After a life time of three-four decades, a person’s body starts to undergo particular changes. His skin wrinkles, his hair goes gray and in time he loses it, his body loses its energy, his metabolism slows down, his sight and hearing weakens and starts to suffer from amnesia. The reason of all these changes to which death finally puts an end is “growing old.” Have you ever thought why do human beings age?
If a human being were not made of flesh and bones, his depreciation would not be so rapid. That is because flesh and fat are the materials that corrupt in a few hours when they are kept in ordinary room conditions. Below we will examine the stages of old age which is a process that no one can ever evade.
Deformation of Skin
As one grows old, skin loses its elastic structure since structural proteins making up the "skeleton" of its bottom layers become sensitive and weak. That is also why wrinkles and lines, a nightmare for many people, appear on the face. The functioning of the oil glands in the top layer of the skin slows down, causing acute dryness. In time, the body is exposed to external influences since the permeability of skin increases. As a result of this process, elderly people suffer seriously from sleeping disorders, superficial wounds, and an itch called "the itch of old age". Likewise, damage occurs to the bottom layers of the skin. Renewal of skin tissue and substance-exchange mechanisms fail to function to a great extent, preparing and laying the ground for tumours to develop.
Strength of bones is also of great importance to the human body. Efforts to achieve an erect posture rarely meet with success for old people, while it is much easier for the young. Walking with a bent posture, one loses all one's loftiness and arrogance, giving the message that one no longer has the ability to exercise control even over one's own body. Therefore, this is also a loss of one's "airs and graces".
The symptoms of ageing are not limited to these alone. Elderly people are more likely to develop loss of sensation since nerve cells cease to renew themselves after a particular age. Elderly people suffer from spatial disorientation due to weakening eyes in response to the intensity of light. This is quite important since it means a limitation of eyesight: the vividness of colours, the positions of objects, and their dimensions become blurred. These are, no doubt, difficult situations for the elderly to adapt to.
The Scientific Theories about Aging
Scientists have been putting forward various theories about aging. Molecular biologists explain aging by the functions of cell division. Aging of cells take place in various speeds in different organisms. In a test tube a normal cell can divide itself 50 times. However as one grows older functions of cell division slows down. For this reason tissues which can not renew themselves start to get older. One of the theories that explain the reason of this slowing down is the Destruction Theory. According to this theory aging is the total result of the destruction made by the materials called free-radicals to the body. Free-radicals is the common name of atoms, moleculs and ions having a free electron. These are the heavey metals like ozone and carbonmonoxide that can exist in the air or in the food we eat. The most serious harm to the body is made by free radicals with oxygen. It is assumed that the effect of oxidant augments the harms given by some disorders like diabetes or heart attack that shorten the human life.
The Program Theory, on the other hand, explains aging by genetic factors. Accordingly a structure that appears in the DNA and multiplies in time influences the cell functions. This structure that comes into being as a result of an extended functioning of ribosome, the component of the cell responsible for protein synthesis is also the reason of Werner Syndrome which is a fatal disease also known as early aging disease. Patients who display a normal development in adolesence start to age rapidly afterwards and meet an early death in their 30s.
The unavoidable end
While scientists develop various theories about aging, it continues to be an unavoidable end for every human being. Whether it may be due to cell division or genetic factors, nobody can resist aging. Although the anti-aging studies contribute to a relatively slower aging and bring some relief to some of the problems associated with old age, there exists no definite solution to it. In the Qur’an All-Mighty Allah describes the time between birth to death as follows:
It is He Who created you from earth, then from a drop of sperm,then from a clot of blood,then He brings you out as infants, then so you may achieve full strength, then so you may become old men –though some of you may die before that time –so that you may reach a predetermined age and so that hopefully you will use your intellect. (Surah Ghafir: 67)
As time passes people come closer to face weaknesses associated with old age. Growing old is an important sign of man’s weakness. In the Qur’an Allah describes the situation of people in old age as “knowing nothing at all after having knowledge.”
Allah created you and then will take you back again. And some of you revert to the lowest form of life so that after having knowledge, you know nothing at all. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Powerful. (Surat an-Nahl: 70)
Everything is Allah’s preordination
Just as birth, that is coming into existence from nothing, death is also a preordination of Allah. A person lives what is destined for him; just as his birth and death, everything he does throughout his life are also under Allah’s control. Furthermore, he will be called to give an account of these acts. For this reason, man needs to be meticulous in living by the morality of the Qur’an described in the Qur’an:
Say: ‘My prayer and my rites, my living and my dying, are for Allah alone, the Lord of all the worlds (Surat Al-An‘am, 162)