Wound Healing in Seniors & What to do When it Occurs

Guest Article by Becca Kay

Children get cuts and scrapes all the time. Honestly, it’s not surprising that they do, with many kids’ favorite activities including tree climbing, playing tag, and climbing monkey bars. Since these activities are being performed countless times over the course of childhood, minor bruises are an almost definite part of every energetic youngster’s life, and often, sadly enough, broken bones are too.

Although children can find their injuries (however minor) to be quite painful, they heal relatively quickly. Such is not the case with seniors. When an elderly person suffers any sort of wound, it takes substantially longer to heal.

How Wound Healing Works

Scab healing is actually among the most complicated biological processes in the body. Several cell types auto-collaborate with molecular pathways and the nervous system to repair the damage wrought to the skin. Skin cells called keratinocytes come together under the scab, and create sheets of new tissue. It’s not an easy routine.

But why is it that wound healing becomes an increasingly elongated process as a person ages?

Reduced Communication: This topic has recently been researched by American scientists, using two-month-old to two-year-old mice. Two-month-old mice are biologically comparable to 20-year-old adults, and two-year-old mice are similar to an adult of seventy years. By using mice within this age span, scientists were able to see the differences in healing among adults of various ages.

And here’s what scientists discovered with this experiment: They found that in older mice, keratinocytes moved into the skin under the scab at a much slower pace. This took the older mice’s wounds days longer to heal than the younger mice. This is because in young mice, keratinocytes sent a certain signaling protein to immune cells, which was absent in senior mice. This communication protein sped up the healing process.

So, what did scientists do when they discovered this? They experimented. They manually applied this protein to the older mice. Voila! Communication was boosted between the immune and skin cells.

The lead scientist in this experiment, Professor Elaine Fuchs, stated the following regarding what they achieved from this experiment:

‘This discovery suggests new approaches to developing treatments that could speed healing among older people.

Our work suggests it may be possible to develop drugs to activate pathways that help aging skin cells to communicate better with their immune cell neighbors, and so boost the signals that normally decline with age.’

This experiment, along with others, points to the potential of finding ways to make wound healing easier for seniors.

Reduced Skin Elasticity: As people age, their skin becomes less supple and elastic.

This makes wound healing happen at a much slower pace.

How Seniors Can Accelerate the Wound Recovery Process

Although typically, elderly folks will take more time to recover from wounds, there are ways to safely and effectively speed up the process.

Physical Activity: A steady exercise routine has been proven to accelerate the speed of recovery. It reduces inflammation and oxidative damage, and improves patient outcomes. Some side benefits are that it boosts mental health, encourages a healthier lifestyle, and prevents ulcers.

Be sure to consult with your doctor about which exercise routine is safe for you.

Food Diet: Certain foods promote wound healing, and are recommended for every senior to have in her diet. Proteins are a great choice; meat, beans, eggs or milk are all helpful to increase the rate of healing.

Foods that are naturally imbued with vitamin A or C, such as most fruits and vegetables, dark leafy greens, and liver, are also important to include in your diet.  

Zinc is a mineral that boosts wound healing. Zinc can be found in many cereals, and in eggs, meat, nuts, and fish.

Don’t forget to drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is an easy and healthy way to promote skin healing, and it’s also important for your overall health. Although water is the premium choice, milk, soup, tea and natural juices are also okay.

Now that you are informed of not only how wound healing works, but also of what you can do to speed up the recovery process, you are ready and able to care for your wounds in the best possible way. Injuries are dreadfully common in the elderly. In fact, according to the NCOA, every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall. If you have suffered a fall, by following the instructions of your physician, the aforementioned diet, and a safe exercise routine, you will be doing your best to heal properly and quickly, and that’s what counts.

About the Author:

Becca Kay is a talented writer, pianist, and artist who lives in New Jersey with her family. When she’s not busy playing piano or drawing, she enjoys researching and writing about medical equipment for AvaCare Medical.