Physical development of adults

family generations image by Daria Miroshnikova from

Physical changes are a normal part of the developmental process. The changes that adults encounter are different from those encountered by babies, toddlers, adolescents and teenagers. It is important to recognise the predictable physical changes that occur so that you can differentiate between those changes and changes that are a sign of abnormal development and more serious health problems.

Early changes

Daniel Levinson defines the period between ages 17 to 45 as early adulthood. In the beginning of this stage, a person gains the last few centimetres and grams to his frame. Men especially gain more muscle mass. In women, the hips and breasts finish filling out. In both sexes, sexual desire and response, strength, coordination and sensory acuity are at their best. Toward the end of this stage, these features begin to deteriorate. For women, childbearing often brings on additional weight gain. Both sexes begin to experience subtle signs of ageing, such as fine lines and wrinkles.

Middle changes

Middle adulthood occurs between 45 and 65 years of age. The physical deterioration of the senses continues to decline, although good health during this stage is normal. Common difficulties include long sightedness and some hearing loss in the upper registers. Lung and heart capacity become smaller. Flexibility also is lost, and the skin starts to lose its elasticity, with more wrinkles and even a few dark age spots developing.

Late changes

Late adulthood occurs past the age of 65. One of the most noticeable external changes during this period include the greying of hair (due to the loss of melanin pigment), or hair loss. The skin becomes thinner and more wrinkled. Warts and liver (age) spots are very noticeable. As bone density and muscle mass decrease, many elderly individuals become thinner and may lose up to two inches in height as the bones settle and compress. Hearing and eyesight become poor. Sexual interest is low due to hormonal shifts and other physical ailments, and dexterity and flexibility are at their worst. In general, this is the period in which physical "development" truly is better described as "deterioration," although many elderly adults enjoy a high quality of life nonetheless.


As technology has advanced, so too has life expectancy. This has led to concern about how to best care for adults as they age, particularly during the late stages of adulthood. Additionally, some individuals question the point at which it is better to permit natural loss of life instead of subjecting an individual to treatments that cause physical, mental and emotional distress.


For men, ageing is more of a right of passage, whereas for women, the ageing process may result in feelings of being less beautiful, worthwhile and deserving. For this reason, most anti-ageing products are aimed at women. Both sexes may reduce the effects of ageing naturally through diet and exercise, but no product, food or regimen will stop ageing completely.

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