This paper analyses the notion of ageing and old age from different perspectives, namely psychological, biological, and social. Concerning an individual aged human being, these interactive processes have to be considered together, taking into account cultural circumstances and historical periods, in which they take place. The augmented awareness of positive contributions to current society made by older people, being upholders of cultural heritage, customs and traditions, should neutralize a humiliating attitude to them linking this group to serious economic burdens in communities.
Historical Perspectives on Aging
There is nothing intrinsically problematical concerning growing old. Yet in the majority of countries, old age is more and more acknowledged in terms of a social problem. As all people must age and pass away, any cultural belief system, which cannot offer security, meaning, and self-worth to those, who reach the conclusion of living natural sequences, will finally have to alter. Such is the case in America, where the cultural values of the youth, competitiveness, vitality, and self-sufficiency are less relevant for the ever-increasing part of the populace. At the life culminating stage, the meaning humans attribute to old age forms the very sense of the total life cycle.
Centuries ago, older people were highly expected, probably, because they were so few in society. Today, there are far more elderly people than ever before, but they are not respected at all. The most crucial fact to stress is that the position of an old person is never won, but at all times granted. They belong to the unproductive minority, and their destiny depends upon interests of the active population. In the past, if the majority wanted to avoid anarchic competition among its members and to preserve the conventional order, then they found it suitable to select males of a dissimilar kind to act as mediators or representative people, men upon whose authority everyone could agree; and older people fulfilled all these conditions. Older adults were vital for the working out of a trouble, but when the solution had been found, they were removed. Old age had been strong and powerful in China, in Greek cities, Sparta, and Rome until the second century before Christ. It had no political power at all in the times of alterations, revolutions or expansion. The class fight gave the concept of old age some ambivalence much more than a conflict among generations.
Since the eighteenth century, social observers have asserted that there is a contrary relation among social evolvement and the position of older people, being a historical shift from worship to humiliation. In 1776, Adam Smith, for example, described that age was the foundation of precedence and rank among native Americans, whereas in civilized and opulent nations, its role was simply residual. Mass production and urbanization were the chief factors, which together destabilized the economic foundation of an extended family and reduced the number of self-employed. With the demographic aging revolution influencing developed and developing countries alike, the "problem" of old age has become global in scope.
Ageism in the Twenty First Century
The Civil Act of 1964 ended discrimination. However, it depends on whom it concerns. In 1964, the Congress approved the Public Law 82-352, the provisions of which forbade discrimination on the basis of sex and race in hiring, firing or promoting. This act protected the rights of people, but no one had ever expected that age would play a part in discrimination. Eventually, this act was amended to include age discrimination among the workforce, preventing companies from discriminating against workers, who were older, or refusing to hire them based on their age. However, many firms discover new ways to reject an applicant on some other basis. Evidence suggests that equal opportunities have not enhanced prospects for older workers. The latter are still treated unfairly, forced to retire early or devalued in positions only due to the fact that they are no longer young. However, they are capable to perform tasks and obligations determined by their jobs.
Attitudinal factors at work put most women at a huge disadvantage and make them more vulnerable than men to hardships as they age. These factors comprise pervasive negative stereotypes, as well as numerous workplace policies and practices, which unjustly penalize females for fulfilling their caretaking responsibilities.
The thought of aging is feared by many people due to the fact that older adults are often criticized and neglected. The reality of illness and death is supposed to be frequently rejected, as humans actually cherish a belief in their own immortality. Infirmity threatens the ideology of independence and rugged individualism, and many people view getting older as something that happens with other people and not with them. Yet, ageism pervades all spheres of social order, and for many people, “old” has become an extremely dirty word.
Physical Health Considerations
As with lots of other stereotypes, the ones concerning aging are usually inaccurate. Many older Americans live independently and preserve close ties with their families and friends. Most human beings lead relatively stable lifestyles. What is crucial to keep in mind concerning humans aged over 65 is that while many start to experience some physical restrictions, they manage to tolerate them and have happy lives. Many older Americans do experience normal changed connected with their age, which can influence the style of life. Widespread physical ones embrace hearing impairment, the rising probability of hypertension, heart disease, weakening vision, arthritis, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
It should be mentioned that millions of American citizens suffer from chronic diseases, which may be prevented through regular physical activity. The lack of physical activity is a vital contributor to many of the most crucial chronic illnesses of older Americans, counting heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and colon cancer. Only 31% of people aged from 65 to 74 reports engaging in twenty minutes of reasonable physical activity three or more days a week. Older people have to participate in daily moderate physical exercises, because diseases, depression and social isolation are not normal for older American citizens. Instead, living fruitfully and happily is a norm for them.
Mental Health Considerations
Ageing may bring mental and physical problems, and in the same way as physical illnesses become more widespread with age, so the mental health may be more and more threatened. There are numerous grounds why mental health troubles may augment with age, from biological alterations that may interfere with the brain’s capability to process data to social changes, for instance, retirement and adult children leaving home, which may lead to the feelings of worthlessness and isolation.
Mental health troubles may have a serious influence on the older person’s capability to carry out numerous basic activities of daily living (getting up, washing, dressing, shopping or cooking). The impact on the quality of living, even shown in the form of minor signs, may be huge. However, troubles frequently go undiagnosed and untreated. Acknowledging why a psychiatric disease evolves and how it tends to influence a person is vital in helping humans manage their troubles as effectively as possible and lessen the risk of serious harm.
Cognitive alterations that are associated with mental processes, such as sensation and perception, language, thought, memory, intelligence, and problem-solving, often occur among older adults. Additionally, depression at this age is frequently fatal. People aged 65 and older have the highest suicide level among all age groups. To overcome depression, optimism, effective coping, and the sense of self-efficacy are very crucial. When older people remain in charge of personally significant spheres of their own lives, they preserve the basic aspects of their identity in the face of changes, view their past and future far more positively, and are emotionally more cheerful.
The elderly encounter multiple physical restrictions, as well as social and emotional losses, as they grow older. Besides, the opportunities to face major stressors, for instance, relocation, bereavement, the onset of various illnesses and other health troubles increase. Furthermore, some older humans may welcome retirement as a chance to participate in interesting activities that have been set aside while working and raising children. For others, retirement can signal a crucial reduction in profits, the narrowing of the social network and support system, a negative alteration in self-esteem and identity, and even the acknowledgment of own mortality.
A social group is a powerful model of changes in social networks, as people move through living. Though the size of the convoy decreases as age-mates pass away, elders are rarely left without humans in their internal circle, who contribute to their well-being. It is a testament to the flexibility in preserving effectual social networks. However, unfortunately, social groups of some people break down.
Concerning marriage, even with a high U.S. divorce rate, one in every four or five first marriages is forecasted to last at least fifty years. Marital satisfaction actually rises from middle to late adulthood, when it is at its peak. Retired men spend much more time at home and help their wives about the house, which guaranteesmarital satisfaction of both spouses.
Moreover, as family responsibilities and occupational pressure decrease, friendship ties take on increasing significance. Having friends is a particularly strong forecaster of mental health among older adults. They report more positive experiences with friends than with relatives, partly due to pleasurable leisure time activities they share in a close circle. The exceptional qualities of friendship interaction, namely openness, mutual caring, spontaneity, and similar interests, are also important.
Women and Ethnic Minority Elders
America is becoming older, and the majority of elderly Americans are females. Due to the fact that women live longer than men, health, economic, and social troubles that encounter older people are most frequently challenges experienced by ladies. One of six older females is a member of a minority group, for example Native American, Hispanic, or African American. By 2030, one in four older American citizens, irrespective of sex, will be a member of a minority group.
Women live six years longer than men. In the USA, females’ life expectancy is nearly eighty years. Nevertheless, the gift of long life is often accompanied by numerous challenges. Chronic illnesses and disabilities are frequent in old age. Older females spend more years disabled. They are twice as likely to live in nursing homes.
In spite of substantial reductions in the poverty level of U.S. older citizens over the last two decades, the frequency of poverty among minority elders, especially women, remains high. Whereas the 1993 Census found ten percent of older Anglos existing in scarcity, thirty-three percent of elderly African-Americans existed in poverty, in the same way as did twenty-two percent of older people of Hispanic background.
The general health of the elderly populace in the USA has been improving, but minority older people are excessively influenced by discrimination in access to usual medical care and are less likely to obtain it. They receive a markedly lower quality of care than white counterparts, and this is intolerable from the social justice point of view. Fairness has to be promoted not merely because it is just, but due to the fact that healthcare differences are expensive and may cause crucial disabilities and morbidity.
Political Power amongst the Elderly
There is the general agreement that older adults vote more regularly than younger humans, and many grounds have been put forward to account for this. Older humans are more likely to be registered to vote. It in turn is connected with the fact that they are more likely to be residents in their houses for a longer time period and are better informed concerning politics. The latter fact also contributes to the likelihood to register and vote. An additional factor impacting the likelihood to take part in elections is supporting particular political parties. It has been found that older adults are more likely to be supporters or members of the ones.
Age is only one of numerous personal characteristics, with which older humans can be identified, and it is these dissimilarities, such as individual’s experience in politics in formative years or the socio-economic environment, that account for differences in the voting conduct of older or younger voters. In general, the richer and better-educated humans are, the more likely they are to vote, be interested in politics, and have an attitude towards democracy.
At the same time, campaign strategists for the major parties asserted that many of the proposals were aimed at older voters, who had the potential to tip the balance in marginal seats. It suggests that when politicians purposely target older adults in election manifestos and put forward offers aimed at persuading them to vote in a certain manner, age may have an influence on electoral conduct.
Future Trends in Aging
The medium age of the globe’s populace is augmenting due to the reduction in fertility rates and the twenty-year boost in the life span in the previous century. These aspects, mixed with superior fertility in many countries during twenty years after the Second World War ("Baby Boom"), will result in amplified numbers of older people during 2015-2030. The increasing quantity of the elderly increases demands for medical and social services and public health system. Chronic illnesses that influence older adults excessively contribute to disabilities, diminished quality of living, and increased health costs. Augmented life expectancy partially reflects the accomplishment of public health involvement; however, health programs have to face challenges, counting the increasing burden of chronic diseases, injuries, and disabilities, and increasing anxieties concerning the future care-giving and health-care costs.
The predictable boost in the number of older people will have remarkable consequences for public health, delivery and health-care financing systems, pension systems and informal care giving. Though more attention has been paid to populace aging projections and their implications in evolved nations, the greater number of the elderly and growing chronic illnesses will place further tension on resources in countries (including the USA), where fundamental public health issues are yet to be concentrated on.
Today, older people are subjected to serious discrimination in their workplaces, families and social life. At work they are treated as ineffective, burdensome and weak. Thus, when they reach the age of 60, they are asked to leave and discover another activity to occupy own time, as work only caters for the youth. Older adults are faced with many other problems, which influence them until they pass away. Some of these are poverty, undernourishment, healthcare difficulties and elderly abuse.
The amplified awareness of constructive contributions to current society made by older humans as defenders and supporters of cultural heritage, customs and traditions has to neutralize humiliating attitudes to them as a “rising tide”, linking this group of American citizens to serious economic burdens in society. Alterations in the size, composition and distribution of the populace are partially an outcome of prevailing economic and social conditions. Similarly, the organization and size contribute to the determining of the economic, social and wider environment. The potential evolvement, distribution and age structure of the populace are the major factors supporting many analyses of long-standing policy issues in the USA. Some of these matters concern service provision, for instance, health and aged care. Other policy issues embrace the aspects of economic evolvement. To address challenges posed by the aging populace, public health agencies, the administration and community organizations have to carry on expanding various healthcare, political and social programs to enhance the quality of living of older people.