My Perceptions on Aging and Older Persons

Aging, in my opinion, is both a biological and psychosocial process involving all human beings from birth to death. Like dating rocks and fossils, we can track how old we are through the examination of our own sacred temples, our bodies. Enveloped with the normal processes of the body is our innate (or not) tendency to “act according to our age”.

They say there’s a fine line between the concepts “aging” and “maturity” that keeps them separated from each other. Aging, for some, is simply a process involving the biological changes in the body while maturity entails the strict staging of socially-accepted behavior or norm. But, I stand by the idea that these two concepts can be merged. I believe that people who age will eventually mature no matter how, no matter when. I basically do not have any issues with aging. Life follows a cycle and that this cycle has this concept of “aging” incorporated in it. Why do I say so? Everyone is aging and this is the natural course of life. We cannot stop it nor prevent it.

Aging, more often than not, is a concept that has a negative connotation. I believe this connotation is highly cultural. Cultural in a sense that one’s perception towards “aging” is very much influenced and determined by the culture, environment, and type of society he/she belongs to.

A study by Löckenhoff et. al. (2009) showed that there exists a variance among perceptions of aging among college students across different cultures. However, the study noted that there is a “widespread cross-cultural consensus regarding the direction of aging trajectories in different characteristics (e.g. consistent increases in wisdom versus consistent decreases in the ability to perform everyday tasks).” This leads us to the conclusion that diverse cultures have a cohesive perception towards aging and older persons. What differs, perhaps, is the way these perceptions affect the way we look, communicate, and live with the aging population.
I grew up in a typical Filipino family. Our grandparents live with us in the same house. This has provided enough opportunity for us to interact with each other. I had a firsthand experience of how it is to live and deal with older persons. These experiences somehow influenced my perceptions towards aging and the older persons.

It is not difficult to notice physical and psychosocial changes happening in older persons. I have observed that my lola began to experience slight loss in hearing and that we need to repeat all over, in a louder voice, the instructions given. Aside from that, I have not encountered other difficulties. This only proves that anyone has the probability of experiencing the same changes that occur usually among our older persons.

Filipino culture dictates that the older you are, the wiser you get. This is absolutely why we regard the older person’s decisions and opinion correct and of great value. Furthermore, we, Filipinos, believe that older persons have more experiences and these give them the right and privilege to decide on behalf of the family, organization, or group they belong to. This is what I believed when I was young. On one hand, this is not true all the time. Some older persons experience the complete opposite.

Why have concerned groups kept on lobbying for additional benefits for the older persons? Why do they have discounts? Why do local government units allot a part of their budget for the older persons alone? Why do we put much emphasis on keeping their Quality of Life (QOL) higher than usual? Other than the fact that we want to give back, I think it is because we consider them as vulnerable individuals based from their biologically-determined capabilities. This is an unsubstantiated insight.

Like any other age groups, older persons have their own set of strengths and weaknesses. They have their own ways of adapting to different changes in life. The point here is that the older persons need not to be considered a separate entity from the rest. They should be treated and viewed as individuals at the same level and that physical/biological changes do not make them less humans. However, I still deem it necessary for them to receive special attention when it comes to health like other vulnerable populations (e.g. infants, pregnant women).

To sum up, I believe that older persons may have more when it comes to knowledge and experience. But, this does not mean that they need to be superior to anybody else all the time. Lastly, I also believe that biological/physical (and maybe even psychosocial) changes do not, in any way, make them inferior to any other being.#

Reference:
Löckenhoff et. al. Perceptions of Aging Across 26 Cultures and their Culture-level Associate. 3 September 2010. Psychology and Aging. Volume 24 Issue 4 Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2933107/ on November 14, 2013

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