Old age – Personal and social adjustments
The time at which old age begins is still ill defined. Sixty years is taken as the arbitrary dividing line.
a. The young -old (60-69 years) This is a transition period marked by many adjustments such as retirement and declining strength, sharp reduction in expectation and behaviours.
b. Middle-aged old (70-79 years) This period is characterized by increasing deaths of friends and spouse, reduced participation in home and community activities, increasing health problems, contracting social world.
c. Old (80-89 years) In this period, assistance is needed in maintenance of social contacts, there may be many health problems and some may become institutionalized or may lead a very sheltered life.
d. Very old ( 90 years and above ) Health problems are more severe and seri-ous with very limited activity in this period.
There are several challenges in different areas of old age which require adjustments and intervention. For the purpose of better understanding it can be discussed at four levels- biological, psy-chological, sociological or psychological or behavioural.
Biological aging and its challenges– It includes changes in sensory- motor performance, muscle strength, brittleness of skeletal structure, visual acuity and decreased reaction time and balance. These are examples of bio-logical aging which may influence attitude and behaviour.
Psychological aging and its adjustments – This consists of a general decline in the mental abilities that accom-pany old age.
Sociological aging and its challenges – It refers to changes in social roles- loss of spouse, vulnerability to dis-ease, compulsory or voluntary retirement, loss of income and loss of status.
Psycho- social aging and its challenges – It refers to systematic changes in personality needs, expectations and behaviours as well as changes in roles and changes in relation to others.
· Feeling of inadequacy.
· Lack sense of belonging and acceptance.
· Economic insecurity.
· Changing social attitudes
· Feeling of loneliness, uncertainty, restlessness.
· Feeling tired and depressed.
· High on anxiety.
· Low self-esteem and worthlessness
Some of the adjustments people have to make as they move into old age include:
Health adjustment: One of the threats to the elderly is prolonged illness. The aging body is highly vulnerable to ravaging diseases and injury. The psycho-logical stressors of old age can also pro-voke psychological disorders.
Retirement is separation from a sphere of activity that has provided special social order, economic remuneration, personal identity and prestige for many years. The abrupt termination of one’s livelihood may be a great threat to the old people; a welcome relief to some from tedious thankless jobs or a natural conclusion of one’s successful career. It may pro-vide more time for some to pursue their dreams and pleasurable activities.
1st October is celebrated as the International Day for Elderly People each year.
Different people adopt differ-ent coping strategies to meet their life challenges. Some of the effective coping strategies may be summarized as follows:
1. The elderly need to develop an attitude of flexibility so that they may adapt to life’s pressures and problems of old age.
2. They need to recognize that they have to explore new ways of coping with their life events.
3. The elderly need to make greater use of “information seeking” and of “problem solving” rather than withdrawing or isolating.
4. They need to enhance their self-confidence, self reliance, develop healthy attitude about their strengths and weaknesses as well as learning and maintaining effective coping skills
5. Participate in various group activities such as joining clubs and certain organizations for informal social interaction is very helpful for the aged.
6. Involvement in grand parenting helps the elderly satisfy many of their personal and emotional needs.