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Social Sci LibreTexts

4.7L : The Older Years

  • Page ID
    8018
  • [ "article:topic" ]

    Old age cannot be exactly defined, but it is often associated with certain activities, such as becoming a grandparent or entering retirement.

     

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

     

    Discuss some of the implications of old age, particularly in relation to Erikson’s “Eight Stages of Life” and age discrimination

     

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

     

    • Erik Erikson characterizes old age as a period of “Integrity vs. Despair,” during which a person focuses on reflecting back on their life. Those who are unsuccessful during this phase will feel that their life has been wasted and will experience many regrets.
    • Those who feel proud of their accomplishments will feel a sense of integrity. Successfully completing this phase means looking back with few regrets and a general feeling of satisfaction.
    • Old age presents some social problems, such as age discrimination. Elderly people are more likely to be victims of abuse, and negative stereotypes are also very common.

     

    Key Terms

     

    • abuse: Physical or verbal maltreatment; injury.
    • self-neglect: It refers to behaviors that threaten the person’s own health and safety.

    The boundary between middle age and old age cannot be defined exactly because it does not have the same meaning in all societies. People can be considered old because of certain changes in their activities or social roles. For example, people may be considered old when they become grandparents, or when they begin to do less or different work (retirement). Traditionally, the age of 60 was generally seen as the beginning of old age. Most developed world countries have accepted the chronological age of 65 years as a definition of an “elderly” or older person.

    According to Erik Erikson’s “Eight Stages of Life” theory, the human personality is developed in a series of eight stages that take place from the time of birth and continue on throughout an individual’s complete life. He characterizes old age as a period of “Integrity vs. Despair,” during which a person focuses on reflecting back on their life. Those who are unsuccessful during this phase will feel that their life has been wasted and will experience many regrets. The individual will be left with feelings of bitterness and despair. Those who feel proud of their accomplishments will feel a sense of integrity. Successfully completing this phase means looking back with few regrets and a general feeling of satisfaction. These individuals will attain wisdom, even when confronting death.

    Age discrimination is a prevalent social problem facing the elderly. While discrimination toward the young is primarily visible through behavioral restrictions, discrimination toward the elderly ranges from behavioral restrictions to physical abuse. Abuse of the elderly is a serious problem in the U.S. There are nearly two million cases of elder abuse and self-neglect in the U.S. every year. Abuse refers to psychological/emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and caregiver neglect or financial exploitation, while self-neglect refers to behaviors that threaten the person’s own health and safety.