary care doc and lead author of The Color Atlas of Family Medicine. Atlas of Family Medicine

A lesson in elder-skincare

“Our glands produce less natural oil which leads to dry skin. We scratch and we pick and broken skin can lead to infections. often the backs of our hands and forearms that are first affected.”

In addition to the natural aging process, there are factors that influence the thinning of the skin: genetics, lifestyle specifically sun exposure, smoking and alcohol, and some medications can make skin more sensitive. What to do to protect our skin? The good doc offers these tips:

  • Gloves: for gardening, biking, cleaning.
  • Moisturize: doesn’t have to be expensive product. Good time to moisturize is after a bath or shower – which should not be too hot.
  • Gentle cleaning, proper drying and staying dry – including sweaty parts like armpits, folds of skin, groin – can help prevent skin break-down.
  • Keep hydrated: drink more water. Alcohol doesn’t count.
  • Eat properly: good nutrition helps in so many ways
  • Wear a hat: The tops of our heads also need care: skin thins there, too.
  • Use sunscreen and stay out of the sun, especially between those hottest hours 11 – 3pm.
  • Feet: a high-risk area – as those with diabetes will already know.

“Dermatology can overlap with podiatry. Corns, calluses, warts, dry skin, fungal infections, ingrown toenails, blisters and other foot deformities are common. Take proper care of your feet, including keeping clean, and not forgetting cleaning and checking between toes.”

Usatine continues the Education of Kathy:

“Starting age 40, we grow new things: moles and rough patches, liver spots and discoloration. Keep a watch on your skin: know what’s new. Get it checked. The 50’s can bring with it psoriasis and rosacea – which is a cruel throw-back to adolescence.”

  • Thin skin is more easily bruised (bruises can lead to the assumption of abuse).
  • An assessment of how much of the main living area is an obstacle course should be considered.

That’s the low-down for the active aging. For the bed or wheel-chair bound, it’s Bedsores (also called pressure ulcers, pressure sores and wounds) that require a different kind of vigilance and strategies to (try to) prevent. Dr Nora Cullen, Chief of Staff at West Park Health Center puts forward a (seemingly) simple exercise for the bed or wheel-chair ridden:

“Use your arms or bended arms to raise your bum for 10-15 seconds: just long enough to get blood flowing. Do that every 15 minutes. It’ll serve as an arm and shoulder strengthening exercise.”

My main worry? My 95-year old father-in-law. Widowed, he’s still sprightly enough to be on the look-out for a woman. Be that as it may, I’m making gentler my high-fives.

Consider exploring: Multiple medications: too many for too many of us

Alzheimer’s Patient and his Daughter-in-law

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