Old age is the closing period in the life span. Age sixty is usually considered the dividing line between middle and old age. Chronological age is a poor criteria to use in marking off the beginning of old age because there are such marked differences among individuals in the age and better aging actually begins. Because of better living conditions health care, most men and women today do not show the mental and physical signs of aging until early seventies. The characteristics of old age are far more likely to lead to poor adjustment than to good and to unhappiness rather than to happiness. That is why old age is even more dreaded than middle age.
Characteristics of old age are
1. Old age is a period of decline - decline comes partly from physical and partly from psychological factors. There is change in body cells due to the aging process. Unfavorable attitude towards one self and life in general can lead to decline or become depressed and disorganized. Motivation plays a very important role in decline.
2. There are individual differences in the effects of aging. People age differently because they have different hereditary endowment, different socio economic and educational backgrounds and different patterns of living. The general rule is physical aging precedes mental aging.
3. Old age is judged by different criteria - age is judged in terms of physical appearance and activities. One who has white hair is labeled as old. There are many who try to cover up their aging symptoms to create illusion that they are not yet old.
4. There are many stereotypes of old people - let it be the folklore, the media, poetry, fiction, jokes or different forms of humor or scientific studies, all portray the aged as those who are worn out physically and mentally, unproductive, accident - prone, hard to live, days of usefulness are over, should be pushed aside to make way for younger people.
Poor adjustment is characteristic of old age - Because of the unfavorable social attitudes towards the elderly that are reflected in the way the social group treat them, it is not surprising that many elderly people develop unfavourable self-concepts. These tend to be expressed in maladjusting behavior of different degree of severity.