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Aging and Later Years of Life

Aging and Later Years of Life

Author: Erick Taggart

Examine the concept of aging.

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Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [LC-USZ62-34526]

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Hello, class. So today we going to be talking about late adulthood, or old age, as well as the concept of aging. Now when we talk about aging, we're generally referring to the later years of life, which is to say from 65 years old until a person's death.

Now Erikson and his theory of psychosocial development said that this was a period of time for reflection on their lives. When a person looks back at the accomplishments that they've made over the period of their entire lifespan. But it's important to note that this isn't just a time to look back at the rest of their life and to not do anything.

In fact, many people are still very active during this period of time in making significant contributions to the world around them. This is a time of change and personal growth in people's lives as well. It's a time for a wake-up call when people realize the onset of death and try to accomplish more with the time that they have remaining. So it isn't necessarily just a time people are not doing anything or not developing.

So to talk about this time, let's look specifically at the physical and psychological effects of aging. So physically a person during this time might be losing their muscle mass. Their muscles might be degenerating slowly and certain abilities might be becoming a little bit more difficult for them to perform.

Correspondingly, there's a certain mental or brain degeneration that occurs this time as well. Generally people start to have lower speeds of processing of information, especially in their working memories, as well as a loss of long-term memory as well. And this can be sped up in certain ways through diseases, like Alzheimer's disease.

So it's important to this time for a person to stay active and healthy, especially to stay mentally sharp. And this means staying physically active, going to a gym or working out. So they can offset some of that loss of muscle mass and ability. As well as mentally by engaging in intellectually stimulating activity. And this can mean doing social activities, which are very important for people of a later age, engaging in different kinds of clubs. But also engaging in certain mental activities, doing puzzles and things like that.

Now because later adulthood is approaching the period where most people pass on, it's important to know what reactions people do have to death during this time. So Kubler-Ross, who's a thanatologist, noted that there are five different categories of reactions to death. Now these aren't necessarily stages that everybody goes through. Not everybody will have all five or even all the same reactions to death. Generally the person's reaction to death will mirror the way that they live, their lifestyle, in some way.

So let's take a look at it. The first reaction to death is denial and isolation, which is a person thinks that the information is a mistake that they received. Or they try to deny or ignore information about their death.

The second is anger, which is to say that they're angry at themselves or they're angry at death in general. But this can also extend towards people that are living. Someone who's angry about the health of others around them.

Third, we have bargaining, which is to say that a person starts to make deals with them self or with God or a higher power of some sort, saying that they'll right past wrongs. They'll live a better life. Or they'll dedicate themselves to doing some specific kind of task if they're able to survive.

Fourth, we have depression, which is to say that people start to realize the onset of death and feel the futility of it or the exhaustion that's involved with this. And generally just feel an overall sadness for the onset of death.

And finally the stage that Kubler-Ross hoped everybody would eventually get to is acceptance, which is when a person comes to term with their imminent death. And they feel peaceful or they feel a sense of resolution of their lives. And they don't necessarily need to discuss their death any further.

Now going along with the idea of aging, we also have the concept of ageism, which is a discrimination towards a person based on their age. This is things like thinking that someone is too old or feeble, they're infirm. But it can also be the use of things like patronizing language, like talking too loudly and slowly to an older person. Or being overly polite. So they're changing their behavior in some kind of significant way because of their age.

So it's important to note most older people, they do lose certain types of mental and physical abilities. They're not necessarily as quick or changeable or flexible as they were before. But they make up for it with learned or routinized knowledge and skills. So it offsets some of the effects of aging.

So generally, as we said, physically and psychologically there is some degeneration. But a person who's older is definitely still capable of working and performing different activities up to the point of their death. It's also important to know, in terms of culture again, that there are differences in the idea of ageism. In some cultures, age is still seen as a sign of wisdom and respect. For example, in Asian cultures the elderly are treated in an elevated position in society.

Terms to Know

Discrimination or prejudice based on a person's age.


Growing older, especially ages 65 until death.