There has been so much news and social media buzz about the pope lately, but this angle explored by Paula Span of The New York Times’ New Old Age blog is an interesting one. Her article Is the Pope Frail? explored the questions surrounding Pope Benedict XVI’s health, and whether these concerns were behind his resignation.
According to Span’s article, frailty is an official term used in geriatric medicine. She defines it this way: “It’s a syndrome, a collection of physiological symptoms that drain people’s reserves, leaving them less able to withstand stressors…” Patients must meet the following five criteria to receive a diagnosis of frailty from their geriatrician, says Span: “Unintentional weight loss of more than 10 pounds in the past year. Weakness, as measured by a test of handgrip strength. Self-reported exhaustion. Slowness, calculated by how long it takes to walk 15 feet. Low physical activity.”
Though the risk of frailty increases with age, advanced age does not equal frailty. Whether or not the now-retired Pope would be officially diagnosed as frail is still open for discussion, however, those who may be concerned about aging parents, relatives or friends who seem to fit the criteria above might consider starting a conversation about senior care. Before talking to them, check out Worried About Your Parents? How to Help, Respectfully for advice.