Ethnography on Aging Among Senior Age Groups

Introduction

Many media representations of the elderly reflect unfavorable societal views about aging. Youth is revered and celebrated in North American culture since it is seen as a sign of attractiveness. The elderly are often depicted in comedic works as grouchy or antagonistic. Older people’s jobs seldom represent the variety of experiences seniors have in real life, whether as employees, lovers, or other persons. Individuals rarely understand the effects of aging until they are well into their golden years, which puts society at a disadvantage through productivity decline among the older populations. As a result, many people have erroneous ideas about aging and the elderly. Older adults are often misunderstood by the general public. When confronted with racial and gender stereotypes, people are more likely to question them; yet, the opposite is true when it comes to age preconceptions.

While achieving adulthood’s milestones is an accomplishment to be proud of, the signs of natural aging may be a source of embarrassment or shame. Cosmetic surgery is an option for some people who want to delay the signs of aging. However, just because older people have greater fulfillment and self-assurance does not mean they are immune to societal views that make them feel underappreciated and invisible. It is the aim of gerontology study to find out how individuals may be helped as they age. In the subject of aging research, gerontologists study how aging affects individuals and society as a whole. Gerontologists may be either young or elderly scientists. Besides medical and biological specialists, gerontology also includes economists, social scientists, and financial analysts. Specializing in sociological aging issues, social gerontology is an area of gerontology that provides for research on aging populations. Many researchers are working on getting a better knowledge of what it is like to be a person of a certain age, including their mental and physical well-being and age-specific issues like marriage. People who work in social gerontology do anything from study to counseling to community organizing to providing services to the elderly.

The more age is studied as a fundamental of social organization, the broader the theory of boundary defining should be. In addition to providing a unique insight into the issue of passing, looking at age barriers will also shed light on how borders are maintained when people cross them. This is the usual requirement for age limits, which is troublesome for ethnic groupings. The growing number of retirement communities in industrial countries provides anthropologists with a unique chance to study the process of defining social boundaries. Retirement communities and public housing for the aged and mobile home parks, recreation towns, and different societal settings, such as hospices, have all been established by the old. Since many older adults lack access to social engagement, they turn to creativity to meet their basic human needs. The appeal of these natural experiments for anthropologists is not that older people form societies differently than anybody else, but rather the frequency they do so in various contexts.

Analysis of the Life Course and Physical Aging

Healthy living is a multi-dimensional term that encompasses both how individuals feel and how cells operate. Diseases and disease risk are defined by evolving categories that take into account a variety of indications, symptoms, and measures of functional impairment. The capacity of an organism to react adaptively to external stimuli is reflected in its state of health or illness. As a result, a holistic view of health is required, not simply evaluating current health conditions. This means that to come to grips and preserve one’s integrity, balance, and perception of well-being, wellness can be viewed as the capability to adapt and oversee based on perseverance in three areas. They include physiologically, concerning biologic resilience; cognitively, for the capabilities for dealing; and socially, with reverence to the capacity for fulfilling potentials and responsibilities, managing independent living, and participating in society.

The changes in health that occur as we become older are referred to as development and aging. A person’s health capital or reserve grows with time and reaches a maximum, or a plateau when they reach adulthood. Biological aging (senescence) describes the decline in function after maturity; the disposable soma theory of aging is generally recognized. It states that bio-molecular degradation from abiotic conditions and mutations is to blame for this decrease. Especially during a crucial developmental period, early life exposures may affect the function or structure of bodily systems, and epi-genetic mechanisms may play a role. Biological aging agents may interact with developmental plasticity to accelerate the functional decline, or reserve might be affected without significantly impacting the declining pace. After-developmental exposures only affect the start and pattern of fall, not the speed of decrease itself.

Every stage of life comes with its own set of fears and difficulties. When it comes to socialization, Erik H. Erikson (1902–1994) divided the average person’s lifespan into eight stages. Each stage has its own set of obstacles to conquer. In the last stage of life, integrity must be embraced above despair. Unfortunately, some individuals are not up for the task. Having to face regrets like being dissatisfied with their children’s lives or even their own may be difficult for parents. Particular professional objectives may be out of reach for them, and they will have to accept that. Alternatively, they must take the price they have paid for their professional achievements, such as losing family time or deteriorating personal health (Scheidlinger, 1994). Those who can acquire a strong sense of integrity and embrace a new stage in life are more fortunate. They may improve their abilities, try out new hobbies, and prepare for the end of their lives calmly.

Issues and Elements of Physical Aging

According to Kaufman (1986), aging is a lifetime process that includes physical, psychological, and social development and change. In the same way that there is a hierarchy in race, class, and gender, there is a hierarchy in age. There is an argument that even among children, age bias causes society and the young to see aging in a bad light, despite many youngsters looking forward to independence. As a result, the division between the young and the elderly may become more common in institutions, society, and culture. Age-related changes affect everyone differently and are influenced by a lot of variables. In primary aging, biological factors such as cellular and molecular alterations are to blame. In secondary aging, factors such as inactivity and a poor diet may be involved.

After the age of 50, most individuals start to see physical symptoms of aging (Freiberger et al., 2012). Over time, the skin loses elasticity as well as becomes thinner, drier, and more wrinkled. The appearance of wrinkles is due to aging and thinning and graying of hair are both common side effects of aging. Men who are prone to becoming bald begin to experience hair loss. In part, how difficult or easy it is for individuals to cope with these changes depends on how their culture interprets aging. A society that places a high emphasis on youth and beauty fosters a negative view of aging. In contrast, an organization that honors the elderly for their knowledge and life experience promotes a more optimistic view of aging.

Growing older comes with a slew of problems which include losing one’s freedom, physical decline, and prejudice based on age, are all possible consequences. Senescence is a word used to describe the aging process, which includes changes in the body, mind, emotions, intellect, social environment, and spirituality. This section addresses some of the difficulties they have had thus far. Many older adults, as previously said, are nevertheless very self-sufficient. Finances may be a problem for the elderly since they no longer have employment (Kaufman, 1986). Older folks are often the focus of sarcasm and prejudice because of misunderstandings about their culture. Even if the aged confront many difficulties as they age, they do not have to approach old age in shame. Workplace, health care, and assisted-living discrimination may be exacerbated when there is ageism present. As a result of ageism, older individuals may fear losing their jobs, feel disregarded by their doctors, or lack influence over their everyday lives.

In ancient times, elders were highly regarded and respected in society. Gerontocracy is a kind of social organization in which the oldest members of a community hold authority. In certain countries, the elderly still wield control and influence, and their vast wisdom is respected. However, industrialization has lowered the social status of the elderly in many contemporary countries. Younger generations now have a lot of money, power, and influence. This trend threatened people in higher-level jobs, and many worried that it would drive them out of the workforce altogether. Because of rapid changes in technology and media, employees of all ages now need to learn new skills. Things have changed not just in the office but also in the home. A married couple took care of their elderly parents in agricultural cultures.

The family’s elders helped out with domestic duties such as cleaning, cooking, and child care. Agrarian economies were industrialized, and younger generations migrated to the city to work in factories. After a while, many started to see the old as a financial burden. To labor outside the house would have required too much energy and endurance for them to sustain. The tendency of older adults to live away from their adult offspring, which started with industrialization, has become the norm.

The Nature of the Aging Experience

According to research, the aging baby boomer population will boost the health care industry’s bottom line, especially in pharmaceutical production and home health care. Furthermore, others believe that medical advancements in the last several decades are primarily due to the health needs of baby boomers. In contrast to earlier generations of the elderly, boomers do not believe that reaching the age of 65 marks the end of their active life. They do not want to give up their jobs or hobbies, but they may need additional medical assistance to continue leading busy lives. The desire of many people over 65 to maintain a high level of exercise is fueling medical sector innovation. The most significant spike in health care costs occurs in the last year of life. A person’s last year of life accounts for between a third and a half of their overall health care costs. The conclusion is that as people live longer and better lives, the problem of health care costs and aging must be refocused on alternatives for end-of-life care.

Many people are concerned about the economic consequences of an aging baby boomer population. While the baby boomers made more money and had a better quality of life than earlier generations, they overspent and failed to plan appropriately for retirement. Observers agree that the systems are well-run, but payouts do not cover the cost of living, and the financial position of retirees is at risk in the lack of sufficient retirement savings (Bloom et al., 2010).

What Old Age Means in the Society Now

Eldercare will become more of a global problem as medical technology improves and people’s life expectancy rises. Eldercare expenses will increase as fewer working-age people can offer in-home care and long-term supported living for the elderly. Eldercare expectations vary significantly from culture to culture regarding how much and what kind of care people anticipate. For instance, in Asia, elder care is primarily the duty of the family. This contrasts with most Western nations, where the elderly are seen as self-sufficient and expected to care for themselves. Most family members will only step in if an older relative needs help, which often happens when the elderly are in a critical condition. People in North America frequently choose to provide eldercare based on future benefits, such as the amount of help the elderly have given to their family members.

There are discrepancies because of cultural views on aging. Several studies in China have shown that filial piety is the defining virtue. Although fundamental social structures have undergone many changes, the need for community and government care has grown. Due to the rise in the number of women working outside the house, caring for elderly parents has become increasingly challenging, necessitating the use of government-sponsored institutions (Kaufman, 1986). Yet many middle-class families cannot afford to outsource professional health care, which leaves gaps in treatment for those in need. Compared to those of Caucasian descent, people of Chinese descent have a more incredible feeling of filial duty and see giving elder care as a more natural part of life. Remember that not all demographic groups see aging in the same manner, even within a single nation. Asians, African Americans, and Latinos are the ethnic groups least likely to place elderly family members in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. (Kuh et al., 2013).

Canada and other developed countries are well-prepared to meet the needs of an aging population that will only grow in the future. Peripheral and semi-peripheral countries, on the other hand, are confronted with equivalent rises in costs but lack comparable resources. Elder poverty is a severe issue, particularly for older women. Age-related feminization occurs in peripheral countries because of the large number of older women who are unmarried, uneducated, and not employed. There was a coordinated international effort to develop comprehensive social policies to deal with the demands of an aging global population that took place in 2002 in Madrid, Spain, culminating in the Madrid Plan (Sidorenko & Walker, 2004). Global problems and possibilities generated by an increasing global population are publicly acknowledged, and the aged are empowered. International aging policies are linked to development strategies under the plan’s three key topics. Despite its best efforts, the Madrid Plan has not yet achieved all of its goals. For better or for worse, the aging population has raised awareness about the various issues it brings with it. As a result, legislative safeguards have been strengthened, and elderly people’ vulnerability has been brought to the attention of policymakers throughout the world.

Conclusion

Persons go through several phases of life as they become older. The locations of aging may help us better comprehend the process of aging itself, which is more than just a physical process. Many life stages, such as childhood and adolescence, adulthood, parenthood, and seniority, are all part of a person’s life cycle. New institutions or circumstances arise at every stage of life as people shed old roles and take on new ones, necessitating learning and redefining oneself. The degree of ageism varies. Workplace, health care, and assisted-living discrimination may be exacerbated when there is ageism present.

References

Bloom, D. E., Canning, D., & Fink, G. (2010). Implications of population aging for economic growth. Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 26(4), 583–612. Web.

Clouston, S. A., Brewster, P., Kuh, D., Richards, M., Cooper, R., Hardy, R., Rubin, M. S., & Hofer, S. M. (2013). The dynamic relationship between physical function and cognition in longitudinal aging cohorts. Epidemiologic Reviews, 35(1), 33–50. Web.

Freiberger, E., De Vreede, P., Schoene, D., Rydwik, E., Mueller, V., Frändin, K., & Hopman-Rock, M. (2012). Performance-based physical function in older community-dwelling persons: A systematic review of instruments. Age and Ageing, 41(6), 712–721. Web.

Kaufman, S. R. (1986). The ageless self: Sources of meaning in late life. Univ of Wisconsin Press.

Kuh, D., Cooper, R., Hardy, R., Richards, M., & Ben-Shlomo, Y. (2013). A life course approach to healthy aging. OUP Oxford.

Rubinstein, R. L. (2012). Anthropology and aging: Comprehensive reviews. Springer Science & Business Media.

Scheidlinger, S. (1994). Erik H. Erikson (1902-1994). American Journal of Psychotherapy, 48(4), 653. Web.

Sidorenko, A., & Walker, A. (2004). The Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing: From conception to implementation. Ageing & Society, 24(2), 147–165. Web.

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