The Senior Citizen in Late Adulthood
The most rapidly growing age group in the United States is the elderly, or those individuals age sixty-five and older (Wood, Wood, & Boyd, 2011). This period of development is known as late adulthood. Significant physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional developmental processes occur during this stage (McGraw Hill, 2011). In order to understand the changes in late adulthood, I interviewed an eighty year old female who I will call the participant when referring to her. The participant was married in 1950 and had two sons, one born in 1954 and the second in 1955. The participant became a widow after fifty-four years of marriage. She was willing to discuss her early adulthood as well as her late adulthood with me.
Notable and Surprising Aspects of Interview
The participant was willing to discuss any topic about adulthood with me, even adding additional information to some questions. The general assumption in the past was that older adults are forgetful and confused. Gerontologists now have research to the contrary (McGraw Hill, 2011). During my interview with the participant, I noticed that she remembered generally more information from the past than one usually would think. The participant admitted during the interview that she sometimes calls people by the wrong name. However, she said that this was a characteristic that she has always possessed. Another view that generally has been accepted is that older adults become physically, psychologically, and socially withdrawn. This is known as the disengagement theory of aging (McGraw Hill, 2011). However, through my interview with the participant, I did not see this theory as true. The participant still participates in physical activities as well as social activities. The participant still works full - time hours as a customer service manager at Walmart. She is on her feet for eight or more hours a day approximately five days a week. She relays that her job helps her to remain active. Many of the elderly are placed in a retirement or nursing home. The participant still lives at home; the same home her husband built for her over sixty years ago. The participant also primarily drives herself around. This fact means that she still has good vision as well as mental ability.
Overall Functioning of Participant
Gerontologists John Rowe and Robert Kahn proposed the concept of successful aging in 1998 (Wood, Wood, & Boyd, 2011). An individual is considered to successfully have aged if he or she effectively integrates his or her level of functioning in the three areas of development: physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional. After listening to the participant relay events from her past and present, I believe her to have successfully aged. She remains physically active, engages in mentally stimulating activities, and has an active social support system. The participant stated in the interview that she enjoyed walking in her early adulthood as well as now. She also stated that her health was in good condition. According to Wood, Wood, and Boyd, the elderly are “enjoying life in relatively good health” (2011, p. 325). The participant enjoys reading and crossword puzzles. Researchers believe that individuals who keep mentally and physically active tend to retain his or her mental skills in late adulthood (Wood, Wood, & Boyd, 2011). Filial responsibility is the obligation an adult child believes he or she should take care of his or her parents (Berger, 2011). The participant stated that her children help her by doing things for her and particularly helping with the upkeep of her home. I believe that this type of relationship with her children benefits the participant in several aspects of her life. According to Berger, emotional support from children is often more crucial than financial support (2011). Based upon the information provided by the participant, I believe she receives emotional support from her children; this in turn benefits her aging. The participant also stated in the interview that many of her children’s friends consider her to be a mother figure for him or her. In turn, these relationships aid her aging process. She not only has her biological children to help her with tasks, but she also has her children’s friends to help her. The most successful elderly are those who maintain the same interests and activities from middle adulthood. This is called the activity theory of aging (McGraw Hill, 2011). The participant still enjoys the same activities now as she did in middle adulthood. She stated that during both stages she enjoyed activities such as walking, reading, attending cook outs, playing Bingo, and playing cards.
The process by which a person examines and evaluates his or her life is called life review (McGraw Hill, 2011). When I asked the participant about what she believed gave life meaning, I think she somewhat went through this process. She had to examine and evaluate her own life. She came to the conclusion that the most meaningful moments in her life dealt with her interactions with loved ones. She is happy and satisfied being surrounded by family and friends. Several years ago, it was believed that late adulthood was a period of inactivity, physical, and mental decline (McGraw Hill, 2011). Gerontologists believe that the elderly are capable of active and healthy lives. The stereotype of old age is quickly vanishing. As evidenced in my interview with the participant, it is possible for a person in his or her late adulthood to enjoy the same interests as in middle adulthood. It is also possible for him or her to have very good physical health, retain his or her cognitive health, and an outgoing social circle. Because of these three events, a person can have aged successfully.
Berger, K. S. (2011). The developing person through the life span (8th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.
McGraw Hill (2011). Psychsmart. New York, NY: Author.
Wood, S. E., Wood, E. G., & Boyd, D. (2011). the world of psychology (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc/Allyn and Bacon.
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