Regarded as lines of thought or assumptions made by the society about specific individuals, societal stereotypes do not just label groups of individuals but also affect the way people think about them and what people expect of them. Stereotypes are characterized by prejudices that may be ill-founded, fixed attitude about behavior, and reaction by restricting or allowing various groups into various societal activities; they may be true or untrue (Nelson, 2004). There are several prevalent stereotypes about the elderly. One of such stereotypes is the belief that the contribution made by the elderly to the society is minimal, limited, and negligible (Carstensen & Hartel, 2006). Though this is not true, this stereotype elicits a number of expectations and responses when relating to the elderly individuals. Neglect when it comes to contribution and productivity expectations, is the first reaction. Anyone who has heard and believed this stereotype would not assign any aged individual a duty. Personally, I believe that elderly adults valuable members of the society whose contribution cannot be ignored. Most volunteers in nursing and healthcare institutions, as well as corps, are elderly individuals whose ages are beyond 55 years. I feel this stereotype is misplaced and misleading to the society and thus should be demystified to avoid unnecessary biases. Another stereotype is the belief that sexual and intimate relationships do not interest older people (Carstensen & Hartel, 2006). As this is also untrue, it makes several people ignore any acts from older people that relate to sexuality and intimacy. I belief that even at old age, sexuality cannot be ignored, as such this stereotype also needs explication to the society.
There are several physical and cognitive issues that are considered in matters relating to aging. Such issues include physical changes and activity of the old, cognitive stimulation and various risk factors that come about as a result of aging (Salthouse, 2010). Physical issues include body system weakening and increased susceptibility to various diseases as well as impairment. Such issues may slot in shrinking of body tissues, skin and nerve cells and the sprouting of neurons in the brain. Impairments such as hearing, visual or smell loss may occur mildly and progressively increase to moderate and severe situations (Salthouse, 2010). Additionally, issues related to sexuality and intimate relationships also come in. In terms of cognitive abilities, cognitive processing in adults usually reduces due to a general decrease in activity of the central nervous system (Salthouse, 2010). As such, elderly people think slowly and process information at a gradual pace. This affects their perceptual speed and causes reduced functional memory at advanced stages. Several behaviors elicited by older adults are affected by societal stereotypes (Salthouse, 2010). Elderly personalities may overestimate the extent to which they lose memory and cognitive ability (Salthouse, 2010).
Quite a number of issues involve in mental health treatment of aging clients. Such issues can be classified as ethical, dementia, addictive disorders and mental health problems that occur in later life (Smyer & Qualls, 2007). Ethical issues relate to abuse of elderly persons, ethical values and cultural elements in elderly individuals (Smyer & Qualls, 2007). Issues considered to be dementia generally contain delirium, Alzheimer’s disease as well as several other existing dementias (Smyer & Qualls, 2007). Later life mental health problems encompass anxiety disorders, depression and tendencies of suicide in elderly individuals (Smyer & Qualls, 2007). Finally, dealing with addictive disorders involves dependency issues, assessment, treatment, and issues related to polypharmacy (Smyer & Qualls, 2007).
Nelson, T. D. (2004). Ageism: Stereotyping and prejudice against older persons. Cambridge,
Mass.: MIT Press.
Carstensen, L. L., & Hartel, C. R. (2006). When I'm 64. Washington, D.C: National Academies
Smyer, M. A., & Qualls, S. H. (2007). Aging and mental health. Oxford: Blackwell.
Salthouse, T. A. (2010). Major issues in cognitive aging. New York: Oxford University Press.