Issues in Aging Research Paper

Introduction

Aging refers to accrual of transformations in an individual’s body after some time. It is a multidimensional process that involves both physical, societal and psychosomatic transformations. As a person’s age increases, his reaction times may slow down. On the other hand, he may become more experienced and knowledgeable about world events.

In other words, older people are wiser than younger individuals. Aging plays an important role in every society. It reflects biological changes that take place within the human body. Additionally, it brings about cultural and social issues that are of interest to humans.

Aging affects various sectors of any society. It affects healthcare systems, the economy and the environment. This paper discusses some of the issues in aging. It focuses mainly on the environment, health, society and the economy among others.

Provision of Long term Care

The provision of long term care for the elderly is one of the issues in aging. Aged people often need daily assistance. They need assistance of various kinds throughout the day. The assistance can be in the form of medical and health care provision, movement and consumption of food. Many countries have aging populations due to the implementation of family planning programs.

Initially, provision of assistance to the aged was left to the families of the concerned individuals. However, improvement in health care provision and life expectancy ensured that the number of elderly people increased in many countries. Over time, the number of people who need daily assistance increased and governments realized that there is a need to provide formal care to aged individuals.

Hence, the provision of long term care became one of the issues in aging. Currently, many countries are realizing the need to formulate policies that govern the provision of long term care (Swartz, Miake & Farag, 2012).

There are other issues within the provision of long term care to the aged. Currently, only a few countries have formulated and implemented long term care policies. The issue that many countries face involves the development of long term care policies. There are only a few models of long term care policies that have already been implemented. Secondly, there is no standard definition of formal long term care.

A definition of long term care would make the provision of aid successful across countries. The lack of a standard definition of long term care makes the assistance program succeed in one country and fail in another nation. For example, in many European countries, occupational therapy services are covered under health insurance.

However, in the United States, occupational therapy is considered a long term care service. In the United States, the provision of income assistance is not considered a long term care. On the other hand, some countries consider provision of income assistance to the aged a long term care.

Nonetheless, certain factors have been identified as important in the formulation of long term care policies or models. These factors are independent of each other and they influence the design of long term care policies adopted by each country. These factors include the sources of long term care finances, the processes used in the determination of a person’s needs and the spread of the aid program.

The other factors include the services incorporated in the programs, the freedom to choose a service provider and the coordination between long term care and health insurance (Swartz, Miake & Farag, 2012). Once long term care policies have been formulated, then adequate assistance can be provided to aged individuals.

There are other concerns closely related to the provision of long term care. These concerns are the unexpected and rapid changes in social organization and health requirements (Swartz, Miake & Farag, 2012). Traditionally, families provided care to aging relatives.

However, changes and development made it impossible for families to provide assistance to their aged relatives. The first change was the increase in life expectancy. The increase in life expectancy resulted in the development of the second change.

This was the increase in the number of people who need daily assistance in their lives. Increase in life expectancy was accompanied by a rise in prevalence of chronic diseases like dementia. Finally, the third change affected families’ ability to provide for their aged relatives. The third change was the reorganization of family arrangements.

Family Versus Society’s Responsibility

The degree to which the society can expect families to take care of their aged relatives is another issue in aging. This issue is closely related to the provision of long term care to the aged. This issue is mainly concerned with the affordability of long term care. Many studies have determined that the majority of individuals who attain the age of 65 will require daily support.

However, the majority of these people cannot afford long term care services. The main issue is the determination of who should assist such people who cannot afford long term care (Nay & Garratt, 2009). Is it the responsibility of their families or the society?

Past studies have shown that many people believe that they should provide care for their aged relatives. However, many people have indicated that they cannot afford the financial requirements of long term care for the aged.

A number of people believe that the aged should provide funds for their long term care themselves. However, the challenge is that many old people did not prepare for long term care. Hence, private market insurance did not develop. There are very few private insurance companies that provide long term care coverage.

Private market insurance that covers long term care did not develop mainly because of the high level of uncertainty (Swartz, Miake & Farag, 2012). Many individuals never imagine that they may need assistance once they grow old. Hence, insurers are scared of the high level of uncertainty. This makes them place high premiums and tight conditions for long term care coverage.

Hence, not many people can afford private insurance. Consequently, governments have to determine other ways through which long term care can be provided to the aged. Many governments have decided to make the society be responsible for the aged.

Many governments have developed formal long term care policies that are financed by the taxpayers. Such governments expect the society to contribute to the expenses of long term care. The contribution is either through finances from taxpayers or compulsory premiums (Perry & Wolburg, 2011).

The governments determine what families should contribute. Nonetheless, how the burden of provision of long term care should be shared is still discussed in many countries. It is debated within the agenda of mutual and collective public conscientiousness and risk.

Social and Health Issues in Aging

The aged are also confronted by a number of social issues in their lives. Various social issues affect the lives of people who are aged in a variety of ways. Notably, social issues can affect the lives of elderly people both physically, mentally and emotionally (Woods, 1999). Psychological and social problems that affect the aged can be caused by a number of factors.

Some of these factors include loneliness, dependency, inability to accept changes in health and appearance and boredom. Other issues include financial difficulties, inability to undertake physical work and increase in amount of medications (Lubben & Rodriguez, 2011). Loneliness mainly arises from the loss of a spouse and social isolation.

Additionally, many aged people normally find that they have lost many of their friends and they end up lonely. Retirement also makes many aged people feel bored, lonely and frustrated. Retirement also makes them lack adequate and regular income. This makes them be financially stressed.

A combination of any of these issues can have profound effects on the health of an aged person. Hence, aged people require adequate medical care to cope with these psychosocial problems that confront them. Moreover, they need lifestyle changes to improve their overall health conditions. Many health care professionals normally advice old people to be engaged in regular exercises to improve or maintain their health conditions.

Additionally, aged people are advised to take balanced diet. Regular exercises and consumption of balanced diet normally have noticeable impacts on the health conditions of aging people (Gibson & Hartley, 2006). In addition, numerous diseases that affect elderly people can be prevented or easily managed if they adopt healthy lifestyles.

Some of the health conditions that affect the aged include arthritis, diabetes, dementia and depression. These conditions can be managed through exercise, consumption of balanced and healthy diets and some lifestyle changes (Lubben & Rodriguez, 2011).

Apart from consumption of healthy diets and exercise, there exist other lifestyle changes that the aged can adopt to improve their health conditions and social lives. These include reduction in consumption of alcohol and tobacco, use of sun protection and other skin moisturizers and medication provided by health care providers. Currently, health care providers advice aged people to take vacations and engage in social activities.

Inadequate Knowledge in Provision of Geriatric Care

Another issue in aging is that there are few health care providers who have adequate knowledge in the provision of geriatric care. Currently, many nations do not have adequate number of nurses required to provide quality health care to the public. Additionally, many countries do not have well trained nurses who can provide quality health care to aged people.

The shortage of nurses is likely to increase and many nations may face critical health care problems. Some countries, like the United States, have increased the number of nurses recruited to provide care to the aged. In the United States, the number of well trained nurses is expected to reduce gradually between the years 2010 and 2030.

This is likely to occur due to retirement of older nurses and the decline in enrollment in the nursing profession. In addition, it is estimated that the number of registered nurses will be below 20% of the requirement (Perry & Wolburg, 2011).

However, the decline in the number of nurses required by the United States will coincide with the rise in the number of elderly people. People born during the baby boom period will be aged 65 years old and above by 2030. These people will need care that nurses provide. However, many registered nurses are not qualified to provide care for the elderly.

Several nursing programs presented by colleges do not include gerontological training. Furthermore, many students who enter the medical occupation do not want to pursue gerontological nursing as a profession. Another challenge that many countries face is the lack of cultural diversity among nurses. Many countries are composed of ethnically diverse groups. In the United States, the number of nurses who come from diverse groups is less than 12% of the total number of care providers.

On the other hand, elderly people in the United States come from different cultural groups. However, it is essential for nurses know different cultural issues that affect the aged. Hence, the inadequacy in the number of culturally diverse nurses who can provide care to the aged is an issue in aging.

Cultural Values and Support for the Aged

Another major issue in aging is the lack of cultural values that support the aged. It has been noted by many studies that the provision of support for older people is not given priority by cultural values. Many people in the world view aging with fear and consternation. This is despite the improvements in knowledge and health care provision that have improved life expectancy of individuals.

The term “nursing home” is feared by many people who associate it with isolation and death. Many people in the world normally make long term financial planning. However, they fail to make plans for long term care once they grow old due to the views that the society has imposed on them. Unfortunately, the failure to plan for long term care when an individual is young results in the inadequate provision of support once he is old.

The existence of bias in many cultures normally prevents the introduction of improved scientific methods and procedures for health care provision for older people. The risk profiles of old people vary from healthy to delicate elderly. However, many people only recognize the frail and sickly old people. Conversely, there exist many elderly people who are healthy and strong. Such elderly people are able to take care of themselves without the assistance of health care providers (Landorf, Brewer & Sheppard, 2008).

Nonetheless, many health care providers do not think that it would be beneficial to teach self management intervention practices to robust elderly individuals. This is mainly because of the perception that such health care providers have developed. They believe that all elderly people cannot take care of themselves without support.

Additionally, cultural values held in many countries have failed to recognize the importance of performance attributes that can improve the provision of care to the elderly. Certain conditions must be considered for the provision of care to the elderly be effective. These conditions must be considered within the health care system of any country.

They include the existence of formal interest in the emotional well being of the elderly, effective evaluation mechanisms and the ability to provide personal and group therapy (Lubben & Rodriguez, 2011). Unfortunately, many countries do not have these performance attributes within their health care systems.

On the other hand, these performance attributes can improve the management of chronic diseases that affect the elderly. Formal care should center on the management of critical and emergent diseases instead of focusing on supervision of chronic conditions.

Aging and the Economy

Another issue in aging is the effect that it has on the economy of a country. Labor affects various macroeconomic factors and affect development plans that countries have. Aging affects the balance between labor supply and demand. Additionally, it affects the balance between labor and capital. Some countries have populations that are composed of many elderly people.

On the other hand, the number of young people in such countries is low. Germany is one example of countries that have aging populations (Borsch-Supan, 2005). An aging society, like Germany, has a relatively low number of workers. The number of workers that such a country has cannot balance with the quantity of capital stock available for the production of goods and services.

The supply of labor is determined by various demographic factors. The supply of labor is also determined by participation rates. The projections of labor supply made by many countries depend on a variety of factors. One of the factors is the number of people who are able and are willing to work. However, an aging population has a low number of people who are able to work.

Employment also relies on the demand for labor. An aging population usually transforms the types of services and products demanded in an economy. Hence, it results in a change in the kind of labor required in an economy. Thus, aging dictates the nature of employment policies formulated in a given country.

In addition to the effects in size, aging affects the structure of the labor force of a country. A country that has an aging population will have a labor force that will grow old and then flatten out. This affects the productivity of the labor force of such a country. However, some studies have suggested that more investigation is required to determine the effects of aging populations on labor productivity.

Nevertheless, the reduction and the change in the structure of labor supply is likely to have negative effects on productivity (Borsch-Supan, 2005). Moreover, it is clear that elderly people are slow, have social and psychological problems and are affected by numerous chronic conditions. A combination of these problems reduces their productivity at work.

Consumer Welfare and Public Policy

Another important issue in aging is the protection of the elderly as consumers. While some countries have aging populations, other nations are composed of many young people. There is youth culture in such countries. Many elderly consumers in such countries face numerous challenges in their lives.

They have to maintain their self esteem, plan for retirement and confront numerous unhelpful media portrayals. However, policy makers do not consider their plights. Policy makers do not take into consideration the challenges that these consumers face in their lives (Perry & Wolburg, 2011).

The main challenge that many elderly people face is the fact that they are immediately viewed as old the moment they reach 50 years old. In many societies, once a person reaches 50 years old, he is viewed as elderly. Many people also experience a lot of changes once they reach 50 years old. In the United States, senior citizens receive discounts when they purchase goods and services.

Some retailers offer discounts to people who are 50 years old and above. Some people who are 50 years old normally lose their self esteem when offered discounts. The main issue is that many elderly people are in denial. However, their ability to process market information declines over time.

Cognitive psychologists have noted that fluid intelligence reduces as one becomes older. Some aged consumers cope with adoption of youthful lifestyle. For example, many elderly people hope to reduce the aging process through the use of grooming products.

Abuse and Mistreatment of the Elderly

The other key issue in aging is the abuse and mistreatment of the elderly. Abuse and mistreatment of the elderly is a key social problem in many countries around the world. The elderly are normally mistreated and abused due to their frail conditions and the health challenges that they face.

Their weak conditions make them depend on other people. They depend on other people for movement, performance of household activities and toileting among others. However, they are not like children since they are fully grown individuals. This complicates the provision of assistance to the elderly.

Abuse and mistreatment of the elderly take place when a caregiver intentionally denies an old person the care that the individual needs. It also happens when the caregiver intentionally harms the old person under his or her care. Caregivers can either be professional health care providers, family members or friends of an old person.

Additionally, there are different kinds of elderly abuse and mistreatment. The major classes of elderly abuse and mistreatment are bodily, sexual, psychosomatic, neglect and financial abuse. Physical abuse includes torture while sexual abuse involves forced nudity and rape. Psychological abuse involves degradation and verbal aggravation. Other types of elderly abuse identified by other organizations are self-neglect and desertion (Scharlach & Kaye, 1997).

There are various ways through which elderly abuse can be identified. Existence of bruises, broken glasses and untreated wounds can indicate physical abuse. Lab results that indicate a medication overdose and sprains are also indicators of physical abuse of the elderly. Sexual abuse can be identified by the existence of contusions around the reproductive organs and breasts.

Occurrence of mysterious venereal diseases is also an indicator of sexual abuse of the elderly. Bloody and torn underclothing also show sexual abuse of an elderly person. Extraordinary dementia-like manner is an indicator of psychological and emotional abuse of an elderly person.

Financial abuse of an elderly person can be identified through abrupt modification of banking practices. This can be through the addition of other names on bank cards. A sudden change in a will can also indicate financial abuse of an elderly person.

Many studies have determined that abuse and mistreatment of the elderly are highly prevalent in many countries. Two studies in the United States found that at least one person in a group of ten elderly people has been abused. Additionally, other studies have found that abuse of the elderly is under-reported. Thus, the number of elderly people who have been abused may be higher than imagined.

The existence of medical conditions like dementia also increases the risk of elderly abuse and mistreatment. Elderly women are more likely to be victims of oral mistreatment while older men are more prone to be sufferers of neglect. Finally, other studies have found that sexual abuse is lower compared to other forms of elderly mistreatment (Scharlach & Kaye, 1997).

Another issue in aging that relates to elderly abuse is the causes of mistreatment. There are certain factors that are likely to make caregivers abuse the elderly. Inexperience of the caregiver is one of the causes of elderly abuse. Stress, inadequate support and isolation are also other causes of elderly abuse and mistreatment. Some caregivers also have other demands like provision of care to children.

Hence, they are likely to neglect the elderly persons who are under their care. The history of caregivers also influences their likelihood to abuse the elderly. For example, a caregiver who has a history of depression is likely to abuse an old person under his or her care.

On the other hand, a caregiver who was physically abused is likely to harm the body of an old person. Low job satisfaction is also likely to make paid caregivers perpetrate verbal mistreatment (Scharlach & Kaye, 1997). Likewise, caregivers who engage in verbal abuse are likely to be uneducated, depressed and non-professionals.

Emergency Situations and Problems Faced by the Elderly

Finally, the other issue in aging is the problems that the elderly face in emergency situations. Aging brings with it many challenges. It results in the loss of independence. Consequently, it results in a reduction of physical capabilities of individuals. Additionally, it reduces the mental and social capabilities of people. On the other hand, there are numerous emergency situations that the elderly encounter.

Hence, old people are vulnerable in such crisis situations. They face numerous threats from natural and man-made disasters. Hence, they need different kinds of assistance in emergency situations (Johnson, 1999). Their needs are specific and differ from the requirements of able bodied people and children in emergency situations.

It is essential that governments and organizations that provide assistance in emergency situations recognize the specific needs of the elderly. The elderly have restricted mobility. This normally increases their vulnerability in emergency situations. They have poor eyesight and reduced muscle strength. They are also vulnerable to cold and heat.

Thus, insignificant conditions can rapidly become chief handicaps that reduce their capacity to cope with emergency situations (Landorf, Brewer & Sheppard, 2008). In addition, relief providers should consider the kinds of food that they provide to the elderly. In many emergency situations, food allocation programs normally target the children and women.

Such programs normally forget to consider the special kinds of food and dietary requirements that the elderly need. Hence, such programs should consider the micro-nutrients that the elderly need. They should provide the elderly with food that can be easily digested. In addition, they should consider that the elderly are unable to carry the food rations that they provide.

Additionally, relief providers do not provide adequate health care that the elderly need in emergency situations. In many cases, health care providers normally offer first aid after the occurrence of a disaster. However, they fail to recognize the immediate needs of the elderly. They should provide walking sticks, glasses and other devices that can assist the elderly.

The provision of such devices can enable the elderly reach distribution center and access aid. Furthermore, relief providers should also consider the chronic health conditions that the elderly have. The elderly have chronic conditions like respiratory problems, diabetes and heart disease. These conditions can easily deteriorate in emergency situations.

Another issue in aging that relates to emergency situations is isolation. Loss of members of the family, community and career due to a disaster can leave an elderly person feel isolated. This can lead to trauma. Many survivors of disasters cannot cope with their daily lives in isolation. The situation is worse when the survivor is an elderly person.

Moreover, the loss of career and status after either a man-made or natural disaster makes many elderly people feel depressed. Disasters also leave the elderly without livelihood. However, they are not normally included in recovery programs. Many recovery programs offer cash for work.

Such programs usually target young people who are able to work. The recovery programs do not consider that in many third world countries, elderly people work till they die. Thus, such micro-credit initiatives do not consider the capabilities of the elderly.

Conclusions

Aging refers to the accumulation of transformations in an individual’s body over time. It brings about many challenges to an individual and to the society. The goal of this paper was to discuss some of the issues in aging in the world. It has identified several issues in aging. Some of these issues are the provision of long term care for the elderly, the responsibility of the family and the society and social and health concerns in aging.

Other issues discussed are the inadequate knowledge in the provision of care to the elderly, cultural values and support and the role of aging in an economy. Finally, it discussed mistreatment and abuse of the elderly and the challenges that they face in emergency situations.

References

Borsch-Supan, A. (2005). Global Aging: Issues, Answers and More Qusetions. Research Brief, 68 (1), 1-2.

Gibson, W., & Hartley, B. (2006). Health care issues of aging families: A handbook for adult children. Venice: Cultivating Change.

Johnson, F. (1999). Handbook on ethical issues in aging. Westport: Greenwood.

Landorf, C, Brewer, G. & Sheppard, A. (2008). The urban environment and sustainable ageing: critical issues and assessment indicators. Local Environment, 13 (6), 497-514.

Lubben, J. & Rodriguez, J. (2011). Social and Health Perspectives on Global Ageing. Indian Journal of Gerontology, 25 (4), 453-473.

Nay, R., & Garratt, S. (2009). Older people: Issues and innovations in care. Sydney: Churchill Livingstone.

Perry, G. & Wolburg, M. (2011). Aging Gracefully: Emerging Issues for Public Policy and Consumer Welfare. Journal Of Consumer Affairs, 45 (3), 365-371.

Scharlach, E., & Kaye, W. (1997). Controversial issues in aging. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Swartz, K, Miake, N. & Farag, N. (2012). Long-term care: Common issues and unknowns. Journal Of Policy Analysis & Management, 31 (1), 139-152.

Woods, T. (1999). Psychological problems of ageing: Assessment, treatment and care. Chichester: Wiley.

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