PSY 375 Late Adulthood and End of Life Paper
PSY 375 Late Adulthood and End of Life Paper
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Running Head: LATE ADULTHOOD AND END OF LIFE 1 Late Adulthood and End of Life Paper Name PSY 375 Teacher Late Adulthood and End of Life Late adulthood is a time in which individual’s begin to accept life as a whole and reflect on this life in a positive manner as they near end of life. Late adulthood begins around age 65 and continues until death. As with any other stage of life, late adulthood has its own unique characteristics and developments. Late adulthood is often seen as a time of physical and mental 2 decline; however, there are ways in which an individual can promote and maintain both physical and mental health. Society has created many stereotypes over the years, and late adulthood is no exception to this common occurrence. When an individual is judged or stereotyped based solely upon age, this is referred to as ageism (Berger, 2008). Unfortunately, ageism is quite prominent among the elderly. Another significant factor in late adulthood is mortality. During late adulthood issues of death and dying become much more evident as individuals begin to ponder their own transience. While death is a universal concept, varying cultural influences also play a role in individual outlooks on mortality. Late adulthood is essentially the final developmental stage in a human’s life. In a sense, late adulthood is the closing chapter of life. In this paper the subject to be examined includes factors that influence late adulthood as well as challenges that individual’s may face as they progress through the final stage of life. Health and Wellness Older adults can maintain good health and wellness a number of ways. Every day choices can be highly influential when it comes to the overall health of an older adult. In fact, it has been found that lifestyle factors can be more significant than genetics in reference to aging (Johns Hopkins, 1998). Choices made early in life can also play a role in health and wellness as one enters the stage of late adulthood. Exercise (physical and mental), nutrition, and stress reduction are all common factors that play a role in health and wellness of older adults. Physical exercise helps improve cardiovascular and respiratory functioning. It also decreases the loss of muscle mass that older adults are vulnerable to as they age. Physical 3 activity is also a natural stress reliever, not only for older adults, but also for all age groups. Proper nutrition and physical exercise are two key ingredients to maintaining good health. Kurtus (2002, para.10) states, “memory enhancement and mental functioning are supported by good diet, mental activity, and connectedness with other people.” A proper diet accompanied by necessary vitamins and minerals is highly recommended for older adults. Water is also essential to maintaining good health because it promotes proper organ functioning. Throughout all stages of life stress can reduce immunity function and diminish health. This remains true for late adulthood as well. Eliminating as much stress as possible can help improve immunity function as well as promote healthy mental wellbeing (Kurtus, 2002). Maintaining proper cognitive health and functioning is also imperative during late adulthood. Many stereotypes have been created regarding the cognitive functioning of older adults. To uphold cognitive function it is crucial for older adults to expose themselves to various forms of mental stimulation. Puzzles, reading, writing, and games are all forms of mental activities that can help an individual maintain cognitive functioning as they progress through late adulthood. Social interaction is also a noteworthy method of maintaining good mental functioning. Ageism People are quick to assume that elderly individuals are at a direct disadvantage because of their age. This form of stereotyping is referred to as ageism. Ageism is a negative form of stereotyping which can occur at any stage in life. Adolescence is another common stage of life in which ageism is evident. Both adolescents and older adults commonly face patronizing 4 judgments based solely on their age. Older adults who face ageism often argue that they are fully capable and just as competent as any other age group. People who participate in stereotyping of older adults often view elderly as ‘fragile’ and physically limited. While older adults are at higher risk for certain illnesses, physical limitations, and social confines, most are healthy and active with plenty of social involvement. Not only are older adults stereotyped based on physical limitations, but they also are thought to have slower reaction times and decreased problem solving skills. These are also common stereotypes faced during late adulthood. Ageism has become a controversial issue throughout the years. Age stereotyping against older adults has created an unfair disadvantage in job markets. Different organizations have been formed in an attempt to combat ageism against elderly. These organizations try to focus on positive aspects of aging while diminishing any stereotypes and negative assumptions that have been developed regarding elderly incompetence. It is also expected that the issue of ageism and stereotyping will increase as the Baby Boomers enter the stage of late adulthood. Mortality The maximum life span for human beings is 122 years (Berger, 2008). As adults progress into late adulthood, issues of death and dying become more prominent than in previous life stages. While many people will not live to fulfill the maximum life span expectancy, the concept alone creates a mental ‘mortality clock’ that many older adults are faced with as years pass. The issue of mortality is often nonexistent during childhood and adolescence. During the early and middle adult years mortality remains a background issue and is not given much thought. Late 5 adulthood is the point at which mortality becomes significant as individuals move closer toward the maximum life span. Both physiology and psychology play important roles within the concept of mortality. While the physical occurrence of death is clearly on a physiological level, the contemplation of mortality lies within psychology as well. Cultures vary in their viewpoints, attitudes, and beliefs when it comes to death and dying. Some cultures view death as a new beginning (reincarnation) while others believe that it is the ultimate ending. Some people fear death and others welcome it as a state of peace and rest. Just as cultures diverge in aspects of life, they also contrast in issues of death. Conclusion People have come to dread late adulthood because of the increased awareness of mortality as well as common stereotypes of ageism. The issue of ageism has created many problems and disadvantages for older adults. As a result many groups and organizations are stepping forth in an attempt to end ageism. It may be a losing battle, but it is battle nonetheless. Contrary to common stereotypes, it is possible, and quite likely, for older adults to maintain good health and cognitive functioning. Exercise, good nutrition, and low stress levels are all important aspects of healthy and graceful aging. Perhaps the most significant difference between late adulthood versus the other life stages is the prominence of mortality. As individuals near the maximum life span expectancy they begin to contemplate their own death. Culturally, death and dying are diverse in nature. Cultural attitudes tend to vary in all aspects of life, and mortality is just another cultural variance that is evident among society. While it can be difficult for people 6 to maintain hope while facing the years prior to end of life, it is important to maintain optimism and confidence throughout late adulthood. 7 References Berger, K. S. (2008). The developing person through the life span (7th ed.). New York: Worth Publishers Kurtus, E. (2002). Lifestyle factors affecting quality of life in late adulthood. School for Champions. Retrieved February 6, 2011 from http://www.schoolfor champions.com/health/lifestyle_elderly.htm The Johns Hopkins prescription for longevity: Health After 50; Johns Hopkins Medical Letter (Dec, 46, 1998).