The Plight of People in their Later Years
The Plight of People in their Later Years
Elderly people, or those who are already in their later years, experience different kinds of emotions. Some may feel fulfilled while others also experience negative emotions. This paper aims to present ageism and stereotypes in late adulthood, and evaluate health and wellness practices that may mitigate these undesirable perceptions about ageing. Aside from this, social interaction and individual relationships will be highlighted in this paper as a key aspect in mitigating the adverse effects of ageing. Lastly, the cultural and personal perception on death and dignity will be identified.
One of the primary categories that people uses to identify a person is through his or her age. This categorization resulted to ageism, which is the prejudice made by people towards older people. Ageism is manifested in daily life circumstances through different stereotypical notions about older people. Specifically, most of the time, people communicate with older people through “overaccomodation and baby talk” (Nelson, 2001, p.209). Overaccomodation is speaking too polite, loud, and slow while baby talk is when people speak in a simple manner of speech but with exaggeration in tone and high pitch. These forms of communication towards old people are anchored on the stereotypical notions that they have hearing problems, slow thought process, and dependency (Giles, Fox, Harwood, & Williams 1994; Caporael & Culbertson, 1986 as cited in Nelson, 2001, p. 209).
Another pressing concern is the presence of ageism among health professionals. This is due to their stereotypical notion that their old patients are untreatable, depressed, and strict (Reyes-Ortiz 1997 as cited in Nelson 2001, p. 211). Also, most of healthcare providers improvidently address the medical needs of the older patients instead of proactively preventing their illnesses. Moreover, ageism is also present among psychiatrists. They do not want to work with older people because of the stereotypical view that they talk too much or less, they are unimportant, and that they already have poor physical and cognitive skills (Nelson, 2001, p. 212).
Nonetheless, ageism and stereotypes can be prevented by promoting health and wellness into late adulthood, which can mitigate the negative effects of ageing. According to the study of Lachman and Agrigoroaei (2010), health and wellness in late adulthood can be better if the person has protective factors. These protective factors include healthy physical activities, social and familial support, and control over their beliefs. Specifically, regular exercise prevents certain disability among people in their late adulthood. This also promotes proper functioning of the pulmonary, muscle, and bones. In order for this to be carried out, it is advised that communities provide programs for older people that teach aerobic classes and flexibility exercises. It is also advisable that, aside from exercise, the community should also create regular communal activities where older people can participate (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.).
Moreover, social and familial support, where interaction takes plays, also helps in mitigating the undesirable effects of ageing to people. This is because support and relationships offered by family and friends lessen the feeling of loneliness and stress. Additionally, control of the beliefs of the person includes his or her perception on constraints, in an internal aspect. This is mostly stronger among young people because they do not feel vulnerable about the expectations thrown towards them. Therefore, if this is strong in late adulthood, the person may experience lesser symptoms of ailments, recover fast, and also have high cognitive functions (Lachman and Agrigoroaei, 2010).
In addition, as a person nears his or her death, social relationships and interactions are becoming more important. As discussed previously, social interaction among older people is essential as it prevents loneliness. Older groups are one of the most isolated groups of people, which makes them vulnerable. They feel vulnerable because they think they are being left by their friends and loved ones, they feel they are worthless, and they feel immobile. The importance of discussing this aspect among individuals who are already near death is because it also affects their physical function. In detail, isolated people tend to have higher blood pressure, high depression rate, which results to a higher rate of fatalities. Therefore, it can be deduced from these statements that if a person has a stronger social interaction and relationships, he or she has a higher chance to lengthen his or her lifespan. Aside from this, older people also experience quality life. This then results to lesser dependency on healthcare services and lesser expenses on healthcare providers (Windle, Francis, & Coomber, 2011).
In order to achieve these positive outcomes, interventions have been proposed. These include person-to-person intervention, group intervention, and engagement within the community. In person-to-person intervention, befriending occurs where the older client is introduced to few numbers of people. The friends that the client meets will also have different roles and will assist the client in different activities and tasks. Mentoring can also be applied, which means that the older client will meet with a mentor and together they achieve certain short-term goals. In group intervention, social groups are formed where the client will participate. The group also has a structure that will allow members to discuss, achieve goals, and carry out healthier lifestyles. Lastly, community involvement intervention can also include communal activities and leisure areas. This will be provided by the community and set private and public sectors (Windle, Francis, & Coomber, 2011).
There may be interventions that can be done in order for older people to establish a strong relationship, but it is also important to consider the attitudes about death and dignity. Evidences were found that during these years, a person already shows fear towards death. This fear in the earlier societies had brought about the belief of religion and the psychology of magic. In a narrower discussion, death is the death of the body of the person. Culture has responded to the death of the body by following certain religious standards. An example is when people purify their body by declining to specific bodily impulses which are considered to be bad for the body (Moore & Williamson, 2003).
Also, elderly people already have a different perception about dignity. Most of the elderly may feel that they have lost their personal worth. This then reflects their fear of dependency and the need for them to be independent in order to maintain their dignity. Therefore, it is important that the people around them understand what they are going through, and at the same time, support them and make them feel worthy (Sproles, n.d.).
In conclusion, stereotypes in ageing come from the perception of the society around older people. This is very alarming because these stereotypes do not only affect the emotions, but also the physical aspect of people in their late adulthood. Therefore, it is important that people must be educated, especially friends and family members, about the negative effects of ageism and the stereotypes in order for older people to enjoy their late years.
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