Developing through the life stages - old age

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Development through the life stages

John Glenn (1921) once said "Too many people, when they get old, think that they have to live by the calendar” and I think that this perfectly describes what society makes you believe you should be doing when you grow old, living to die. In this assignment I will discuss the two main aging theories and what they believe happens when society tells us we are too old and what they think is more effective in relation to a better life as an elderly individual. I will also discuss different things that the body goes through as it ages, the emotional and physical side. What impacts growing old have on the body inside and out.

Social disengagement theory- Cummings and Henry (1961) produced the disengagement theory based on a five year study of 50-90 year olds in the US. They suggested that the elderly person makes a mutual decision to withdraw from society and social interaction. Bromley (1988) defined disengagement as; “a systematic reduction in certain kinds of social interaction. In its simplest and crudest form, the theory of disengagement states that diminishing psychological and biological capacities of people in later life necessitates a severance of the relationships they have with younger people in the central activities of society, and the replacement of these older individuals by younger people. In this way, society renews itself and the elderly are free to die”. They suggested that elderly people want to disengage from society to reflect on life and prepare for death.

Activity Theory- Havighurst (1964) completely disagreed with the social disengagement theory and he argued that except for inevitable changes in biology and health older people are the same as middle-aged people with the same psychological and social needs. He said that decreased social interaction in older ages is a result of society withdrawing from the older people against the wishes of most of the elderly people. The activity theory proposes that the withdrawal is not mutual. It claims that older adults should stay active and stay involved. Many health care settings encourage the activity theory and try to keep elderly people as active as possible with things such as bingo and dancing. It is often argued by older people that they should be free to disengage if they wish and to not be forced to take part in social activity. Everybody’s personality is different and people either the maybe neither theory can fully explain successful ageing as it is up to the person themselves.

Influence the health and social care provision has on the elderly

In relation to the development of an individual, the social disengagement theory would have advantages and disadvantages. The problems with the disengagement theory are that it supports ageist attitudes towards older adults and therefore suggests that all older adults disengage from society when this is not the case so it does not take into consideration the variation of personalities. It lists older people all under the one heading whereas nobody would class middle-aged people as being the same. There is little empirical support which causes elderly people to disengage. Physically the person is not active and this could slow them down even more as it’s always good to keep active. Emotionally if the person is disengaged they are isolated and alone and may lose self-esteem and confidence in themselves which may lead to depression. A lot of people close to them may becoming ill or dying and old age can be a very emotional time. Socially disengagement cuts the person off from the rest of the world and they would not be socialising near as much as someone who is supporting the activity theory. It is positive because it can allow people to reflect on their lives and not be constrained by social roles and also be more discerning about relationships helping them to adjust to the deaths and illnesses among their peers. Physically people may want to let their bodies rest and just relax before they face death so they may not want to be active at all. Emotionally they may reflect on happy memories and a lot of older people become content in them and enjoy having peace to reflect on their life.
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For elderly people who are more comfortable being alone and prefer to be free to make their own decisions about how they want to spend the rest of their life the health and social care provision must show them support if they would prefer to not participate in activity. Some people just want to relax towards the end of their life but they could possibly become too lonely and isolated. Age UK has put together a telephone befriending service that elderly people who live on their own can ring if they ever feel lonely or depressed just to ...

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