The phases that elderly people go through in their life leave them exposed to physical and emotional vulnerability. This paper explores the ways in which the elderly face challenges in day to day life, from physical and emotional difficulties to stereotypes propagated in the media. In the face of such stereotypes, the elderly population often behaves in a way expected of them. The elderly are forced to devise methods to cope with these challenges if they are to fulfil the last stage of their life journey in a positive manner. Either by putting a positive spin on situations or by getting the support of family and healthcare professionals, the elderly must learn to live with the unique challenges that face them at this critical stage of their life.
The paper looks at the different age-related declines, the older population seems to face. The senior population has their own physical and psychological problems to deal with and more over the society creates stereotyped images for them because of their age and expects them to behave in a certain way. The media too depicts them in a certain manner.
It is essential to point out here that old age doesn’t happen overnight, but age-related physical declines take place gradually. And, getting older certainly doesn’t mean that one becomes incapacitated. It is essential for the older adults to prepare well ahead in time for those age related declines that they are likely to face when they turn 60 or 65 or 70. Due to some serious health ailments, they might not be able to carry out their daily tasks and may need the help of their family members and social care givers. The aim is to promote wellness and support the elders in coping with the stresses accompanying age-related disability or physical declines.
Older adults take on different coping strategies with the changes in their life due to old age and declining health. According to Herman, he feels that the best way to cope with his thinning hair and getting bald is by learning to line his new look and finding something positive in it. Coping is looked upon as a mechanism that helps to adapt to a new situation or condition. The stressors could be biological, medical or psychological, and coping means to change in the human personality according to the situation we find ourselves in. Herman makes use of emotion focused coping here, where, when the elderly cannot change the situation, they change their perception about the problem and try to give it some other meaning and preferably a positive one. This is because he says that the balder men are looked upon as good elders as he knows that he cannot do much about the current situation of thinning hair on his head. Emotion focused coping in such cases proves to be effective as this is a healthy way to get rid of those stressors in life and thus and can be quite valuable, as it can reduce their negative impact.
Elders are often heaped together under the heading of “old” and looked through the stereotypes outlook that portrays them as unattractive, senile, cranky and child-like. Needless to say, the stereotyping of old age certainly affects the behavior of the elders. It is essential to combat ageism in our society where those stereotypes are conveyed and reinforced for aging.Elders are stereotyped as helpless victims and bizarre. They are characterized as helpless children who need protection and help. The reality is that the vulnerability of older people is only emphasized. When interviewed, majority of the aging population feared that they would go senile with age. However, studies indicate that senility only affects about 4 percent of people severely. Sadly, those elders are more at risk of internalizing the low expectations of aging that we mirror at them.
Constant exposure to those stereotyped images of gloom makes those seniors act and behave in that manner. They make little efforts to hear and remember and walk more slowly. They start behaving the way the world expects them to and make little efforts to lead a normal and healthy life.
It is not uncommon to come across TV programs and commercials, portraying older adults as bizarre, senile, slow and unhealthy. Rarely do we come across older people conveying fullness of life and enjoying themselves. Clearly, those elders are not presented well and convey negative attitudes toward aging. Many people accept age stereotypes without question. The negative images portray elders as senile, comical and bizarre. Aging is looked upon as a reason for shame or embarrassment.
However, occasionally, we do come across advertisements where the whole family is shown together with grandparents and enjoying their lives together. The grandparents are shown to be healthy and active and live a more satisfying life than ever. In reality, there are many seniors that their esteem is stronger now than when they were young. They are shown to be positive and ready to face the challenges encountered as they grow older.
Researchers believe modernization and industrialization too are responsible for lowering the power and prestige the elderly once held. Elders are mostly ignored and under-represented, and whenever we see them in the media and popular culture, we find them often shown in the stereotypical way. There are very few elderly who have meaningful relationships with those around them. Complex depictions of elders and lack of meaningful portraying of elders by the media only creates negative image of the seniors (Berk, 2013).
Being a senior means advancing to the final stages of our life journey. There is nothing much to do except look at the good old days. There are health problems and loneliness to deal with. It is essential for society to help our aged population cope up well in the last stage of their journey. It is our duty to take care of the senior citizens.
Berk, L. E. (2013). Chapter 14. Emotional and Social Development in Early Adulthood. Development through the lifespan (Sixth ed., p. 1). Pearson. Retrieved from