Since the beginning of the 20th century there has been an increase of interest in “ageing”, not just from policy makers or politicians, but from the people in general as well. The study of the social, political, health, educational, and other aspects related to ageing has led to the formation of many interdisciplinary subjects that study these aspects in great detail and unveil the kind of changes the elderly are faced with in order to help them. One of these subjects was gerontology. Gerontology is the study of the social, psychological and biological aspects of ageing. The study of ageing is a multidisciplinary enterprise where each discipline brings its own theoretical methods. Usually in society, the process of growing is one which many tend to ignore or neglect, however it is the one phase that requires much deliberation and planning if one wishes to live through it in a comfortable and stress free manner. When contemplation the future it’s common for people to just think about how they’re going to study, get a job and start a family. Seldom do people ever consider the more advanced stage in life when they’re going to be retired, or have limited physical capabilities. The reasons for this are generally associated with the fact that most people associate old age with problems or difficulties. These people still view old age as a stage where one will suffer from chronicle diseases, or lose their eyesight, or teeth. Besides that, many fear that at this stage you are forced to live in a foster home as now-a-days more and more families opt for this decision regarding their elderly. However, as we advance in our analysis of the topic, one comes to realize that such health, mental or social conditions are not necessarily attached to ageing itself. People can grow old a have a “normal” and healthy life without much hassle or pain and difficulties. Early care and preparation is what leads many to a sustainable and healthy life at old age. There are many elders who are physically fit and apt, even at advanced ages such as 80 years. It’s said by the psychologists that it’s their “high” spirit that keeps them alive and healthy, allowing them to enjoy the small pleasures in life without great obstacles. When discussing ageing, we tend to analyze from three different perspectives: biological, psychological and social. We have to consider also that the perspectives are different, hence different viewpoints. But this doesn’t necessarily mean they have to contradict each other. In the biological gerontology, we study the process of ageing itself, from the birth, the development, until the end which is the death. The functional capacity is analyzed in this endeavor. We also learn the good habits that we have to maintain as we grow older and other that we don’t have to practice, to avoid diseases in later years. In our daily everyday lives we might think more about the psychological aspects of ageing than we do about biological ageing. However, the study of ageing, within the psychological perspective, has played a minor role. Recent emphasis on the interdisciplinary study of ageing shows that psychology must be placed within an historical, environmental and biological context. Endingly, the social perspective is a broad approach. It is based on the assumption that all people’s social behavior, attitudes and values, are the result of the organization and structure of society in which we live.
3.1 Biological Changes
First of all, we will describe the biological aspect of aging, since it’s the most noticeable change that occurs in people. The susceptible decline of the body and increased susceptibility to diseases is the main focus of this part. Senescence -- the normal process of aging characterized by the gradual deterioration of the body's organ systems – affects every single cell in the organism, jeopardizing their functionality, It essentially reduces the cell’s reproductive abilities. This affects all other organs in the human body, since they’re ability to regenerate from any damage it widely cut. As a result all the nervous, urinary, reproductive, respiratory, and other systems, start losing their functionality. From that, we can notice a decline in people’s ability to respond to stress, increased homeostatic imbalance, and increased risk of aging-associated diseases. It’s important to note that senescence does not involve that changes caused by disease, but only does that derive from reduction on organ functionality. For example, respiratory system shows signs of wear with aging. As a result, a 70-year-old person has 50% less air capacity in his or her lungs than when he or she was 25 years old. Therefore elderly persons will tire faster while climbing stairs or doing strenuous activities compared to when he or she was younger, and they also have less aerobic capacity.
3.2.1 Change in body’s internal mechanisms
Most of the elderly seem to show a high sensitivity to a broad range of substances. This is related to three main factors: the aging body, current state of health, and genetic predisposition. The sensitivity to drugs and their dosage is the most important aspect of study in this area. As we age our body's internal absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion mechanisms change. These changes come mostly from: * Changes in the distribution or transport of drugs/substances as a result of reduction in lean body mass, serum albumin in the plasma, and total body water. * Increase in percentage of body fat.
* Changes in body composition and the function of organs which assist in the metabolism and elimination of substances
Consequently, elderly people are exposed to drugs longer, which can lead to toxicity or overdose. The reduction of blood flow and liver functionality can be blamed for this. The metabolism in different elders is different. Thus, it is very important to measure correctly the amount of drugs they should ingest. The kidney function in the elderly is also reduced, by an average of 50%. This too will limit elimination of substances from the body. Noticeably, the rate of elimination of drugs is not the only thing that changes. The response to drugs also changes. For example, the sensitivity to drugs which depress the nervous system increases, and so does the sensitivity to side effects such as high blood pressure from psychotropic medication (capable of affecting mind). Increased sensitivity to side effects such as high blood pressure from psychotropic medication.
3.2.2 Oxidative damage
It is believed that a great deal of the damage caused to tissues that lead to diseases such as arthritis, muscular dystrophy, cataract genesis, pulmonary dysfunction, various neurological disorders, and probably cancer, is linked to reactive oxygen species (ROS). Studies show that ROS contributes to the reduction of the body’s physical, biological and physiological levels, leading to ageing. They are also responsible for the oxidation of proteins which are necessary for the degradation of unnecessary substances in our body. This causes the high accumulation of these toxic substances that only harm our organs and blood streams. Concentrations of glutathione, a constituent of metabolism, and its related enzymes are decreased in the gastric mucosa of the aged. This also increases susceptibility to oxidative damage in related tissues
3.2.3 Common diseases
The common diseases affecting the elderly population are Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and cancer. Alzheimer has become a more common disease over the past decade in many countries. Recent studies show that dementia, which is a one of the aspects of Alzheimer, is actually related to genetic predisposition and not environmental chemical exposure. Heart disease is the main cause of disability and death among the elderly. The high sensitivity to drugs for high blood pressure only makes this condition harder to treat or sustain. Cancer also has a high level of prevalence among the elderly. The multistage nature of the disease, which makes it clinical signs manifest themselves 15-45 years after it starts, is mostly to be blamed for this. For cancer to develop there as to be (1) a genetic predisposition and (2) an environmental insult that triggers that development of the cancerous cells. The most common among the elderly are colon, breast, lung, skin, and prostate gland. The aged are also susceptible to skin cancer from direct exposure to UV light. 3.2 Social Gerontology
Social gerontology is the meaning that men attribute to their life, it is the entire system of values that define the meaning and value of old age. The reverse applies: by the way in which a society behaves toward its old people it uncovers the naked, and often carefully hidden, truth about its real principles and aims.
Simone de Beauvoir, The Coming of Age
As our society has become increasingly age-stratified, we are generally tracked through time with our age mates. Therefore the need to study ageing in the society and come out with some conclusions: * In richer countries, the elderly or near elderly can afford to retire because of pension schemes or social security systems. These programs are often lacking in poorer countries. * Beyond the financial realm, it seems clear that the older persons in developing countries make substantial contributions to the family well-being, in ways ranging from socialization to housekeeping and childcare. By understanding these few behaviors we will be able to interact more with our elderly and avoid segregations among generations. With all this young generations will be able to get direction and advice; priceless heritage, stories and wisdom will be passed on.
3.3.4 Retirement and labor participation
The growth of elderly populations may put pressure on a nation’s financial resources. This concern is based, at least partially, on the assumption that the elderly do not contribute to the economy. However, many older people do work, and examining the labor force participation and characteristics of older workers gives a clearer picture of their contribution. Some characteristics of older workers seem not to vary among countries. In all countries, the elderly account for a small proportion of overall labor force. The labor force participation declines as people get near retirement age, and also the participation rates are higher for older men than for older women. Other characteristics of older workers show interesting differences across countries. The rate of participation of older workers varies substantially, and generally is lower in developed than in developing countries. Just as the propensity to work at older ages varies considerably from country to country, so too patterns of retirement and the concept of retirement itself. During periods of recession in highly industrialized nations, governments may actively encourage older workers to cease active employment at relatively young ages. On the other hand, when labor market is tight, governments may look for methods to entice older workers to remain in the labor force or re-enter the labor force. In developed countries, retirement from the workforce was an event that occurred almost exclusively at a regulated age until the 1950s, with little possibility of receiving a pension prior to that age. Since then, countries have adopted a wide range of approaches to providing old-age security, and different potential routes have emerged for people making the transition from labor force participation to retirement. Some of these different routes are working part time, leaving career jobs for transition jobs, or leaving labor force because of disability.
3.3.5 Family and social support
The shifts in the population age structure generally result in new service demands and economic requirements. With an increasingly older age structure comes change in the relative number of people who can provide support to those who need it. It shall be taken in consideration that in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the life expectancy was low. Hence, while older individuals lived with family members, years spent in an extended-family arrangement were limited because the average person died shortly after becoming grandparent. On the other hand, declining mortality and increased longevity have increased the odds of joints survival of different generations within a family. In the same way, in developed countries, joint survival has manifested itself in the “beanpole family”, a vertical extension of family structure characterized by an increase in the number of living generations within a lineage and a decrease in the number of members within each generation. Thus, as mortality rates continue to decrease, more and more people in their fifties and sixties are likely to have surviving parents, aunts and uncles, therefore more children will get to know their grandparents and even great-grandparents, especially their great-grandmothers because it is estimated that women live longer than men. This raises the need for help with the care of the elderly. In developed countries, the adult children may take care of their elderly, while those elderly without children may face institutionalization. It shall be considered that today’s care for older people may be more physical and psychological demanding than in the past, especially with regard to the increased numbers of people with cognitive diseases. Living with others people reduces the likelihood of using formal medical care, and increases the informal. This depends with the kin availability. On the other hand, in countries with well-established pension and social security programs, many older adults give support (including financial help, shelter, childcare and the wisdom of experience) to their adult children and grandchildren.
3.3 Psychological Changes
Late adulthood is the period of life in every individual that follows the period of his or her life after he/she turns 60 years of age. This period is marked by the process of growing old, resulting in part from the failure of body cells to function normally or to produce new body cells to replace those that are dead or malfunctioning. This in turn results in significant physical, psychological, and cognitive changes, like cardio-vascular, digestive malfunctioning, depression, and impaired memory functioning, and so on. In this article, we shall have a look at the major changes in these categories. Older people may have trouble remembering some things, but not others. Short-term memory (i.e., less than 30 minutes) worsens as we age. Although we often hear that long-term memory (weeks to months) also worsens as we age, this may depend more on getting information into our memory, rather than remembering it later. Very long-term memory (months to years) is basically permanent, collected through a lifetime of day-to-day education and experience. This type of memory increases from the age of 20 to about the age of 50 and then remains essentially the same until well after 70. Most of us learn to adapt to changes in learning and memory. We slow down and do things more carefully. We think about things a little longer to remember them. We may avoid new or strange environments. As a result, any memory losses may not even be noticed until we experience a major life change, such as moving or the death of a spouse. 3.4.6 Reaction time
As we age, we tend to process information at a slower pace. This means it takes longer to figure out what is going on and what to do about it (if anything). Most of this "slow down" is caused by changes in the nervous system over time. We tend to slow down even further when doing tasks that require more thought or are more complicated. When an event is a surprise, we are particularly slow to respond. However, older people tend to make fewer mistakes in their responses than younger people. 3.4.7 Intelligence
Whether intelligence declines as we age is hotly debated. Although overall intelligence stays about the same throughout life, older people don’t do as well as younger people on many standardized intelligence tests. In formal tests of performance, older people also slow down with age–but, they make fewer mistakes. This is because we learn to value correctness as we age. So although we may be slower to respond, our answers are more accurate. We tend to be more cautious and less willing than younger people to make a mistake in judgment, which is a valuable characteristic in many real-life situations. 3.4.8 Life skills
You should keep in mind that most intelligence tests do not address things that we deal with in our daily lives. For example, older people tend to do better than younger people on tests that deal with practical activities, such as using a telephone directory. In fact, as we age, most of us get much better at being able to manage our daily affairs. It is usually only in times of stress or loss that we may be pushed beyond our limits, and having a support network to help us cope is very important. Older adults can continue to gain support, care, respect, status, and a sense of purpose by interacting with younger people. And younger people can learn from the experience, cultural meaning, stability, and continuity of older people.
3 Interview Subjects
3.1 Subject I: Zabedah Binti Zakaria
Figure 2. Sewing is one of her daily activities. She runs a small home business on it. Figure 2. Sewing is one of her daily activities. She runs a small home business on it. Figure 1: Zabedah Binti Zakaria is a 65-year-old widow. She is currently living in Merlimau, Melaka and is the mother of three children. Figure 1: Zabedah Binti Zakaria is a 65-year-old widow. She is currently living in Merlimau, Melaka and is the mother of three children.
Figure 3. Ms Zabedah on her day-to-day chours. In this photo, she is washing her dishes on the sink of her kitchen after having lunch. She does her housework everyday
Ms. Zabedah Binti Zakaria was born in Merlimau, Melaka. She lived with a family of seven with two brothers and two sisters. She studied from standard one until six in SK Sempang. At a young age, she used to help her mother prepare snacks to sell. When she got married to Mr. Abdul Karim Bin Abdul Rahman, in 1961, they moved to Queensway in Singapore, where her husband worked as a police officer for the Singapore Police. She has been living alone for the past twenty years. She is the mother of three children who gave her fifteen grandchildren. She stayed home and took care of her house and her three children: Abdul Rahim, Abdul Roslan, and Abdul Halim. Ms. Zabedah Binti Zakaria operates a small sewing business from her home. She also sells homemade snacks during the fasting periods. She takes personal care of her health, by cooking and eating healthy food.
When asked about her retirement plans, she said she didn’t have any plans because she never worked at a job outside her house. Her husband did not get any pension from his last job with the Singapore Police. But she also said she is not afraid of staying at home because she is quite used to it, and she receives financial assistance from her sons. She carries no genetic diseases (that she is aware of), but she is currently under medication to control the level of cholesterol in her blood. She also claims that she seldom feels tired, unless she does heavy duty tasks at home, and she doesn’t practice any form of physical exercise for the sake of health. Besides doing housework and cooking, Ms. Zabedah’s other hobbies include gardening, and watching TV while lying in bed.
3.2 Subject II: Sawiyah Binti Dawi
Figure 4 Sawiyah Binti Dawi, an elderly woman, in the kitchen of her house. Figure 4 Sawiyah Binti Dawi, an elderly woman, in the kitchen of her house.
Figure 5 Ms. Sawiyah in the sink of kitchen, washing the dishes. Figure 5 Ms. Sawiyah in the sink of kitchen, washing the dishes.
Figure 6 Ms. Sawiyah at her balcony where she sells drinks and snacks. Figure 6 Ms. Sawiyah at her balcony where she sells drinks and snacks.
Ms. Sawiyah Binti Dawi is an elderly woman living in Melaka. She studied at SK Merlimau until standard four. Then, she was forced to drop out of school to take care of her mother who was sick. She was from a family of four siblings, but sadly one of her brothers passed away at the age of 45. She got married at the age of 17 to Mr. Pilus Bin Songsang who was a soldier in the Army. She now has nine children who are living in different cities across the states of Melaka and Selangor. Because of her husband’s job as a soldier, she has lived in Kuantan, Kuching, Port Dickson, and Kuala Lumpur. In the end, she moved back to Malacca and built her own house in Merlimau. Ms. Sawiyah always stayed at home taking care of her husband and children. She also took care of her father, Dawi Bin Samad until he passed away. She’s the one who takes care of her personal health and she used to the household tasks like pulling water from the well. She suffers from high blood pressure and is under pill medication for it (one pill-a-day). She also takes calcium on regular basis, to stay healthy and strong, and claims to like to take care of herself. Although regular exercise is not part of her regular life, she takes up exercise based on housework. Whenever tired, she takes a nap and she sleeps at midnight. A monthly pension is received by her husband. It’s enough to for the both of them. Her daily routine includes cleaning the house, going to the market every morning for fresh conveniences, pray, and watch the News.
3.3 Subject III: Zainah Binti Zakaria
Figure 7 Zainah Binti Zakaria, 68-year-old woman, widow
Figure 7 Zainah Binti Zakaria, 68-year-old woman, widow
Figure 9 Zainah Binti Zakaria, preparing food for a thankful feast Figure 9 Zainah Binti Zakaria, preparing food for a thankful feast Figure 8 Zainah Binti Zakaria reading the Qur'an at home. It’s one of her favorite hobbies Figure 8 Zainah Binti Zakaria reading the Qur'an at home. It’s one of her favorite hobbies
Zainah Binti Zakaria was born in 1942. She lived in Merlimau, Melaka her entire life and studied and SK Simpang from grade one to three. The reason for her drop out was also the need to care for her sick mother. At young age, she used to work in the paddy field, make coconut oil, and carry water from a well located about 150m from her house. Helping her mother sell food was part of her daily routine and tasks. She got married to Aziz Bin Adun in July 1958, in her hometown of Merlimau. They had five children together, two boys and three girls: Noraini, Normah, Indra, Yani, and Aisyah. They live in Melaka, Terengannu, and Kuala Lumpur. At one stage of her life, when she was living in Singapore, she sold food at a small business. Now-a-days she sells breakfast food. She has been living in Merlimau, Melaka for the past twenty years with her youngest daughter. Walking and doing house work are part of her daily routine. She has been taking supplements and keeping a close eye on her food diet to stay fit and healthy. After retiring from her business, she stayed at home to take care of her children. She has no pension, but sometimes her children give her financial support. Ms. Zainah suffers from diabetes, and is under medication for it: taking pills three times-a-day. She says she hardly feels tired, and likes to go to bed early – before 10pm. Her other activities now-a-days include going to the mosque and reading the Al-Quran.
The natural process of aging brings with it many changes to everyone’s lifestyle and habits. And despite its natural nature, one requires much care and preparation to instill a healthy mind and body when the time comes. As the times have changed from our past decades, now the elderly are called more upon to take care of themselves. This care starts at an early age where we have to learn to care for our diet and physical fitness to prevent heart diseases, and other serious diseases. For financial stability and comfort, health and retirement plans are strongly suggested for everyone. However, this is hardly practiced by anyone, thus is explained the high number of people placed in retirement homes, or just simply left at home with barely any help and care. Those who can still watch over themselves and work to survive do so. Finally, as the one of the most effective changes that come with age, the psychological state of a person is an aspect that requires great attention and care. The person’s spirit, strength, will to live and happiness all depend on the psychological mind set. One has to be able to realize although the changes that come with aging are inevitable, they should be embraced as a challenge for a new lifestyle. It may take time to adjust to all the limitations that come, so careful mental preparation and physical are advised.
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