The ancient Egyptians spent their entire lives preparing for death and the afterlife, but how do other cultures perceive these experiences? To gain a better perspective on late adulthood and the end of life, this paper will provide information on the areas of concern during these life stages such as health and wellness, stereotypes associated with late adulthood, and cultural view of death and dying. Health and wellness in late adulthood As individuals age the human body experiences many physical and mental changes.
Aging or senescence represents these changes that the human body goes through which diminishes the body’s capacity to regenerate making it vulnerable to illness and disease (Berger, 2008). According to Berger (2008), “Gerontologists distinguish between primary aging, the universal changes that occur with senescence, and secondary aging, the consequences of particular diseases” (p. 620). The physical changes associated with aging are typically gradual with noticeable declines in hearing, vision, taste, and smell (Mesa Community College, 1997).
In addition to the decline in sensory functions, some elderly individuals experience more prominent health concerns such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a decrease in lung function. Other more serious health concerns that typically arise in late adulthood are those of cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. Often depression can be a main contributor to failing health as increases in health issues and experiencing the death of family and friends makes one’s own mortality more apparent. Not all individuals in late adulthood suffer from these health ailments.
There are numerous lifestyle factors that can contribute to illness, and can be altered to provide an individual with a healthier more active life. There are numerous simple lifestyle changes an individual can make that can assist in his or her health and wellness and also decrease some of the negative effects of aging such as healthier eating habits, exercise, and regular medical checkups. Healthier eating habits involve consuming the proper amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and protein every day.
Balanced meals and healthy snacks can increase energy and ward off potential illness and disease. Exercise is also an important factor in contributing to wellness in late adulthood as exercise increases blood flow, builds healthy heart muscle, increases lung functions, and increases mobility. Mobility is often a factor in older adults who become sedentary causing muscles to atrophy and increase the likelihood of blood clots and heart-related problems. Routing medical checkups can also promote health and wellness by monitoring current medical issues and diagnosing new health issues.
This allows doctors to diagnose properly and treat illness and disease early. Ageism and stereotypes Ageism refers to prejudice against elderly individuals by the use of stereotypes. According to an article provided by Net Industries (2011), “Ageism occurs throughout society in varying degrees, in television, advertising, movies, stores, hospitals, and jobs” (p. 62). Society assumes that with the increase of age comes a decrease in faculties, which is an assumption that is not always true. Younger individuals typically hold negative stereotypes regarding elderly people (Net Industries, 2011).
Often older individuals are considered to be slower, more costly, and less adaptable to change than younger individuals making tasks such as finding employment and receiving equal treatment difficult. According to an article provided by Net Industries (2011), “Studies consistently demonstrate that there is no correlation between age and job performance, despite the common stereotype that productivity declines with age. Indeed, research reveals that some intellectual functions may even improve with age” (p. 62). Often older adults are treated as children by society making assumptions of their abilities and mental functioning.
Viewpoints of death and dying Death at any stage in life is personal and holds different meanings to different people. Society places a great deal of meaning on death based upon age, situation, and their personal experiences and beliefs. The viewpoints of death and dying in early childhood are limited; however, children have a basic understanding of death by the age of two through their own observations of family members (Berger, 2008). Children who are dying often fear death as they do not have a fully developed concept of dying and associate death with abandonment (Berger, 2008).
At this life stage, it is important to have guidance from his or her parents to gain a better understanding of death and dying. Death and dying in adolescence is often a second thought as adolescents in this life stage place less value on life and ore often reckless and irresponsible with their lives and the lives of others. A different viewpoint of death and dying is seen in adulthood as the reality of their own mortality is acknowledged and the lives of their family members. Typically adults do not fear death because of maturity and knowledge of death. The fear and concern is for leaving unfinished business such as raising their children.
Anxiety builds in adults regarding death as they come to the realization of their age and becoming closer to death as they continue to age. Adults have established a healthy respect for life and the tragedy of death. In late adulthood, older adults have the least anxiety about death and dying as they are aware of and accept their mortality and often have an established spiritual belief of an afterlife after their mortal death. Often death is associated with relief when an older adult has a serious illness or a great deal of physical pain or failing mental health. Cultural attitudes towards death and dying
Attitudes toward death and dying are often different based upon cultural and religious differences. Some cultures base their feelings toward death on spiritual beliefs whereas other cultures believe in a higher power and a promised eternity. In Buddhism, death is just a process in which an individual must endure to be reborn (Berger, 2008). Buddhists do not dear dying but believe that it brings peace and enlightenment. In Hinduism, death is also a process of new life. Death involves the entire family preparing for their loved one and bear witness the individual’s descent to rebirth.
In Judaism, little significance is placed on the physical body of an individual. Individuals are buried within one day after death, and the individual is mourned by family and friends together at home for one-week (Berger, 2008). Jewish individuals believe in the celebration of life more than that of death. Christianity and Islam are very similar in beliefs as death is considered merely the means of their mortal lives ending and their eternal life beginning whether it is heaven or hell. Death in Christianity and the Islamic faith can be good or bad depending on the individual’s devotion and faith in God.
All individuals regardless of culture or religion hope for death without pain that comes quickly after living a long life in the company of family and friends (Burgess, 2008). Conclusion Late adulthood is a period in an individual’s life p that creates physical and emotional difficulties. Illness and disease cause serious health issues that can affect an individual’s quality of life; however, healthy eating habits, exercise, and proper medical care can assist in improving and increasing an individual’s life. Death is an inevitable part of life that everyone must face.
When that time comes, death can be a peaceful release from pain or a journey to spiritual enlightenment. References Berger, K. S. (2008). The developing person through the life p. (7th ed. ). New York: Worth Publishers. Mesa Community College. (1997). The developmental psychology newsletter: Late adulthood. Retrieved from: http://www. mesacc. edu. Net Industries. (2011). Ageism – Stereotypes about age and older persons. p. 62. Retrieved from: Ageism - Stereotypes About Age And Older Persons