In traditional Chinese and other Asian cultures the aged were highly respected and cared for. The Igabo tribesmen of Eastern Nigeria value dependency in their aged and involve them in care of children and the administration of tribal affairs (Shelton, A. in Kalish R. Uni Michigan 1969).
In Eskimo culture the grandmother was pushed out into the ice-flow to die as soon as she became useless.
Western societies today usually resemble to some degree the Eskimo culture, only the “ice-flows” have names such a “Sunset Vista” and the like. Younger generations no longer assign status to the aged and their abandonment
is always in danger of becoming the social norm.
There has been a tendency to remove the aged from their homes and put them in custodial care. To some degree the government provides domiciliary care services to prevent or delay this, but the motivation probably has more
to do with expense than humanity.
In Canada and some parts of the USA old people are being utilised as foster-grandparents in child care agencies.
SOME BASIC DEFINITIONS
What is Aging?
Aging: Aging is a natural phenomenon that refers to changes occurring throughout the life span and result in differences in structure and function between the youthful and elder generation.
Gerontology: Gerontology is the study of aging and includes science, psychology and sociology.
Geriatrics: A relatively new field of medicine specialising in the health problems of advanced age.
Social aging: Refers to the social habits and roles of individuals with respect to their culture and society. As social aging increases individual usually experience a decrease in meaningful social interactions.
Biological aging: Refers to the physical changes in the body systems during the later decades of life. It may begin long before the individual reaches chronological age 65.
Cognitive aging: Refers to decreasing ability to assimilate new information and learn new behaviours and skills.
GENERAL PROBLEMS OF AGING
Eric Erikson (Youth and the life cycle. Children. 7:43-49 Mch/April 1960) developed an “ages and stages” theory of human
development that involved 8 stages after birth each of which involved a basic dichotomy representing best case and worst case outcomes. Below are the dichotomies and their developmental relevance:
Prenatal stage – conception to birth.
1. Infancy. Birth to 2 years – basic trust vs. basic distrust. Hope.
2. Early childhood, 3 to 4 years – autonomy vs. self doubt/shame. Will.
3. Play age, 5 to 8 years – initiative vs. guilt. Purpose.
4. School age, 9to 12 – industry vs….