An old person is one who can make a sound decision on key issues. He/she is a person who commands respect at all levels of the society. This definition is based on the fact that only a few people live for more than 80 years and most leaders i.e. presidents, special UN envoys, ambassadors, etc range between 50-75 years of age. This was the opinion of 57 years old man. In fact, most countries have a set minimum age below which you cannot hold a certain office, mostly 35 years. Different people have a wide range factors and physical appearances associated with ageing. Some will talk of age, others associate gray hair with ageing not to forget decline in sexual ability. Fading memory, inability to drive all the way to inability to live independently is associated with old age. A young cohort of 19 years old told me that gray hair and fading memory are key factors to declare one old. She based her argument on her grandfather who could no longer remember their names often. These factors vary from culture to culture, time to time and from place to place.
For instance, in the traditional African society, circumcision represented a transformation from childhood to adulthood while marriage which was followed by siring was a certificate to the elderly. When one got grandchildren, they were termed as the old in the society and commanded a lot of respect. In the same traditional setup, one’s maturity and oldness was determined by their ability to solve disputes both at family and society level. This is what 72 years old African believed. In the modern world, age and experience is a key factor in determining whether a person is old or not. It would look absurd to have an 18 years old university law graduate head the judiciary in any country. Such positions require a lot of experience. This is the believe of a 40 years old lady. Personally, putting all these factors into consideration, a person of about 55 years and above can be considered old.
A person is old when he/she exhibits the ability and maturity to provide solutions to problems. This is likely to be at the age of 50 years and above. Much as the medics and the government try to increase life expectancy, and much as we would all like to live for as many years as possible, most people are afraid of getting old. For instance, “I do not like to visualize a situation where I can no longer drive, go swimming and attend political rallies.” said a 37 years old politician. “I cannot imagine walking in threes and my 4 year grandchild walking faster than I can run.” This is how afraid a 21 years old guy was. “Age can get you on the bed to an extent that you have to be helped to go
for a short or long call.” This is what worries me, and I bet it worries you too! “Twenty years after retiring, am afraid to be economically viable.” Lamented a 49 years old economist. “Am afraid of health complications associated with old age.” This was from 73 years old, who was still fit health wise, and I wondered what his worry was. Ideally, in my old age, I hope to be a respected member of my society, not because of my age in terms of number but because of time well spent during my office time. It is also my wish that I will be a position to disseminate wisdom to all.
There are several factors which are primary contributors to an individual’s life expectancy. These include the individual’s feeding habits. With the emergence of genetically modified foodstuffs, several health concerns about the suitability of these foodstuffs to human consumption have been raised. Though some countries have banned human consumption of these foods, others, especially hunger-stricken and third world countries have been left without any alternative option but to consume them. Overfeeding leads to obese while too much fat can lead to various heart complications. Affordability of good health care also increases life expectancy. Our immediate environment has a bearing on our life expectancy. Pollution from industrialization has led to health hazards. Availability of clean water for consumption and other domestic use increases life expectancy. Drug and substance abuse such as use of cocaine reduces our life expectancy due to their side effects. Affordability of clothing and shelter has an immediate effect on our life expectancy. You cannot expect someone who is sleeping in the rain and cold live for long.
Centenarians are not a select group neither do they have special characteristics that make them live longer. Were they to be a select group, they could only be found in certain races, tribes, geographical regions or religions. However, they are found in all sects of settings. They are human beings like any other, and have not been proven to possess special characteristics a part from mostly the way of their feeding habits.
The health status of future cohorts of older adults is somehow in a worse situation given there is a lot health issues, global warming and even worse feeding habits. There has also been an emergence of deadly incurable diseases such as ebola, HIV/AIDS and other virus and sexually transmitted diseases.With the current disease management, spread of diseases has been reduced. The use of preventive medicine has reduced the spread of some diseases such as TB. However, lack of cure for diseases such cancer and HIV/AIDS has caused headache to all medics and researchers.
There has been no trend to show that there will be an increase in the number of elders with psychological disorders in the next 30 years. However, with the aging of baby boom cohort, older adults may have been lifelong users of illicit drug and alcohol. Most drug abusers in today’s world are the youths. To counter all these emerging issues in the health sector, alternative to traditional medication and treatment may be emphasized. The cultural competencies one need to effectively serve elder health consumers with diverse racial-ethnic background are the traditional medication of that community, the most prevalent diseases in that community and their way of life.
Divorce and multiple marriages, non-marital partnerships and blended families have led to inability of the parents to provide decent medical care to their children due to economical constraints. With two generations of the old who are not economically viable, it becomes difficult to offer them comprehensive medical care.
Advantages of health technologies include faster results, efficient operations and saves human labor. The disadvantages of health technology include radiations, the equipment are expensive and the need for specialists to operate them.
Resources for spirituality, religious wisdom and care for the patient are important for consideration by health and long term care leaders in that they provide moral direction to reduce the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, creates awareness and the need to seek medical assistance especially in communities inclined to traditional medication.
Some of the ethical questions I will likely confront in helping elder health consumers address end of life discussions and decisions are how to distribute, what proportion to be invested in field like health cover and the type of cover to take. A comprehensive health cover is necessary especially for the old since they are no longer economically active but still need the health care.
The future landscape of the health and long-term care systems will pose a big challenge in according good health care to all. With the labor shortage and economic crisis preventing training and hiring of more health workers, the human resource will be strained. It will also be difficult for most people to afford the health care. The use of technology has reduced the need for human labor but this technology is more costly than the human labor itself. With the emergency of community-based care, accessibility to health care has been enhanced. Racial and ethnic diversity also calls for an alternative source of health from the traditional medication.