Essay on Problems of Aged

Essay on Problems of Aged – A man’s life is normally divided into five main stages namely: infancy, childhood, adoles­cence, adulthood and old age. In each of these stages an individual has to find himself in different situations and face different problems. Infancy and childhood are periods of dependence.

One is normally at the mercy of one’s parents. In the later stage of childhood and during the period of adolescence how circumstances make a few of them to become delinquents, we have already exam­ined. It is during the adulthood that an individual has to bear the main brunt of life. Old age is not free from problems.

Though from the point of view of wider society the problems of old age are com­paratively less, from the standpoint of the individual the problems are not less significant. In old age physical strength deteriorates, mental stability diminishes, money power becomes bleak and eye­sight suffers a setback.

It is only for a blessed few old age may prove to be a stage of contentment and satisfaction. But for a large number of people it may actually become a period of disappointment, dejection, disease, repentance, and loneliness. In order to find some solace for their distressed mind towards religion.

They become more and more other-worldly in their attitude. Some seek to get satisfaction through the achievements of their children or grandchildren. Some old people cut off their relations with the external world and prefer to live in solitude.

Only a few make compromises and try to equip themselves to sail along with the currents of life. Old age, thus, has its psychological and socio-cultural sides. An insight into these may help us to understand the problem better.

The Psychological Side of the Problem:

The problem of senility or that of the aged has been a curse of the modern civilisation. The increasing proportion of older people in modern civilised societies has given rise to a great many psychological, social and medical problems. The growing incidence of mental disorders is very much associated with old age. For example, in America, in 1970 an estimated 7 lakh older persons were institutionalised for such mental disorders.

This figure, of course, does not speak of those older people with less pronounced mental disorders who were being cared for or ignored in the commu­nity. Even the ancient Roman writer Juvenal was quite aware of the mental problems associated with old age.

Hence he wrote: “But worse than any loss of limb is the failing mind, which forgets the names of slaves, and cannot recognise the face of the old friend who dined with him the last night, nor those of children whom he has forgotten and brought up”.

More than the physical disability, the mental disability and disorders make the old people to suffer. Long-standing neurotic, alcoholic, or drug-dependent patterns may continue into old age, or may make their appearance during this life period for the first time. Older people are very much susceptible to psychotic depressions.

The two major psychotic disorders of older people are-”senile dementia (associated with cerebral atrophy and degeneration) and psychosis with cerebral arterio­sclerosis (associated with either blocking or ruptures in the cerebral arteries)”. It has been observed that these two disorders account for approximately 80% of the psychotic disorders among older people in the civilised societies.

1. Senile Dementia:

Older people who suffer from senile dementia develop some symptoms such as the following – poor memory, intolerance of change, disorientation, restlessness, insomnia, failure of judgement, a gradual formation of delusions and hallucinations, extreme mental depres­sion and agitatedness, severe mental clouding in which the individual becomes restless, combative, resistive and incoherent.

In extreme cases, patients eventually become oblivious of their surround­ings, bedridden, and reduced to a vegetative existence. Resistance to disease is lowered and death usually results.

2. Psychosis with Cerebral Arteriosclerosis:

This is accompanied by physiological symp­toms such as acute indigestion, unsteadiness in gait; small strokes resulting in cumulative brain damage and gradual personality change, convulsive seizures are also relatively common.

Some pa­tients suffering from this will be, in confessional state and may even die without being cleared of from that state. This is also associated with symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, dizziness, head­ache, depression, memory defect, periods of confusion, lowered efficiency in work, heightened irri­tability accompanied by suspiciousness.

Sociocultural Factors of the Problem:

Sociocultural factors relating to the problems of the aged are equally significant. Cultural pe­culiarities and rural and urban background of the old people for example, have a close bearing with this problem. In one interesting study, psychologist Carothers (1947) found a high rate of senile psychoses among natives in Kenya and Africa.

It is also observed especially in United States that the senile psychotic cases reported and hospitalised in the urban set up were almost twice the number of cases reported in rural set up.

It can only be generalised that the urban set up is more favourable to the development of mental disorders than the rural set up. In the rural areas the older person enjoys higher social status and is generally able to work productively for a longer period. He is much cared for and respected at home.

But in the urban industrial society the problems of the old age have gripped the people for they are unprepared to face them. Proper opportunities and suitable conditions are not created for utilising the experience and wisdom of our older people.

We have not even provided conditions necessary for them to live in reasonably respected and useful positions. On the contrary, they are treated as though they are persons who have outlived their usefulness. This attitude of modern urban society may contribute to the incidence of old age psychoses.

It is true that the experience of an older person seems to have little relevance to the problems of younger generations. He is deprived of active participation and decision making in both occupa­tional and family settings. As J.C. Coleman and W.E. Broen Jr., have remarked, “Not infrequently children assume a patronising and protective attitude toward the aging parent, and in other ways tend to deprive him of dignity, responsibility, and a feeling of importance. Many parents are treated as unwanted burdens, and their children may secretly wish that they would die to relieve them of financial and other responsibilities”.

“In a study of older people in France, De Beauviour (1970) has pointed out that when the French go away for vacations, they sometimes ‘deposit’ their aged parents in rest homes. Then on their return home, they “forget” to pick them up, abandoning them like dogs in a Kennel”- {Coleman). Most of the civilised societies have “youth-oriented cultures ‘. In the nuclear families in such cul­tures generally, there is no place for the grandparents unless they are self-sufficient.

Even in the U.S.A. many older people are “deposited” in rest or nursing homes to die, even though they may be in relatively good health. The older people who have already developed some physiological prob­lems feel extremely bad to know that they are cast aside simply for “being old”. Such a treatment would have devastating effects upon them.

Reactions to aging and reaching the status of “senior citizen” — are quite subjective. How people react depends heavily on their personality make up and on the challenges and frustrations of their life situations. A sense of status, self-identity and meaning are very important in old age for they are most threatened at this stage.

The Actual Problems of Old People:

Old age is subject to stresses and strains. In fact, certain special stresses are typically confront­ing the aged. Some of them are as follows.

(1) Retirement and reduced income which may create a feeling that one’s usefulness is essen­tially over and activities are restricted.

(2) With the passage of years the adults become physically weaker and weaker day by day. Old age has its direct impact on physical strength and stamina. Some old people fail to reconcile the fact that their physical strength is fading away.

(3) Even though the old people become weaker physically they want to tighten their grip over the younger ones in the family and also over family matters and business issues. The younger ones in the family instead of developing a sympathetic attitude towards the old, start asserting their rights and power. This may create tension in the family and conflict between the young and the old. Neither one is prepared to understand or cope with the other. This does happen due to what is known as ‘generation gap’, and ‘communication gap’.

(4) Reduction in physical attractiveness: This is especially more stressful for persons whose feeling of feminity or masculinity depends on their attractiveness to the opposite sex.

(5) Failing health and invalidism, particularly when the hopes of recovery are very bleak.

(6) Isolation and loneliness which is usually caused by the loss of contemporaries and loved ones. The negligence and indifference of others also impair the feelings of the ego.

(7) The problem of meaning of life and death. This is more aggravated in the case of those who look back on their lives and say, “It all adds Upto nothing”.

(8) Social changes are taking place at faster rate than they were some years ago. While we young are prepared to welcome and accept these changes the old find it extremely difficult to adjust mentally to these changes. This failure to accommodate the new trends on the part of the old would further alienate them from the young.