Adulthood and Death Issues Introduction to Contemporary Essay

Download this Essay in word format (.doc)

Note: Sample below may appear distorted but all corresponding word document files contain proper formatting

Excerpt from Essay:

Adulthood and Death Issues

Introduction to Contemporary Issues about Aging and Death

One of the most important social benefits of modern society is the dramatic increase in life expectancy over the last century, particularly in the developed nations. At the turn of the 20th century, life expectancy was barely 60 years or age; less than a century before that, it was approximately 50 years of age (Henslin, 2005; Macionis, 2006). Today, people routinely live into their late 80 or 90s. This change is also associated with various related issues that rarely came up in prior eras of human history. Whereas individuals typically retired in their 50s a century ago (if they could afford to at all, that is), today it is not uncommon at all to continue working well into advanced age or even to begin second or third careers during what used to be considered "retirement age" (Henslin, 2005; Macionis, 2006).

However, this change in society has also contributed to the development of new social issues and concerns that are attributable to perceptions and expectations about age, such as ageism and prejudice against the elderly. Other important issues raised by the increasing life expectancy in society include affordable medical care and the maintenance of social connections and support networks to assist the aging members of the population remain physically healthy and socially connected to others, especially as they lose members of their peer group to old age and death. In that respect, cultural values play a significant role in shaping the way that the rest of society regards the elderly (Schaefer, 2006).

Ageism in Contemporary Society

Age discrimination takes many forms from mere patronizing by the young to serious discrimination in the workplace, which is largely a function of expectations that older individuals are less capable of performing satisfactorily in the vocational environment (Schaefer, 2006). That problem inspired various forms of formal government legislation to prevent workplace discrimination by virtue of age. More generally, ageism refers to the set of expectations associated with advanced chronological age in many respects and it can seriously harm the welfare of elderly individuals by excluding them from many of the opportunities and rights to which they are equally entitled (Schaefer, 2006).

Promoting Quality of Life and Mitigating Negative Consequences of Aging

Unfortunately, the consequences of longer life spans can include a dramatic reduction in the quality of life aged individuals, especially in their last decades of life. That is primarily because the factors that are responsible for longer life spans do not necessarily guarantee continued health and vibrancy in old age. However, volumes of empirical research data suggest that with proper nutrition, medical care, and lifestyle changes consistent with long-term health, advancing age need not necessarily be associated with long-term disability, discomfort, or dependence on other or on society, in many cases (Yates, Djousse, Kurth, et al., 2008).

While there may not yet be any reliable treatment for some of the more serious medical threats to the long-term quality of life in old age (such as Alzheimer's and other forms of age-related dementia and cognitive decline), there is substantial evidence that seeking appropriate medical care for other chronic ailments and physical disabilities associated with old age can substantially preserve the maximum possible quality of life even into the ninth and tenth decade of human life (Henslin, 2005; Macionis, 2006).

The Importance of Social Connections and Interpersonal Support Networks

There is also substantial evidence suggesting that two of the most important aspects of maintaining the quality of life in old age are functions of maintaining meaningful social connections to society and the continuing availability of interpersonal relationships and support networks (Yates, Djousse, Kurth, et al., 2008). Anecdotal evidence has long established the rapid decline in quality of life and even physical health in aging individuals associated with their loss of meaning in their lives, particularly in connection with their retirement when they have no other means of maintaining their productivity in society. Typically, individuals who may have worked at the same job for decades deteriorate quickly beginning shortly after their retirement and die within only a few years (Yates, Djousse, Kurth, et al., 2008).

The same observation applies to the loss of long-term companions and there is equally good anecdotal as well as empirical evidence in the relevant literature linking the loss of long-term companions to death shortly afterwards (Yates, Djousse, Kurth, et al., 2008). On the other hand, when aging individuals find new professional or other meaningful interests that inspire them after their retirement from the fulltime workforce, they can dramatically increase their ability to remain psychologically content and fulfilled by those connections to society (Henslin, 2005; Macionis, 2006).

In terms of interpersonal social connections and support networks, the elderly typically become more dependent on others in advanced age as a very natural function of the age-related decline in various physical and cognitive abilities associated with advanced age (Yates, Djousse, Kurth, et al., 2008). On one hand, this is inevitable and expected; on the other hand, it is also equally important for members of the social support network to avoid taking over more elements of the life of elderly individuals than necessary for their health and safety. In general, the more self-reliant and responsible the individual remains in old age the less likely he or she is to decline in health and psychological outlook any more than is unavoidable by virtue of declining abilities (Yates, Djousse, Kurth, et al., 2008).

By far, the most important service that support networks can provide for the elderly is to provide meaningful interpersonal connections after the loss of loved ones and peers. In addition to the health toll of the emotional trauma associated with the loss of loved ones and peers, the elderly are particularly vulnerable to long-term depression from social isolation and loneliness attributable to the declining numbers of their peers (Schaefer, 2006). In that respect, extended families can provide tremendously beneficial support by maintaining (or increasing) their involvement in the lives of loved ones advancing in age, especially after the loss of their companions and members of their peer group. Even when all other factors and independent variables are fully accounted for, elderly individuals who have the full support of a social network of family and friends survive longer and have much lower incidences of serious disease and symptoms of existing ailments than their counterparts who are not fortunate enough to have the same types of social support and interpersonal connections in their advancing years (Schaefer, 2006).

Cultural and Personal Attitudes about Aging and Death

To a great degree, the welfare of the elderly depends directly on the manner in which beliefs, attitudes, and expectations about aging are reflected in society. In principle, in societies where old age is regarded as the end of the useful portion of life and where the elderly are treated as burdens on society, aging individuals will suffer the consequences of social alienation and lack of self-esteem that corresponds to those social attitudes, beliefs, and expectations (Schaefer, 2006). Conversely, in societies where the elderly are fully supported by social programs and where the beliefs, attitudes, and expectations in the community promote acceptance of old age as an inevitable phase of life where more support may be required but where continued meaningfulness in life is possible, aging individuals typically live longer and experience greater satisfaction and fewer age-related aspects of decline (Schaefer, 2006).

Naturally, cultural beliefs, attitudes, and values in relation to human death also contribute profoundly to the manner in which realization about the impending end of life affect aging populations (Henslin, 2005; Macionis, 2006). In communities and cultures where death is feared rather than understood, it is natural to expect that those approaching the end of their lives will be troubled emotionally by their fears and expectations…[continue]

Cite This Essay:

"Adulthood And Death Issues Introduction To Contemporary" (2011, March 11) Retrieved October 26, 2016, from

"Adulthood And Death Issues Introduction To Contemporary" 11 March 2011. Web.26 October. 2016. <>

"Adulthood And Death Issues Introduction To Contemporary", 11 March 2011, Accessed.26 October. 2016,

Other Documents Pertaining To This Topic

  • Impregnated Mosquito Bed Netting in

    The race between new drugs and new resistances has not stopped since then.... And in 1986, WHO's expert panel concluded that a magic solution could not be relied upon, and that furthermore, malaria patterns were determined by a variety of socioeconomic as well as biological, climatic and geographic factors. " (Banfield, 1998. p. 35) The article refers as well to the impact of malaria on the people of Kenya "...

  • Psychology Developmental Stages Using Freud Erikson or Maslow s Theories...

    Psychology Developmental Stages Using Freud, Erikson, Or Maslow's Theories Development Stages of Life Prenatal and Infancy Early Childhood Middle Childhood Adolescence Emerging Adulthood Adulthood Late Adulthood Liberace was born in West Allis, Wisconsin on May 16th, 1919. Liberace's mother was of Polish descent Frances Zuchowaska and his father Salvatore Liberace, was an immigrant from Formia, Italy. Liberace was born with a twin who died at birth and also had a caul on his head. Many cultures believe caulbearers bring

  • WB Yeats s Poem

    Yeats' "The Stolen Child" An Analysis of the Temptation to Flee Reality in Yeats' "The Stolen Child" Yeats' "The Stolen Child" depicts a world in which fantasy and reality are in contention with one another. The conflict is between the sense of reality (barely perceptible and inundated by a flood of dreamlike perceptions) and the flight of fantasy. A parallel might be drawn between the poem and the social problem of addiction.

  • Sexuality in Juno Pregnancy Loss

    One critic states, for instance, that for the liberal nature of the film, the work does not actually promote the 'pro-choice' message that is so important to many women. This critic is Gloria Feldt, who is an author, activist, and is the former president of Planned Parenthood. She knows the experiences portrayed in the move well, in fact, firsthand, since she was a teenage mother once. Feldt states, "The dialogue

  • Role of Life Long Learning in Creating an Ecologically Minded Society...

    popularized social and cultural trends are merging, intentionally or not, toward laying the foundation for generating a new narrative about what it means to learn across a lifespan in an environment conducive to healthy living. It seeks to examine the coalescing of what is called lifelong learning side-by-side with the theories and practices related to the evolution of ecological thinking and environmental awareness. The idea that life can be

  • Long Term Effects of Divorce on Children

    Long-Term Effects of Divorce on Children Research reveals divorce negatively impacts the divorcing individuals. The effects of divorce the children of divorcing parents experience, however, has not been heavily researched. Consequently, the focus for this qualitative case study examines six studies, to investigate the long-term effects of divorce on children. "A stable family situation after divorce does not erase the negative effects of a divorce, but children in this situation fare much

  • Treatment Representation of Women or Children in Nineteenth Century...

    Victorian literature was remarkably concerned with the idea of childhood, but to a large degree we must understand the Victorian concept of childhood and youth as being, in some way, a revisionary response to the early nineteenth century Romantic conception. Here we must, to a certain degree, accept Harold Bloom's thesis that Victorian poetry represents a revisionary response to the revolutionary aesthetic of Romanticism, and particularly that of Wordsworth. The

Read Full Essay
Copyright 2016 . All Rights Reserved