A fact that cannot be denied in today’s Western societies is that people are living longer (British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), 2012) and this rise in longevity has brought about an increase in the population of the older members of our communities. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) (2012), the median age of the WHO European region is already the highest in the world. WHO states that, in 2010, the 14% increase of people aged 65 and over will rise to 25% in the year 2050. The article also states that the chances of those living longer and spending their later years in good health and well-being, vary within and between countries. The question then arises - why are some people ageing more successfully than others?
As there are several definitions of successful ageing – objective and subjective alike - an attempt will be made to define what successful ageing is and from a biological, a psychological and a sociological perspective, explain what is involved in the process of ageing1. It will also identify and examine three of several factors that successful ageing can be attributed to 2. Noting that there are several psychosocial theories of ageing (Mauk, 2002), the activity theory (Havinghurst, 1961) will be employed to help support the three factors identified that lead to successful ageing 3. There will also be a brief comparison with the disengagement theory (Cummings and Hemingway, 1961). In addition to this, the essay will also explore several aspects of how nurses can help and support elderly people age successfully 4.
Rowe and Khan’s (1998) model is widely used to give a definition of successful ageing. This model is used to distinguish between “usual ageing” and “successful ageing”. The model shows the former as a normal decline in cognitive, physical and social functioning with age, heightened by extrinsic factors. By contrast, the model shows successful ageing as a maintenance of physical and cognitive functioning and active engagement with life in the absence or avoidance of disease and risk factors. From a psychological perspective, Baltes and Baltes (1990) definition of successful ageing is having a sense of self control over life or self efficacy, having effective coping strategies, a sense of self-worth and having goals.
Marieb (2010) says that the ageing process actually starts once maturity has been reached although some believe it begins at birth. Professor Kirkwood from the University of Newcastle stated on Horizon (2008) that although ageing is a very complex process, in essence, it is a process that will make us more liable to fall ill and eventually die. According to Brooker and Nicol (2011), the possible physical and psychological changes that take place later in life are only a guide to what may occur, rather than a blueprint of what will happen.
There are, without question, certain biological processes that do occur in all of us as we age (Marieb, 2010). These include, according to Marieb (2010) the skin losing it’s elasticity and beginning to sag, the epithelial membranes thinning thus becoming more susceptible to damage, the exocrine glands of the body (epithelial tissue) becoming less active causing to ‘drying out’ due to a reduction in the production of oil, mucus and sweat. As well as this, Marieb goes on to say that some endocrine glands produce less hormones which in turn affect the processes that they control. That is, they become less efficient or stop altogether. Also, bones become porous and weaken, muscles begin to waste away and the efficiency of the immune and circulatory systems decrease.
Nurses should take into account, when considering the care and support of the elderly,
In conclusion………. Havinghurst (1961) states, it appears unlikely that a simple theory can account for all the people who are happy and satisfied in their later years. “Could it be that one theory does not fit all older persons and that there is more to be learned?” This question is posed by O’Neill (2002) and gives food for thought. The answer is ‘yes’ because as shown above,