interview was to learn the life of Mr. Mike Robinson, my 65-year-old retired neighbor from the town next to me, in Sudbury. I selected this person because it will allow me to understand some of the core issues related to aging. My interactions with Mike Robinson before this interview were cordial and I believed that his example might shed light on some of the theories of aging we are covering in class. I believe that he is a good example of how aging theories can be applied to help people, because Mr. Robinson is aging in a way that is healthy due to his strong social support system and positive attitude on life.
Within this report, I intend to learn about his life conditions as well suggest and inform ways to improve the person's life. After interviewing Mr. Robinson on two different occasions, I gained some knowledge on how he perceives the aging process and the impact on the quality of his life. My interview subject has healthy ties to his family and community, although he is currently retired. He is a member of the Baby Boomer generation, which is the growing segment of individuals who are entering their golden years. The diverse needs of the Baby Boomers is highlighted in this interview, showing the ways that gerontologists can address healthy aging.
Application of Theory
The theory I would like to work with in this interview setting is Activity Theory. Activity theory suggests that, "social activity is the essence of life for all people of all ages," (Miller & Barrow, 2010, p. 77). A prevailing theory in gerontology, activity theory accounts for the large majority of issues that seniors face. When seniors are engaged with the community and with their friends and families, they will have more positive outcomes in terms of psychological, social, and physical health. The theory has been explored for decades (Havighurst, 1961). Activity theory has evolved but its core tenets are the same. Activity is defined as being more than just physical activity. In Activity Theory, the "activity" refers to hobbies and mental activities as well. As Miller & Barrow (2010) point out in the text, Activity Theory helps the person retain a sense of purpose, rather than leading the person to feel useless. Feeling useless can lead to depression. This is especially important for people who have retired. When a person retires, they need to transfer their former activities at work to new activities. Thus, a retired person can do volunteer work or learn something new like cooking, gardening, or even go back to school. Furthermore, Activity Theory can suggest ways to improve current gerontological practice.
Summary of Interview
Firstly, the subject assured me that he views aging in a very positive and healthy way. He believes that, a positive attitude and accepting oneself and the physical and psychological changes he enjoys the fact that, he is physically fit and cognitively alert. When I asked the subject what he believed was the best stage of his life, he answered unexpectedly, "This is the happiest period of my life is he's married to a beautiful women by the name of Amy Robinson, and every time I go out and eat somewhere, I get a senior citizen's discount. I like being retired and have all this time to do the things I want to do."
In accordance with activity theory, John said that he is fortunate to have a good health, and friendships that offer an element of companionship and social support. But for the most part, he keeps to himself. When I asked Mike what made it hard for him being his age, he answered, "People's attitude about older people. People tend to be a little skeptical about your ability. I don't like it when at gatherings, young people are always so courteous, and for some reason think they have to kiss you on the cheek, but they are very anxious to go to the next person."
When asked about his perception of how society views aging, he said that it was too bad that more people do not recognize the concept of wisdom. Older adults have much knowledge about life that the younger generations take for granted, Mike said. This knowledge is called wisdom, "the ability to reflect on and apply that knowledge in ways that make life more bearable and worthwhile" (The Health Authority, 2010). An example of wisdom would be advising a teenager that drugs and alcohol bring nothing but problems and that parents should always be respected. Age goes hand in hand with wisdom, the longer one life the more experiences one has and the more knowledge is obtained. When I asked him if he was happy, he said he was "quite happy." Mike's accomplishments and satisfactions in life were his marriage, son, owing his own practice with for thirty-six years before he retired. His hobbies were and still are: "Sports, bicycling, music, and his farm." "He has 2 dogs, 2 cats, 3 rabbits and 3 sheeps and use the sheep wool to sell or his wife makes things with them. I told John how impressive and interesting that was. His greatest accomplishment was his career as a Pediatric Doctor.
He had some advice for the current generation regarding their getting older. Mr. Robinson said the most important thing in life, and what really makes a person feel fulfilled and happy in age, is making a difference. "I believe I made a difference," he said. Mr. Robinson was born in Massachusetts where he currently still lives in Sudbury, Ma. His native language is English, and he also speaks a little bit of Spanish. Mike, who is a retired Pediatric Doctor with his own practice in Sudbury, MA. Mr. Robinson began at attending Tufts University School of Medicine and graduate in 1964 where went to the army for 2 years as a medical officer where he went to Vietnam not by choice. Once he left the army he thought at the University of Washington of Pediatrics before moving back to Massachusetts.
I also shared with Mr. Robinson about different topics concerning elderly, in particular, Ageism, social network, Caregiving. According to John, some of the rewards of growing older include "wisdom and self-understanding." I expressed that sometimes our culture does not value the wisdom of older adults. The challenges of aging that John found were mostly the physical changes. In countries like Mexico, where grandparents form a constituent part in a family, the United States has seen a major shift away from this reality.
This interview substantiated what I have read in class an din my independent research. For example, I learned how social connections are one of the most important aspects of healthy aging. This is something most of us intuit, based on our experiences with the elderly. Those who are connected with their friends and family, or involved in the community, have better psychological outcomes. Some frame this as social exchange (Dowd, 1975). I believe that in many cases, social connections also lead to improved physical health outcomes.
In reading my Gerontology book Aging, the Individual, and Society, I could gather some facts about aging, the elderly, and how society views aging. This reading allowed me to apply what I learned to the interview. My readings will inform future research on aging, and also alter my perceptions on aging as I become involved more in gerontology. Finally, what I learned in this interview applies to Chapter 4 of our class text. That chapter is entitled, "Physical Health and Well-being." Based on my readings and the interview with Mr. Robinson, I believe that it is important to know about being self-sufficient as well as physically active.
There was nothing particularly surprising about what Mr. Robinson said. What surprises me…