The aging is a combination of changes that accompany an organism in the process of becoming older. The changes are primarily physical in nature for the majority of the living beings, but social creatures such as humans also experience certain social and psychological changes.
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According to the current understanding, the process of aging begins approximately at the age of twenty, when the first physiological changes occur (Haber 13). Nevertheless, the process can be identified in several life stages from young adulthood, throughout maturity and up to the aging stage, where both the processes and the effects become the most prominent. The onset of all processes, such as the decline in fertility, cognitive decline, insignificant hearing and sight loss, and photoaging (development of wrinkles, mostly on the exposed areas of the body) occurs in the early twenties, although by the age of forty the physical condition is usually at its peak (Haber 24). The most significant changes happen at the end of middle adulthood stage, closer to the ages of fifty, where the said changes transform into recognizable health conditions, such as presbyopia (the loss of flexibility of the eye lens resulting in the inability to focus on the nearby objects) and glaucoma (optic disc condition that limits vision field) (Heiting). The cognitive decline is also the most apparent at this stage and can be manifested as worsening ability to memorize things and increased risk of dementia.
In addition to physical changes, collectively known as primary aging, certain habits (termed secondary aging) can contribute to the process. Based on the readings, I can identify several habits that could have a positive impact on my aging process. First, I don’t smoke and rarely drink alcohol, which is expected to slow down the aging-related processes. Next, I maintain a fairly healthy diet, which is considered one of the most important factors of healthy aging, although I must admit that this habit suffers from the lack of systematic approach. Finally, I try to maintain a healthy sleep pattern. On the other hand, I have a hard time maintaining a regular exercise pattern which, in my opinion, is close to no exercise at all, and will eventually result in complications of physical condition (Yu 32). Most importantly, despite my best efforts, I still get anxious over irrelevant issues. This results in a fair amount of stress and, by extension, the development of several age-related conditions, such as heightened blood pressure (Shalev and Belsky 41).
The aging-related changes lead to differentiation in the perception of the elderly people. Interestingly, these perceptions vary across cultures. The easiest example is the United States, where the desired traits of aging revolve around physical shape and energy level. This creates difficulty for cultural minorities who are familiar with other criteria (e.g. appreciation for parental qualities) and may feel discriminated by the perceptions of the peers (Cruikshank 26). In addition, different cultures have different criteria of care for the elderly people. For example, in many Eastern cultures care for aging adults is restricted to family members while in many modern societies it is provided by specialized organizations (Cruikshank 55). Finally, the attitude towards the concept of dying varies from culture to culture and can be a taboo for some minorities. Therefore, in the highly diversified societies, the risk of stress associated with deviation from accepted cultural norms is considerably higher.
I can think of two instances where the research from the course corresponds to my personal experience. I know two elderly people who exhibit healthy lifestyle and exceptional emotional resilience despite significant signs of primary aging (one is 86, and another is 72). Both display optimism in dealing with everyday routines and seem to be undisturbed by the proximity of death and the difficulties associated with declining health. I attribute this outcome to two factors: in one case, the person was closely familiar with the Eastern culture and its perception of death as an inevitable process rather than an unavoidable loss and reason for grief. In another instance, the person was involved in mindfulness-developing practice aimed at improving coping capacity following the surgical procedure. In other words, the high quality of their living as aging adults is determined, among other things, by the psychological and cognitive readiness to deal with the changes associated with the aging process. While little can be done to improve the outcomes of these individuals, I would promote this kind of worldview to other adults in order to improve their quality of living. To do this, I would suggest one of the training programs that focus on developing a mindful approach to health processes and analysis of accompanying emotional reactions (Innes et al. 1277). This would eliminate unnecessary stress, improve emotional climate, and, most importantly, provide the elderly with the possibility to deal with cultural and social complexities associated with aging.
I believe that the current trend is towards the elimination of aging-related discrimination and adjustments in healthcare that can make their life easier. However, until these objectives are met, it would be desirable to improve the coping capacity of those adults who do not have a suitable cultural background through training and meditation.
Cruikshank, Margaret. Learning to be Old: Gender, Culture, and Aging. 3rd ed., Rowman & Littlefield, 2013.
Haber, David. Health Promotion and Aging: Practical Applications for Health Professionals. 7th ed., Springer Publishing Company, 2016.
Heiting, Gary. “How Your Vision Changes as You Age.” All About Vision, n.d., Web.
Innes, Kim E., et al. “Effects of Meditation versus Music Listening on Perceived Stress, Mood, Sleep, and Quality of Life in Adults with Early Memory Loss: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease vol. 52, no. 4, 2016, pp. 1277-1298.
Shalev, Idan, and Jay Belsky. “Early-Life Stress and Reproductive Cost: A Two-Hit Developmental Model of Accelerated Aging?” Medical Hypotheses, vol. 90, 2016, pp. 41-47.
Yu, Byung Pal. Nutrition, Exercise and Epigenetics: Ageing Interventions. Springer International Publishing, 2015.