Being old is something that we all have to face sooner or later. The transition process can be made a smooth one or will take some people going kicking and screaming. In this review I will discuss the cognitive, physical, and social factors that go into our society’s definition of being “old.” I will explore how older adults are treated in the United States. I will also examine if this treatment suggests a value for older people and how the messages our society sends be it positive or negative might influence older people.
The physical factors that contribute to the definition of being old start with more visible differences such as the color and/or amount of hair and the additional wrinkles, but many other physical changes are hard to see. There are four groups of biological theories of aging that may help account for the physical definition of aging. Wear-and-tear-theory suggests that the body, much like a machine, gradually deteriorates and finally wears out. This would help explain diseases that are associated with getting older. Next is Cellular theory which explains aging by focusing on processes that can lead to the build up of harmful substances or the deterioration cell over a lifetime. The third is Metabolic theory which focuses on aspects of the body’s metabolism to explain why people age. The important factors for this theory are caloric intake and stress. The forth and final theory is the Programmed cell death which suggests that aging is genetically programmed. Now that we have the fundamentals for the physical attributes to the definition of being old, let’s explore the cognitive factors. There is an age-related change in the cognitive processes which include reaction time, memory, and wisdom that is associated with being old. According to research attention and reaction time both seem to deteriorate in older adults unless the task involves simple searches and when people are given sufficient practices. Working memory is...
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