The paper is devoted to investigating the aging process and the specific changes in individuals emerging with age. The given process acquires increased topicality because of the growing number of adult populations globally. For this reason, it becomes critical to investigate the peculiarities of their transition from one stage to another and the factors associated with it. The paper incorporates the information from the literature review to create the theoretical basis for the discussion. It proves the exitance of specific stereotypes influencing the process, the change in status, and the critical importance of the perceptions of aging as the main aspects influencing well-being. The interview conducted with the participant aged 70+ also helps to realize the scope of changes and how the individual view them. Altogether, the paper shows the adult’s perspective on work-life performance and altered status associated with age.
Age is a critical factor influencing people, their behavior, physical and physiological states, and well-being. Aging is another critical process that might have both positive and negative implications. With old age come unprecedented experiences and perceptions about life that a person tends to develop and adopt as they push through the later stages of life. The recent decades have witnessed an increased interest and studies focusing on understanding the process of aging to add to the body of existing knowledge on the subject. This increasing interest in this particular area was greatly influenced by the dramatic changes in the population characteristics. According to Cavanaugh and Blanchard-Fields (2018), one of the main reasons for studying and developing an understanding of aging is the high growth of the aging population segment. Data from the population census indicated that the older adults represented the fastest-growing age set not only in the United States but also in major countries across the globe.
The second reason why scholars delve into studying development and aging is to have a better comprehension of old age in general, including perceptions about life, coping mechanisms, not to mention the need to understand the process of adult development. Understanding the various dynamics of this age group is vital for future decision-making and policies in order to accommodate the needs of the older population. This information is invaluable to the current generation because of the fact that never before has information about aging been this accessible hence giving them an advantage and a chance to adequately prepare for old age. This paper focuses on other aging events as the direction theme with a particular focus on memory and the work-life balance of the aged. The selected theme is effective for diversity and is unlimited as it provides a broad scope for investigation and insights on various areas, including traditions, belief systems, and the process of aging in general.
This section gives an overview of previous research on aging and transitional development. Knowledge from a review of literature served as the basis of the current research as it aims at building on the available body of knowledge on aging. The review also provided the researcher with the relevant knowledge on key data collection requirements to carry out primary research. It also contributed to the selection of the research design process.
Stereotyping the old Age
Although old age is a natural phenomenon, it has continued to provoke contrasting attitudes, expectations, prejudices, and stereotypes. According to Raina and Balodi (2014), stereotyping old age is a result of a lack of adequate knowledge by society. Old age stereotypes and prejudices are, however, both positive and negative. These associations influence how society treats the old while at the same time influencing how the younger age groups perceive their future. Studies indicate that stereotypes about the old in society start developing in the early stages of one’s life and are supported by the immediate environment. As a result, the human mind constantly works to prove the ingrained stereotypes by looking for cues realigned by the formed constructs and perceptions.
The slightest indications of realignment with formed prejudices add more strength to individuals’ held perceptions and attitudes towards older people. McDougall et al. (2021) assume that individuals feel more at ease when their stereotypic thoughts and theories coincide with the existing representations of age and behavior dominant in society at the moment. People usually accept stereotype-consistent information better than data that contradicts existing representations (McDougall et al., 2021). For this reason, people automatically form opinions on other people, especially those they have not met before. This is the same case with old age, as it is a phenomenon that appears strange and new in human developmental stages.
Stereotypes, however, lessen the information originally required about another person. This is due to the generalization emanating from stereotyping. Raina and Balodi (2014) argue that stereotyping builds an impermeable layer in the judgment system of a person, making them only see what their belief system is conformed towards. This hinders people from seeking and investigating information to ascertain the truth about a person or situation at hand. In other words, stereotypes provide mental shortcuts. These mental shortcuts influence a person’s attitude and perception towards new people in relation to acceptance or rejection of their individuality (Lamont et al., 2015). They also impact the future lives and well-being of individuals.
Thus, much attention was given to this factor by researchers. For instance, in a study to investigate the perception of young adults in relation to the social roles of the aged, it was found that old age stereotypes were mostly associated with older adults aged between 62 to 90 years (Lamont et al., 2015). Surprisingly older adults distanced themselves from most of the associated stereotypes citing application to people aged above 85 years. Chasteen (2000) asked both older adults and young adults to read a positive and negative story of a person of no particular defining cues. Young adults associated the negative stories with older adults and the positive story as that of a mature adult of medium age or a younger adult.
At the same time, there is another vital idea linked to the problem. Siebert et al. (2020) assert that age stereotypes are not necessarily harmful as there are also positive stereotypes. However, when it comes to older age and older adults, negative stereotypes are more compared to positive stereotypes. In addition to that, it is common for young people and older adults to perceive older-old (85 years and above) as lesser in various key areas that determine productivity, including physically, psychologically, and socially. This negative perception of the aged prevents society from seeing beyond the prejudices constructed against older people. Some of the most common stereotypes as identified include golden age, conservatism, love for grandkids, or being mildly impaired (Siebert et al., 2020). They are critical when it comes to interacting with such groups.
When it comes to the work environment, it is widespread for older adults to experience discrimination as they are perceived to have depreciated in terms of skills and productivity. Some relevant studies also conclude that the majority of employers are reluctant to hire older people citing difficulty in training them and having a low propensity to adaptation (Siebert et al., 2020). The adaptation in question majorly relates to the rapid technological advancements and changes at the workplace, performance, and overall perception of the current position.
Perceptions of Aging
Another critical aspect of aging processes is how they are precepted by older individuals and how their attitudes change. The current body of evidence shows that older adults report specific changes in their attitudes and feelings. Thus Luo et al. (2020) say that these include feeling older, being perceived as older, choosing to be older, and particular alterations in behavior. Under these conditions, perceptions of aging alter over time and become a significant factor influencing older people. The most crucial factor is how individuals alter their view on their bodies, capabilities, and place within the society regarding their age (Luo et al., 2020). The given showing is central for understanding aging processes and their influence on the overall state of a person. Additionally, perceptions of aging depend on society and existing perspectives on the role of the elderly in communities (Sekowski, 2022). Under these conditions, it is a complex phenomenon depending on several factors and influencing populations.
Developmental transitions are another critical factor associated with aging. Sekowski. (2022) defines it as a change from one stable mode to another in terms of an existing developing system during an outlined period of time. It means that aging becomes associated with specific developmental transitions peculiar to this period of life. Numerous adults over 60 report their successful change from the previous stable mode typical for maturity to a new one, characterized by the emergence of new behavior patterns mental and physical peculiarities (Sekowski, 2022). The acceptance of new conditions, capabilities, and peculiarities is a vital part of the transition, meaning that to achieve a new stable stage, a person should accept his/her changed role and position in society (Siebert et al., 2020). It will guarantee a high quality of life and the ability to adapt to new conditions emerging with aging.
Psychosocial Developmental Theories
The process of aging can be analyzed regarding exiting developmental theories. Thus, Erikson’s theory states that individuals move through various stages of development regarding their ability to adjust to social crises emerging during their lives (Sekowski, 2022). The crises involve interactions between individuals and their attempts to find a basis for building relations regarding their constantly altering physical and mental conditions (Sekowski, 2022). In such a way, the aging process can be viewed as the set of specific alterations occurring in a person to adjust to the new environment and his/her changing role (Sekowski, 2022). From this perspective, aging also depends on the psychology of a person and the way he/she views a new body, social position, and abilities. Brown et al. (2021) assume that the increased quality of life is associated with the successful moving through stages as per Erikson. A person who recognizes the change and adapts to it has more chances to succeed.
The Current Study
The current study also delves into the peculiarities of aging and corresponding changes in people’s mentalities. It rests on the idea that aging is linked to stereotypes existing within the society, changed age perception, physiological and psychological needs, and psychosocial developmental theories. In this regard, the interview focuses on asking questions about the influence of stereotypes, observed changes, and how to cope with them. Following the results of the literature review, it is assumed that the current study helps to reveal the peculiarities of the aging process and factors associated with it. Another critical idea is related to acceptance and adjustment, as the study aims to show the role of these two factors and their positive influence on individuals who are ready to function within the existing physiological and physiological conditions and interact with society using new rules.
The researcher conducted a targeted individual interview with an elder aged above 60 years to meet the needs and specifications of the study. The subject, whose name is disguised as Barry Johnson to protect their privacy, is in his mid-70s and is of Jewish origin. The subject is also a husband, a father, and a retired defense attorney for the New York justice system. The subject was of a sane mind, physically active, and able to sign an informed consent for the interview.
The subject was well aware of what the interview would entail regarding their worldview and personal insights on experiences gained through the times and perhaps tribulations that occurred throughout his 30 plus years in the specific career field. The interview also focused on the subject’s culture, adjustment to life after retirement, habits, and how they all intertwined with the retired attorney’s future. An open-ended, or conversational method of interviewing was used by the researcher to encourage the interviewee and give a personal account and view about aging from their perspective and without undue influence. The interview was conducted via video as a face-to-face interview was not possible due to unavoidable circumstances.
The study was approved by the researchers’ institution and the Human Research Protections Program. This study involved only one subject, who met the recommended specification of an older adult of 60 years and above. The subject provided informed consent allowing the study to be conducted according to the research standards. The interview was conducted through video, making it possible for the interview to be completed while the subject was at their home. A predetermined set of broad, research-driven interview questions was utilized by the researcher. The questions were based on existing literature on old age and other primary resources, including the aging stereotype by Palmore- adapted from Linda Woolf’s Aging Quiz. Primary questions were as follows:
- What are your views on stereotypes/myths that exist in yourself or in your community? Presently, are your views the same?
- What developmental lifespan influences are you most influenced by? Does this experience influence you consciously, physically, or spiritually?
- What quality changes have you witnessed in your personal growth journey, and have these changes impacted your motivation or independence?
- Most assume that a person’s age is the most important factor of someone’s life. Do you feel most connected to your chronological age or functional age? How? Physically and/or psychologically
- What is your added input into the diversity of problem-solving? Is your approach finding the answer or finding the reasoning behind the right answer?
The interview began with general questions for purposes of establishing a good rapport and setting the right momentum for the best experience, and achieving the desired outcome. The general questions were then followed by the core questions aimed at answering the research questions and enabling the researcher to gain insight into the older person’s unique experience of aging and adult development. Patton’s (2002) works on qualitative research served as the primary guide for carrying out this study. The interview took around one hour to come to completion. The contents of the interview were recorded for future reference and later transcribed.
Chronological vs. Functional Age
One of the critical findings from the interview is the difference between chronological and functional age. The participant states that he “feels able to climb up onto the ladders to change out the lightbulbs,” proving he feels most connected to the functional age. It can be viewed as a true statement as chronological age is not the essential determinant of someone’s state, and the interview proves it (Siebert et al., 2020). The respondent is 76 years old; however, he is energetic, active, and does things about the house, which might be viewed as inappropriate for people of his age. This information proves the idea that the physiological and psychological state of a person is more important than actual age, as they should be viewed as the significant determinants of health and the ability to remain active and perform multiple tasks.
The study also focuses on investigating the role of stereotypes existing in society and their influence on individuals. The respondent states that there are no stereotypes in his community that might influence his aging process or current state. As a Jewish Lawyer, he had some difficulties understanding how other people of his culture were not comfortable in this period. Thus, at the moment, he is satisfied with his age, current position, and he does not feel any negative experiences linked to others’ behaviors. This information shows that stereotypes might not be a critical factor influencing the elderly during their transition from one phase to another (Siebert et al., 2020). However, it also means that the participant is satisfied with his current state and can disregard or do not notice specific attitudes if they are viewed as unimportant ones.
Developmental Life Span Influences
Developmental lifespan influences are another critical aspect touched upon in the study. Thus, the respondent admits the change in his responsibilities and duties, which are viewed as the central factor associated with aging. The participant states that the “sense of responsibility to work was the biggest shift.” As soon as he reached a particular age, the burden of the necessity to work and earn reduced, and now he feels grateful for it being over. It indicates one of the critical shifts during aging as individuals acquire new duties and responsibilities replacing the old ones. For this reason, it becomes critical to accept the altered way of life and position in society. This process is characterized by the transformation from a money earner to a person who can feel less pressure from family and society, which is critical. At the same time, it is not associated with the change in physical and intellectual abilities.
Another major change admitted by the respondent is the alteration in the quality of his life. He states, “I enjoy being free now instead of uncomfortable,” which proves his acceptance of the new position and successful adjusting to it. The feeling emerged soon after retirement, meaning that the aging process was successful as the individual managed to pass through the major developmental stages and avoid feeling stress, being useless, or being excluded from society. The cognitive abilities remained at a high level; however, instead of depression or anxiety, the participant reports complete satisfaction with the existing conditions and a new role. It also indicates the change in work-life performance and the shift towards a new phase, characterized by the reconsidered duties and tasks. At the same time, the level of cognitive and physical abilities remains high, which explains the interviewee’s high quality of life and wellness.
Discussion and Conclusion
Altogether, the results of the literature review and interview prove the significance of changes occurring during the aging process. Similar to the ideas offered by other authors, the participant also emphasizes the shift in responsibilities and attitudes. The preservation of the high level of physical and intellectual abilities proves the critical importance of the functional age compared to the chronological one (Siebert et al., 2020). At the same time, data from the interview shows the changes in the quality of life also linked to aging. The interviewee views the positive side of this changed status, such as less pressure and no burden of work. It can be linked to the adjustment and adaptation mechanisms vital for moving from one developmental stage to another. The interview also shows that the preservation of cognitive abilities helps to preserve the desired quality of life.
Altogether, the study proves the significance of changes occurring during the aging process. Answering questions, the respondent proved that he observed significant alterations in his current status, quality of life, and role. At the same time, no significant stereotypes influenced his life after retirement. The information also proves the idea from the literature review that chronological age is not the primary determinant of an individual’s status, while the functional age becomes more important as it impacts the behavior and the quality of people’s lives.
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