Healthy aging is undoubtedly a crucial concern on both national and global public health agendas. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) acknowledgment of healthy aging as a comprehensive process underscores the significance of enabling individuals of all age groups to maintain not only physical health but also social engagement and safety. However, when examining the impact of social determinants of health on older adults living in poverty, it becomes evident that these vulnerable populations face compounded challenges that often hinder their ability to age healthily. Older adults living in poverty experience a confluence of factors that have a profound impact on their health and overall well-being (Decker & Weaver, 2021). Economic limitations can restrict access to adequate nutrition, healthcare services, and safe living conditions. Insufficient resources can lead to compromised diets, increasing the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, and malnutrition-related ailments. Limited financial means might also deter regular medical check-ups and preventive care, exacerbating health issues and reducing the likelihood of early intervention (Tan et al., 2022).
Social isolation and reduced participation in community activities are other consequences of poverty in older adults. These individuals may lack the financial means to engage in recreational activities, visit friends and family, or participate in cultural events. Such isolation can have a detrimental effect on mental health, potentially leading to depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline (Decker & Weaver, 2021). Furthermore, limited social interactions may hinder the development of robust support networks, which are crucial for emotional well-being and access to practical assistance in times of need. Housing conditions play a pivotal role in healthy aging, and poverty can severely compromise this aspect. Older adults living in poverty may find themselves in substandard living conditions due to the lack of resources for necessary repairs or adequate housing options. Inadequate housing can increase the risk of injuries, exacerbate existing health conditions, and contribute to feelings of insecurity (Tan et al., 2022). The stress of unstable housing conditions further compounds the challenges faced by these individuals, potentially leading to a vicious cycle of declining health.
Access to healthcare is a central determinant of healthy aging, and poverty can create significant barriers in this regard. Financial constraints may deter older adults from seeking medical attention, as they might be unable to afford co-payments, transportation costs, or prescription medications (Decker & Weaver, 2021). Consequently, preventive measures and early interventions may be neglected, leading to the progression of health conditions that could have been managed effectively with timely medical care.
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