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Personal Experience of Aging: Physical Decline, Personal Growth, Social Losses

Question:

Discuss about the Ageism and moral exclusion of older people.

Aging is a process in which people tend to grow old. The term is applicable to all the livings organisms on earth and humans in specific. In an extensive explanation, ageing also refers to the cease of cell division which leads to the death of the cell and it is applicable to the species in a population. In humans specifically, ageing refers to the changes that take place in human body over time which includes; social changes, psychological and physical changes. Ageing affects the reaction time of an individual although knowledge and wisdom may increase with the increase in age. Ageing is considered as the major culprit of risk factors and diseases that affects the aged people. All over the world around 150 thousand people die every day due to old age related diseases. Although, the real cause of ageing is not known. The consistent damage to the DNA and the inability of the systems of the body to recover from such damages leads to ageing (Kalsy-Lillico et al. 2012, 359-92). This study typically emphasizes on the theological and pastoral issues of ageing relating to dementia.

The study involves an aged person of 70 years who is experiencing dementia. Due to ageing the several physical impacts and psycho-social impacts and experiences are highlighted. His personal experiences and the pastoral strategies by which a dementia affected person can be helped to recover. 

Personal experience of ageing can be described as an ageing process from a personal perspective. The personal experience of ageing can be explained through a multidimensional approach. There exists three different dimensions of ageing, the first dimension is physical decline such as the decline in health and vitality. The second dimension is the continuous personal development and growth. The last and the final dimension is the losses in relation to the social domain, which can be elaborated as the loss of respect and need by the other people. In the first dimension of physical decline, the aged people faces the decline in health due to the ageing issues. Several serious ailments like heart diseases, kidney diseases, eye sight and hearing related problems decreases the vitality of a person which both slows and degrades the health of an aged person (Suzman et al. 2015, 484-486). In the second dimension of personal development and growth, the aged person continuously gains knowledge and wisdom as the time progresses. This is one of the positive impacts of ageing which brings respect for that particular aged person. There is no doubt that aged people although lacks the mobility and the vitality, but still they possess the vast amount of knowledge which benefits the other persons around. The third dimension of loss of social domain is considered as one of the biggest negative impacts of ageing. The aged person lacking the vitality and deteriorating physical health condition often remains isolated and neglected from his/her family. Due to this reason the aged people feel they are less respected and a negative psychological tendencies develop within their minds (Schwanen et al. 2012, 1291-1295). This however later leads to anxiety and depression.

Midlife Crisis and Prejudice

When people age they get an idea that the life is coming to an end. There are several challenges that they face when start to age and is common with all the humans irrespective of gender, culture, nationality and physique. The personal experience so ageing is discussed as under. 

As people grow old and age, they get confronted with the thoughts of anxiety and these thoughts are differing in individuals that are either parent or a religious people. From a parent’s perspectives, I can say whether a person is single or couple, always conscious about their progeny and that they should live on. The felling is same for the non-biologicals as they know that life will move on. The children and the grandchildren provide a sort of merriment for older people and gives a feeling of happiness and complete in all the hardships of ageing. The singles and couples that do not have the children or the progeny suffer from the pain that they are not leaving any next generation, although they had once decided not to have kids. Again when it comes to religious aspects of ageing, I think the religious beliefs and spiritual life both act to reduce the fears and depressions of existential pain and mortality. The belief of presence of life after life along with the spirituality acts as a guidance and a meaning to the life of the aged people. The aged people also find the eternal peace and a spiritual connection with the other aged people that share the same belief (Romero-Ortuno, and Rose 2012, 684-689). 

When people age they need the much needed support systems and it becomes an important part of our later life. Once these people used to strong and independent once but now they depend on their family and the friends. Individuals that had maintained a good relationship with his family and his friends always in a better situation than the other aged people. They may have moved away from our loved ones and the family members. However, the feeling of connection with the loved ones makes us feel supported and connected. Although, there are certain aged people that abandon their family or get abandoned by their family. For such people, emotional pain and regret are a common companion. Women and men stay better if they have created a group of friends around them that stay together like a family. The childless couples and singles experience a less painful life if they have a nested group of friends that have the similar interests. The aged people living in rural areas face more problem in comparison to the one that live in the cities. This is the sole reason of the popularity of the assisted living facilities (Ruan 2015, 1-10).

Healthcare

Midlife crisis- reaching the midlife stage does not result in the crisis situation as the period is anticipated. The aged people that once had experienced the sorrows and upheavals of life in their middle age of the remains prepared to the challenges that arise in future. Thus the previous challenges faced in the earlier part of the life result in better coping up and can be experienced just like another turning point in life. The survivors of major crisis like the political unrest, bankruptcy and natural disasters often tend to say they are confident enough to face any situation in future. The aged people who have experienced dead end relationships and failed marriages often view the midlife as a chance to start the life afresh (Bauer et al. 2015, 22-42).

the prejudice related to ageing is present everywhere. Although it is seen everywhere that life expectancy is gradually increasing due to the advancement in science and medicine. However, according to me the present day youth and their obsession for fashion almost make the 50-year-old people just invisible. Discrimination is one of the major issues faced by the aged people due to the difference in religion, race, sexual preference. I think that the experiences gained over the years can be beneficial for an aged person to cope up with the discrimination. One important thing to note with ageing is the psychological effects of ageing on the people that used to emphasize more on their looks and physique. The reason is that later on these people suffer from the early incidence of ageing which includes loss of fertility, sagging skin, decreased stamina, virility. Sometimes people even try to reduce the impact of ageing through artificial procedures like cosmetic surgeries, usage of steroids. This affects such aged people because once this image had brought them fame, success (Johnstone 2013, 27).

At a certain point, as people grow older they rely more on the healthcare. There are two different groups of people that suffer from the health issue. One is the person who knows the ailments that he is suffering, still the person is unable to move for treatment as because he is not financially strong enough. While the other type of person has financial support although does not know that he is suffering from any ailment (Roberts et al. 2013, 241-246).

First person accounts of ageing- in the interview there were certain questions that were asked like: 1) what is the definition of successful ageing; 2) why to age successfully is important? 3) how the experiences of your life changed or impacted the ageing process? 4) provides the suggestions on how to age without major problems and any recommendation on the interventions needed for healthy life. The answers received from the respondents regarding the definition of successful ageing emphasized on the self-contentment and self-acceptance. According to the respondents “successful ageing is like accepting the present stage of life. Staying away from the thoughts that makes us dwell in the past and regrets that we could have done this or done that (Reichstadt et al. 2010, 567-575). However, accepting the fact that the present scenario will not let us do it. This is the best way to make peace with the past”. For some people this stage of live is a new found feeling. The second question was the definition of successful ageing and one of the response was “successful ageing is a part of life and enjoying every bit of it is best part. It takes long time for a person to convince himself that the present condition of life is all that matters. The future is unpredictable and to live the present is first priority”. The other responses are “for the aged people that are active, they must know that they are growing old day by day. These active people are proactively enjoying the life to its full and are adventurous and fun loving. These people love to go for an adventure and not the type who would be unwilling to stay at home”. The other responses are “the social interaction that the aged people goes through is always considered as a learning process. Aged people can gain knowledge form other people life and can incorporate the learning in their own life” (Reichstadt et al. 2010, 567-575). 

First Person Accounts of Aging

There was a perception that, aged people who are suffering from dementia and are unable to communicate effectively can recover from this condition if they start to participate in the spiritual practices. It was though that aged people will spring to life when they will be asked to say the lord’s prayer and would help them to perform the normal everyday communication with ease. However, the truth is that people suffering from dementia are not able to perceive the intellectual complexities associated with the spiritual practice. The people who are suffering from dementia experience the damage to the brains that reduce the intellectual and cognitive abilities and extensive memory loss. In dementia people are affected to such an extent that they lose the ability to recognise themselves and even others. During the study, the author while ministering had to adopt certain postures. This posture does not mean a different set of attitude of mind. This means that during ministering the author had to kneel down or bow down in front of the person (Swinton 2014, 160-172). This posture generally replicates the posture of worship and the people affected with dementia are able to recognise the rituals of worship. The study emphasizes that the negative effects of dementia are many and it includes inability to communicate properly, social interactions, patterns in behaviour and the ability to take care of oneself. The majority of the repercussions fall not only on the family and friends but also on the care givers. The person suffering from dementia lose the capability of personal reflection and are left alone to make what they want to make out of their own understanding and perception (Duin 2013, 101-112). The pastorals and the chaplains care givers have the exclusive responsibility to work for the people and the families affected with dementia. One in four people are not ready to accept the fact that they are affected with dementia. However, from the study it was found one of the chaplains to be saying that what is the needs in providing the dementia affected people with the pastoral and care. Because the concepts of theology are beyond the understanding of the dementia affected people. Aged people affected with dementia are not in a condition to understand the idea behind spirituality and the existence of god. It has been seen that people suffering from dementia are often stigmatized and ignored and the Christian theology states that every human must be treated with respect (Hudson 2016, 50-67). Not because that person possesses the natural rights, but due to the fact that god resides in every human Thus, for such people, providing them with the self-help books and pastoral care are not enough for the recovery of the people suffering from dementia. Christian theology clearly states that no person is self-made and need other person to point out the weaknesses. Both the first and the final word that can solve all major problems related to dementia is the word love. The person suffering from dementia need the care and love from his neighbouring people, friends and families (Hudson 2016, 50-67).

Therefore, from the above discussion it can be concluded that in aged people the health issues arise with continuous ageing. When people age there are certain changes in the body that a person must get accustomed with to reduce the psychological impacts. The people who to some more extent rely on their self-image during their old age, must accept the fact that they no longer possess such health conditions in the present scenario. However, according to some of the interview questions asked relating to ageing, it was later inferred that a majority of the people are happy with the way they have experienced issues of ageing. The pastoral and theological issues relating to ageing and dementia reveal that, persons with dementia almost always forget to remember the existence of god and lack the spirituality. Thus, the care provided to such people must be through love and care.

Reference

Bauer, Esther K. "Masculinity in Crisis: Aging Men in Thomas Mann's “Der Tod in Venedig” and Max Frisch's Homo faber." The German Quarterly 88, no. 1 (2015): 22-42.

Duin, Lorene. "Pastoral care for dementia caregivers." (2013): 101-112.

Hudson, Rosalie Evelyn. "God’s Faithfulness and Dementia: Christian Theology in Context." Journal of Religion, Spirituality & Aging 28, no. 1-2 (2016): 50-67.

Johnstone, Megan-Jane. "Ageism and moral exclusion of older people." Australian Nursing and Midwifery Journal 21, no. 3 (2013): 27.

Kalsy-Lillico, Sunny, Dawn Adams, and Chris Oliver. "Older adults with intellectual disabilities: Issues in ageing and dementia." Clinical psychology and people with intellectual disabilities, 2nd edn. Chichester, Wiley Blackwell (2012): 359-92.

Reichstadt, Jennifer, Geetika Sengupta, Colin A. Depp, Lawrence A. Palinkas, and Dilip V. Jeste. "Older adults' perspectives on successful aging: Qualitative interviews." The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 18, no. 7 (2010): 567-575.

Roberts, Helen C., Holly Emma Syddall, Jonathan Sparkes, Jan Ritchie, Joe Butchart, Alastair Kerr, Cyrus Cooper, and Avan Aihie Sayer. "Grip strength and its determinants among older people in different healthcare settings." Age and ageing 43, no. 2 (2013): 241-246.

Romero-Ortuno, Roman, and Rose Anne Kenny. "The frailty index in Europeans: association with age and mortality." Age and ageing 41, no. 5 (2012): 684-689.

Ruan, Qingwei, Zhuowei Yu, Ma Chen, Zhijun Bao, Jin Li, and Wei He. "Cognitive frailty, a novel target for the prevention of elderly dependency." Ageing research reviews 20 (2015): 1-10.

Schwanen, Tim, Irene Hardill, and Susan Lucas. "Spatialities of ageing: The co-construction and co-evolution of old age and space." Geoforum 43, no. 6 (2012): 1291-1295.

Suzman, Richard, John R. Beard, Ties Boerma, and Somnath Chatterji. "Health in an ageing world—what do we know?." The Lancet 385, no. 9967 (2015): 484-486.

Swinton, John. "What the body remembers: Theological reflections on dementia." Journal of Religion, Spirituality & Aging 26, no. 2-3 (2014): 160-172.

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