Current Political Issues of the Older Adult

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As people age, they experience changes in mental ability, social relations, and social status. Aging poses challenges to a person's sense of self. These challenges result from social attitudes toward older people, physical decline, and loss of social roles. Social psychologists propose that people adapt well to aging through disengagement, activity, or continuity. The life course perspective proposes that development is a lifelong process. A person's individual life course development depends on their physical condition, intelligence, personality, coping styles, resources, gender, and the social world they live in. Life course researchers propose that three types of events shape a person's life: nonnormative or unplanned events; normative, history-graded events; and normative, age-graded events. Organic brain disorders (like AD), loneliness, alcohol abuse, depression, and suicide are potential problems in old age. Experiences such as illness, widowhood, and retirement can lead to social breakdown. The social reconstruction process gives the older person support to cope with these problems.

In class we discussed the physical decline which can be extrinsic or intrinsic. We tend to age physically because our cells that have been dividing since we were first fertilized, and can only divide so many times. According to the Hayflict limit, it is approximately 110-120 cells. Other things contribute to our bodies changing as we age such as the Pleiotropic genes, hormonal production and balance loss of the Thymus. The body system's musculoskeletal changes by losing muscle and bone mass (especially women). Exercise can reduce this loss. The Endocrine system makes the testosterone decline, and women begin facing menopause. There is a sensory loss where taste and smell decline variably, sight tear glands decline, slower muscles, cloudy lenses, and hearing loss.

Disease prevention and health promotion programs provide other ways to control illness in an aging society. Researchers describe three types of disease or disability prevention: primary, secondary, and tertiary. Some studies of health promotion programs show promising outcomes. Wheeler (2003) describes a program for older women with cardiac disease titled, Women Take PRIDE (Novak, 219). This program encouraged a group of 233 women to engage in self management of their heart conditions (219 women served as a control group and received usual care for their conditions). Each woman in the experimental group selected a behavior to focus on (based on their physician's suggestions). Behaviors included exercise, medicine taking, diet, etc. The study found that, compared with the control group, women in the program made significantly cost savings and better health for these women. One large study of primary prevention gives some idea of the potential for prevention programs. Richardson and Harrington (1993) studied a program called HealthTrust (Novak, 221). This program offered health risk assessments, education on healthy life-styles, and tracking the progress of over 1 million workers. Researchers found, in a controlled study, that after two years, people in the program showed significant improvement in blood pressure, weight, and general health. People also reported fewer visits to their doctors and fewer hospital stays. Health promotion programs go beyond preventing illness; they attempt to improve health. The health care system needs to still improve by making services widely available, removing barriers to access, and coordinating services.

Family members provide two-thirds of all community-based care (Mezey, 45). On average, care giving family members provide care ten hours a day, seven days a week. Family caregivers are primarily wives who are themselves aged, or daughters between the ages of 45 and 67, some 50 percent of whom also work outside the home. One quarter of all people in the U.S. labor force, the vast majority of them women, provide care to at least one...
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