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Chapter 17

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Ageism ( defined as prejudice or discrimination against a person based on age).


Traditional views of aging are quite different from the reality of aging today.


Stereotypes about aging reflect widespread misconceptions: that older people are usually tired, poorly coordinated, and prone to infections and accidents; that most of them live in institutions; that they can neither remember nor learn.; that they have no interest in sexual activity; that they are isolated from others; that they do not use time productively; and that they are grouchy, self-pitying, and cranky.






A physician who does not bring up sexual issues with a 75 year old heart patient may deny the patient an important source of fulfillment.


A social worker who considers depression to be expected may in effect abandon an elderly client.





In Japan, old age is a mark of status.  There, in contrast to western countries, where it is rude to ask a persons age, travelers checking into hotels are often asked their age to ensure they will receive proper credit.


In the United States, aging is generally seen as undesirable.





How long will you live?


Why do you have to grow old?


Would you want to live forever?



Life expectancy (Age to which a person is statistically likely to live ) has increased dramatically since 1900.  Medical advancement and healthier lifestyles are the primary reasons for longer life.


White people tend to have grater Longevity ( length of an individuals life ) than Blacks people and women longer than men.


On average, White Americans live about 6 years longer than African Americans.


On average, women live about 5 years longer than men.


Boys are more likely than girls to die in infancy; teenage boys and young men are more likely to die from AIDS or accidents; and middle aged and older men are more likely than women to die of heart disease or other ailments.


The health problems of older women are likely to be long-term, chronic, disabling conditions; men tend to develop short-term, fatal diseases.






Change in body systems due to age is highly variable and may be a result of diseases, which in turn is affected by life style.


Common changes include some loss of skin coloring, thinning and whitening of hair, shrinkage of body size, and tendency to sleep less.


Vision and hearing problems may interfere with daily fife but often can e corrected.


The brain changes with age, however, the change vary considerably among individuals and are usually modest.






Many older people are sexually active.  The frequency and intensity of sexual experiences are generally lower than for younger adults.


The most important factor in maintaining sexual functioning in later life is consistent sexual activity over the years. 


A healthy man who has been sexually active usually can continue some form of active sexual expression into his seventies or eighties.


Women are physiologically able to be sexually active as long as they live; the main barrier to a fulfilling sexual life for them is likely to be lack of a partner (Masters & Johnson, 1966, 1981,1999).


Sexual expression can be more satisfying for older people if both young and old recognize it as normal and healthy.







Most older people are in good mental health.  In fact, mental illness is less common among older adults than among younger ones (Wykle & Musil, 1993).  However, mental and behavioral disturbances that do occur in older adults can be devastating.


Nutrition plays a critical role in older adults health.  Many older adults do not eat as well as they should.  This could be because of diminished senses of taste and smell, dental problems, difficulty in shipping and preparing food, or inadequate income.  Then too, many older people live by themselves and may not feel like fixing nourishing meals for one.  Studies have found evidence of malnutrition or specific dietary deficiencies in the diets of elderly people (Lamy, 1994; Ryan, Craig, & Finn, 1992).


Common mental and behavioral diseases are:


Dementia (deterioration in cognitive and behavioral functioning due to physiological causes pg. 655)


Parkinsons disease (progressive, irreversible degenerative neurological disorder, characterized by tremor, stiffness, slowed movement, and unstable posture, pg 655).


Alzheimers disease (progressive, degenerative brain disorder characterized by irreversible deterioration in memory, intelligence, awareness, and control of bodily functions, eventually leading to death, pg 655).





Lifelong learning can keep older people mentally alert.  Older adults learn better when material and methods are geared to the needs of this age group. 


Educational programs for older adults are proliferating.  Most of these programs have either a practical-social focus or a more serious educational one.

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