Aging is a process that continues throughout the life cycle. Like the other stages of life, aging also has its advantages and disadvantages. It is possible to find happiness, contentment, and stability in old age with the help of receptiveness and resiliency.
Old age is characterized by certain physical and psychological changes in the body and mind. The adaptability to these changes determines whether the person will make good or poor personal and social adjustments. The physical cause of decline is a change in the body cells due to the process of aging. The psychological causes of decline include unfavorable attitudes towards oneself and others and a lack of sustained interest in every activity.
Retirement is also one of the causes which leads to psychological decline. Schartz defined retirement, which is a part of old age, as “a termination of a pattern of a life and transition to a new pattern of life.” It involves many changes in the roles, interests, values, and overall patterns of life. Problems arise when the individual at this stage has little motivation to learn new things. Thus lack of motivation leads to failure in adapting to the challenges in maintaining his/her sense of self and the zeal of living a happy life.
Someone who has strong willpower to learn and cope with the aging process will have a higher likelihood of experiencing successful aging. Many factors influence adjustments to old age. These factors consist of a lack of preparation for old age, which leads to an inability to adjust to the changes encountered by them.
The Value of Children and Intergenerational Relations Study (VOC) examined the relationship between well-being and satisfaction with family and friends. The results confirmed that social relationships play a prominent role in well-being among older adults. Happy relations with family and friends was the most important factor in predicting mental health and well-being.
Old age can be dealt with new techniques and the willingness to adapt to the changing events in life. Addressing the problems of old age and treating the mental health conditions results in decreased emotional suffering, anxiety, improved physical condition, and the ability to live a better quality of life.
Activity theory is developed based on two assumptions that people use for the development of self- roles and activities. According to the activity theory of aging, there is a positive correlation between a person’s activity level and life satisfaction. But as people age, they may give up activities and roles and thus may experience loss of identity. Older adults need to engage themselves in formal as well as informal activities.
Socializing, developing, and maintaining relationships with close ones increases the well-being of older adults. Volunteering and actively participating in community events enhance the sense of self, which provides opportunities for greater role support. Additionally, it promotes the well-being of old people.
Continuity theory is a modification of activity theory that proposes that older adults tend to maintain their self-identity by continuing the same activities that have been important to their lives. Optimal aging occurs when individuals can continue the same patterns of daily living and maintaining their roles.
Involving in the same patterns of activities provides a better level of adjustment and acceptance of their age and aging process. A study by Adams et al., 2004 and Mitchell & Kemp, 2000 has found that participation in fewer activities results in higher levels of depression, thus affecting the quality of life.
Disengagement theory claims that it is natural and acceptable for older adults to withdraw from society and personal relationships as they age. This theory emphasizes that at this stage, people turn inward then outward, thus withdrawing themselves from the active involvement in societal activities.
Disengagement theory proposes that the struggle to adapt is psychological because there is a constant battle oriented towards internal preoccupations as they face the inevitability of death. But this theory remains controversial as it received little empirical support and was disregarded by many.
Old age is the final stage of the human lifespan. It's also called senescence. The aspects related to old age are referred to in terms of geriatrics. The word geriatric comes from the greek word Geron meaning "old man," and Iatros meaning "healer." Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov coined the term gerontology, It refers to the study of the soul, cultural, psychological, cognitive, and biological aspects of aging. Old age has seen a huge transition over time as there have been different roles, attributes, and perspectives towards the individuals who step into and live this stage of life.
In the current scenario, it's recognized that aging affects different individuals differently. Thus, making it difficult to classify everyone as having “typical” traits of aging or becoming old. These differences have been recognized over centuries. In his De Senectute, Cicero stressed that “it's not every wine, so it's not necessary for every disposition that grows sour with age” in his reference to the popular belief that aging makes people difficult to live with prevalent in that era.
At this stage, one of the most prominent inevitable changes is in physical functionality. Although regression is psychological, social functionality may vary from person to person. Robert N. Butler introduced “life review” as a therapeutic intervention and coined “ageism.” He emphasized that increased loss of status, roles in a society dominated by youth, a desire to protect their finances, and a desire to escape partial helplessness or pain are possible reasons for maladjustment in old age. He also stated that “When we talk about old age, each of us is talking about his or her future.”
Some aspects of old age bring to the spotlight the malpractices, dysfunctional social norms, forms of elder abuse abandoning or mistreating them. The elderly are forced to undergo the procedure of Thalaikoothal, a form of senicide or involuntary euthanasia against their will. Similarly, people of Japanese origin considered the ‘‘group’’ to be paramount. Thus, an individual’s well-being should be sacrificed for the good of the group and other forms of elder abuse prevalent across the globe.
On the other hand, some individuals have redefined the definition and perspective about old age. As Hosea Ballou said, “ Forty is the old age of youth, and 50 is the youth of old age,” there are many people who are living examples of the possibilities at this stage. For instance, Carmen Dell’Orefice is 81 years old and is known for being the world's oldest working model. Writer Harry Bernstein authored countless rejected books before getting his first hit at age 96. Similarly, Arianna Huffington founded her namesake news publication, The Huffington Post, at age 55. Anna Mary Robertson Moses, also known as Grandma Moses, began her prolific painting career at 78. Furthermore, Harland Sanders, better known as Colonel Sanders, was 62 when he franchised Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1952, etc.
1. Tenzin Gyatso, who is the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet and the highest religious and political leader of Tibet, is well known for his peace proposals towards world peace and significant participation towards environmental problems. The Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his contribution to spreading non-violence in Tibet. He continued the non-violence campaign to end the Chinese rule of Tibet. The Dalai Lama is 85 years old and has been working for world peace from an early age. He has received more than 150 awards, honorary doctorates, prizes for peace, non-violence, inter-religious understanding, global responsibility, and highlighting the importance of compassion and other human qualities to lead a happy and balanced life.
2. Usha Soman is 81 years old and is the oldest woman to trek to Sandakphu. She is the mother of actor and supermodel Milind Soman. She has participated in different physical activities and is quite popular for the exercises she does to remain physically fit. Recently she turned 81 and has become a true inspiration for people of all age groups. She has been inspiring people through her fitness videos. A video of her doing 15 push-ups went viral, and people have appreciated and are encouraged by the way Usha Soman is coping with old age. She wanted to go Bungee jumping in Zambia, but it got postponed due to the COVID situation. However, last year she went to Scuba in Bali and aspires to do more activities in the future.