Is Incontinence an Inevitable Part of Aging?

Is Incontinence an Inevitable Part of Aging?

Dealing with incontinence and running to the bathroom to avoid an accident or experiencing unexpected leaks is something many adults face later in life. The question remains: is incontinence just a normal part of aging? Is every older adult guaranteed to experience incontinence as they age?

Learn all about the types of incontinence, whether it’s more prevalent in men or women, and how to separate the facts from the myths when it comes to incontinence. 

The Prevalence of Incontinence Among Older Adults

Adult incontinence is a common condition, specifically for women. In 2018, the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging conducted a survey with approximately 2,000 women aged 50-80. That study showed 46% of women reported having incontinence symptoms within the last year. According to the Mayo Clinic, “about 3% to 10% of men” experience incontinence at some point in their adult lives.

These are the main types of adult incontinence:

  • Stress incontinence: This occurs when pressure is exerted on the bladder by sudden movements such as laughing, sneezing, or jumping. This pressurizes the bladder sphincter, which is the muscular valve at the bottom of the bladder that controls urine flow, making accidents more prevalent.
  • Urge incontinence: Most popularly known as overactive bladder, urge incontinence is the loss of bladder triggers, giving you a “gotta go” sensation, which persists day and night.
  • Overflow incontinence: This occurs when you leak or dribble urine because the bladder is too full. It happens because people are unable to empty their bladder all the way when they urinate. 
  • Fecal incontinence: This type of incontinence occurs when individuals cannot wait to hold their stool until they get to the bathroom, causing accidents. 
  • Psychogenic Incontinence: This is a type of urinary incontinence where the loss of bladder control is linked to psychological or emotional factors rather than physical ones.
  • Total Incontinence: Total incontinence is when an individual completely loses control over bladder and bowel functions.

However hard it may be to face, many older adults experience urinary and fecal incontinence and find ways to live comfortably through various products and treatments. 

Understanding the Connection Between Aging and Incontinence

Aging and Physical Changes

As we age, our bodies go through many physiological changes where certain things begin to slow down and weaken. 

  • Muscular weakness: Weakening of the pelvic floor muscles is the top reason why older adults experience bladder issues. This is especially true for women who have given birth in the past. 
  • Hormonal changes: For women, menopause significantly lowers estrogen levels, causing a thinning and weakening of the bladder and urethra tissues. This creates a much greater probability of urinary incontinence
  • Sensory changes: As we age, the bladder’s ability to stretch and hold urine decreases, creating an increased need to urinate (or causing accidents). A decline in nerve sensitivity can make it more difficult to feel if the bladder is full, contributing to overflow incontinence. And lastly, the muscle that controls bladder contractions (the detrusor) can become overactive, leading to urge incontinence.  

Medical Causes and Concerns 

Specific medical conditions could also increase the chance for incontinence in older adults. These include: 

Specific medications could also contribute to incontinence issues. These include: 

  • Diuretics: These medications already increase body fluid output, which could cause an issue for incontinence.
  • Alpha-blockers: Used for high blood pressure, they can relax bladder muscles, causing leakage.
  • Antidepressants: These are known to contribute to bladder issues.
  • Cholinergics: This drug is used for Alzheimer's, but can worsen incontinence.
  • Sedatives/Hypnotics: These drugs can impair mobility, increasing the risk for accidents .

Lifestyle Factors Related to Aging

  • Smoking: Smoking weakens connective tissues and damages blood vessels, which could impact bladder function.
  • Chronic Constipation: Straining during bowel movements puts pressure on the bladder, increasing incontinence risk.
  • Obesity: Excess weight puts pressure on the pelvic floor, contributing to leakage.
  • Coffee & Alcohol: Diuretics like coffee and other caffeinated beverages, as well as alcohol, increases urination frequency and urgency. Alcohol can also impair bladder control.
  • A Sedentary Lifestyle: Those who do not exercise often or practice any pelvic floor exercises (like kegels) can experience a greater risk for incontinence.
  • Excessive Fluid Intake: Staying hydrated is essential, but drinking too much liquid (specifically around nighttime) can cause a greater risk for leaks and accidents. 
  • Limited Mobility: Those who have a disability or are unable to get up and move may experience more accidents as they are unable to get to the bathroom.
  • Stress & Anxiety: Being stressed can lead to urge incontinence and overall bladder issues.

Differentiating Myths From Facts 

There are many misconceptions when it comes to incontinence as you age. Below, we’ll debunk some of the most common misconceptions:

Myth #1: Everyone Experiences Incontinence as They Age 

The Truth: Even though it’s common to have incontinence issues as you age, it’s not inevitable. Age is a risk factor, but incontinence does not happen to everyone, and there are many treatment options available. 

Myth #2: Only Women Experience Age-Related Incontinence

The Truth: While it is proven that incontinence affects twice as many women as it does men, incontinence related to aging and prostate care is also common in men. 

Why Incontinence is So Much More Common Among Women

The main reason why incontinence affects women more than men is due to childbirth, as it can significantly weaken the pelvic muscles that allow women to hold urine. In terms of aging, the thinning of the vaginal lining and urethra that women experience as they get older can also often lead to incontinence.

Additional reasons may include:

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Constipation
  • Medications for muscle relaxations or blood pressure
  • Diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and diabetes

Myth #3: There Are No Treatment Options Available for Incontinence

The Truth: The fact is that there are many treatments available, like using specific products, doing exercises, and changing your lifestyle habits. With the right treatment options, you can continue to live an active and confident life.

Managing Incontinence as an Older Adult

Incontinence is manageable and treatable. You do not have to worry that your life is over or feel ashamed or embarrassed. It’s a common part of growing older, and luckily, there are many remedies available:

  • Choose the right products: Incontinence pads, underwear, pull-ups, and adult diapers are available to help you feel confident, secure, and active during the day and comfortable sleeping at night. 
  • Create easy bathroom access: Oftentimes, older adults experience accidents because there’s no easy path to the bathroom. Make sure a toilet is nearby and that there’s an easy way to get there (removing obstructions on the path).
  • Perform hygiene maintenance: If the older adult who has incontinence needs assistance, make sure they have an aide to help them go to the bathroom or change products so they feel comfortable and dry. 

How Parentgiving Can Help 

When helping yourself or a loved one through incontinence, it’s important to have the right therapies, information, and trusted products along the way. Parentgiving offers a wide variety of premium incontinence products for urinary incontinence, bowel incontinence, nighttime use, and beyond. We always stock the best and latest products, like our premium line of Dry Direct products — all exclusively available at