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Current Views Of Ageing: Unduly Pessimistic Or Unrealistically Optimistic

2186 words - 9 pages

Gerontology is a relatively unexplored field in relationship to the entire human civilization. Because we are in the demographic infancy of old age, we are said to be still in a societal and cultural exploration phase of old age. Therefore, what we witness today, as old age, has not yet settled into a stable culture or environment. Instead, in the years and decades to come, the facts and processes of old age are likely to undergo rapid changes to both cultural and behavioural representation. Although some individuals have reached old age before the twentieth century, today close to 50% of the population reach the age of 75. Like the rest of the developing world, Australia is experiencing a rapid increase in the proportion and absolute number of older persons. Taking the traditional retirement age of 65 as a reference point marking the beginning of the 'old age', about 12.1 percent of Australia's population or 1.85 million people fall into this category, with the group aged 80 and over growing most rapidly. (Baltes &Graf, 1996; Browning, Gething, Helmes, Luszcz, Turner, Ward & Wells, 2000)Ageing is not merely a biological phenomenon experienced identically by all people, neither is it necessarily separate stages or states of being which just 'arrive' The ageing process needs to be represented as a social, physical, psychological and spiritual process in which individuals have created for themselves or have imposed upon them. Older people both experience and give meaning to their ageing within the constraints of specific material conditions (e.g. issues such as housing, income and access to relevant services) and social conditions (e.g. issues such as ageism and age discrimination; gender, race and empowerment; cultural and linguistic diversity). Experiences of past and future cohorts are likely to be very different from today's cohorts so care must be taken when communicating current data to future populations. Older people have many experiences in common with other age groups, and share many of their interests. For example, people can experience homelessness, poverty or are homeowners in various cohorts.Current studies of ageing show that aged care and rehabilitation policies and practices reflect a pessimistic and negative view of old age - a form of ageism characterising older people as useless and dependant, allowing the younger generation to see older people as different from themselves, thus they subtly cease to identify with their elders as human beings. Ageism, like all prejudices, influences the self-view and behaviour of its victims. The elderly tend to adopt negative definitions of themselves and perpetuate the stereotypes directed against them, thereby reinforcing society's beliefs. Social expectations regarding old age and the elderly tend to be negative, and elders are particularly vulnerable to the expectations expressed by others in interactions. Research on conversation addressed to the elderly indicates that caregivers...

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