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Development And Aging Essay Sample

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Development And Aging Essay Sample

Aging is a very sensitive issue in the life of every person, and for a long time this topics has been rarely discussed in public. However, it is of paramount importance to discuss this issue, since facing the challenges of aging alone is psychologically hard for every individual.

In addition, as the population of the majority of developed nations gradually grows older, there is a need to reinvent the concept of aging as well as social perceptions and attitudes to this phenomenon. With the advancement of medicine and increase of life expectancy, growing number of people can afford living a full-fledged life till extreme old age.

In the U.S., the idea of aging has been transformed dramatically during the past decades. Aging was perceived as a steep descent into the nightmare of disability and depression. But the idea of active aging has recently become a pillar of American dream. However, the concept of active aging is only possible in a country where government support and promotes senior citizens. Therefore, a reform of Social Security is very necessary, so that the program would offer more to the elderly and become less of a burden for the nation.

Yet sufficient progress has been made to date: American seniors remain involved and engaged: they work full time in every field, they volunteer in their communities, they raise children and grandchildren, and they start businesses and second careers. This major change happens due to the proper government support and medical assistance.

Life expectancy at 65 is now nearly 15 years for men and 18 and a half years for women. Since many believe that the typical older person is sick, impotent, senile, useless, lonely, and in poverty, they naturally conclude that the typical older person must also be depressed. But the attitude of the elderly towards themselves as a group is gradually improving. Senior citizens are beginning to use that milestone to question what they want to do with the rest of their lives instead of viewing it as a time of decline.

However, there are also many challenges one has to cope with. The challenges people face are greater than at any other life stage and include response to retirement, health problems, the death of a spouse or close friends, or may simply result from changing social roles. The most important thing is to stay positive and optimistic about oneself and the future, and here spirituality plays a role. Uncovering one’s own source of faith and hope is extremely helpful at this age. Christian faith is a good guide through late adulthood, yet other confession can be an equally effective in this regard.

Robert Havighurst (1953) suggests that each stage of life has certain developmental tasks. The developmental tasks for this period are adjusting to decreasing physical strength, retirement and reduced income, and death of a spouse; establishing an explicit affiliation with the age group and satisfactory physical living arrangements; meeting social and civic obligations.

Building a secure retirement has traditionally been thought as a crucial task for aging population. But aging is a global phenomenon, so retirement is being redefined, and doesn’t necessarily mean leaving the workforce. Approximately 80 percent of baby boomers expect to keep working past traditional retirement age, either full-time or part-time (Novelli, 2001).

Establishing satisfactory physical living arrangements is a major developmental task in old age. Psychologists suggest that senior citizens should try to stay in control of their lives and be as self-reliant as possible. Indeed, the ability to rely on oneself and live a relatively independent life gives a sense of confidence at any age. It is of particular importance for the elderly who often feel that they are a burden for their families or Social Security services. Yet realizing that you are a functioning and important member of the society is a source of hope and happiness for many senior citizens.

Indeed, an important task is the achievement and maintenance of independence and autonomy well into old age. The notion of control might be quite different when domain-specifity is taken into consideration. For example, age-related increases exist for overall control over work, control over finances, and control over marriage, whereas decreases exist for control over relationships with children, and control over the sex life.

However, self-reliance does not mean diminishing value of interpersonal relationships. On the contrary, safety net consisting of good relationships with one’s significant other, children, and relatives becomes increasingly important. In one’s old age, it is helpful to have the support of your life partner and offer your support to him or her. People who have to face their final years alone are worse off than those who contributed a lot to maintaining good relations with their closest encirclement.

Speaking about health problems, this is probably the moat important challenge for many senior citizens. While the number of people requiring extensive care of the medical profession is just beginning to undergo an enormous increase in the majority of Western liberal democracies, the number of those able to provide professional health care is either stagnant or decreasing. Successful aging is often measured by the criteria of length of time that person is fully active without objective or subjective physical disabilities and also by maintaining mental health without psychiatric help. Escalating health care costs is another vital problem in Western liberal democracies.

Applying another theory to the analysis of development in late adulthood, famous developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst Erik Erikson (1994) suggests that life consists of eight stages, namely Oral-Sensory, Muscular-Anal, Locomotor, Latency, Adolescence, Young Adulthood, Middle Adulthood, and Maturity. Each stage is characterized by a central conflict. The conflict of Erikson’s Stage 8 of later adulthood is Ego Integrity vs. Despair.

Reaching this stage is a sign of maturity while failing to reach this stage is an indication of poor development in prior stages through the life course.

Erikson proposes that this stage begins when the individual experiences a sense of mortality. The final life crisis manifests itself as an overall review of the individual life-career.

Obviously, thoughts of death constitute one of the major preoccupations for people in this age group. It is very hard to face death with dignity and placidity since it is imperative to sustain a delicate balance between being trapped in fear for one’s life and temptation to give up and stop caring about it at all. In this regard, it is very helpful to develop strong self-awareness skills through introspection and contemplation. It is very true that at this age it is necessary to look back at good times one had in his or her life, yet at the same time one should look forward and think what he or she has to offer to family and society.

Therefore, many senior citizens find the option of volunteering to be increasingly attractive. After years of meaningful employment, it is a sheer pleasure to have an opportunity to give back to your community. Volunteering helps senior citizens to maintain the feeling of being useful to the community and expand social contacts. A sense of satisfaction and fulfillment stems from volunteering and civic involvement. Observations suggest that a half of all adults in this age cohort plan to incorporate volunteer activities into their blueprint for later life. Yet it is also possible to engage in active recreation, since this is the age when one can afford to enjoy numerous pleasures life has to offer.

Ego Integrity in this case means accepting responsibility for your life and being able to reflect on it in a positive manner. According to Erikson, achieving a sense of integrity means fully accepting oneself and coming to terms with death. Despair originates from failing to accept one’s life and reflect on it in a positive manner, as well as the loss of self-sufficiency, and of loved partners and friends. Such individuals fear death; however, if a favorable balance is achieved during this stage, then the virtue of wisdom is developed.

Erikson defines wisdom as an informed and detached concern with life itself in the face of death itself, and ego quality that emerges from a positive resolution of the psychological crisis of the stage.

As for the social perceptions of aging, the elderly in Western liberal democracies often encounters certain forms of discrimination. As Jimmy Carter (1998, p.8).writes in his book ‘Virtues of Aging,’ ‘[w]e are not alone in our worry about both the physical aspects of aging and the prejudice that exists toward the elderly, which is similar to racism or sexism. What makes it different is that the prejudice also exists among those of us who are either within this group or rapidly approaching it.’

Prejudice that exists toward the elderly is perhaps one of the most burning issues for public policy. Ageism as a prejudice toward representatives of a certain age is detrimental to balanced relations between different social groups.

The term ‘ageism’ was introduced in 1969 and likened to other forms of bigotry such as racism and sexism. Ageism can be defining as a process of systematic stereotyping and discrimination against people because they are old; today, it is more broadly defined as any prejudice or discrimination against or in favour of an age group. Thus, it equally applies to the discrimination of youth in the society (e.g. at the workplace), yet the problem with senior citizens is more gross.

Yet ageism is different from other types of prejudice existing in the society. Unlike racism and sexism, senior citizens often share ageist perspectives on certain issues. They reject their identity and fail to acknowledge their new status. Obviously, such short-sighted view often leads to deep intrapersonal conflict.

Yet there are good reasons to be positive about the impendent change. Throughout history, many groups that faced discrimination at first experienced problems with accepting their identity. At the beginning of the 20th century, many African Americans tried to deny their origin and culture and mimic the behavior of the whites.

A turnaround was made possible by rising their collective voice in the fight against discrimination — and this is what elderly as a group should do at the moment. By acknowledging one’s identity as a senior citizen, one can make the first step toward leading a good and fulfilled life. And younger generation should help senior citizens to overcome isolation and fight for social inclusion.

Perceptions on aging vary across cultures. For example, in Japan the elderly enjoy great respect and attention, yet Japanese tradition implies that a person should be self-supportive at any stage in life. Therefore, younger Japanese are rarely committed to take care of their aging parents:

‘According to a Management and Coordination Agency survey of world youth, under the category of supporting one’s parents in their old age, Japan ranked tenth out of eleven countries, with only 25% responding that they would do anything to care for their parents. Japan came nowhere near South Korea at 70% and did not even reach half the figure of 52% for the United States. Considering that it was Sweden, with its well-established social welfare system that ranked eleventh, Japan’s poor rating is all the more striking’ (Ibe, 2000, p.10).

In Muslim culture, senior citizens are supposed to receive necessary support and assistance. They are perceived as continuers of tradition and the source of wisdom for younger generations. Therefore, it’s possible to conclude that perceptions on the development in late adulthood differ significantly from culture to culture.


Carter, Jimmy. (1998). The Virtues of Aging. New York: Ballantine Books.

Erikson, Erik. (1994). Identity and the Life Cycle. New York: W.W. Norton.

Havighurst, Robert J. (1953). Human Development and Education. New York: McKay.

Ibe, Hideo. (2000). ‘Aging in Japan.’ International Longevity Center-USA, Ltd. Retrieved July 22, 2007, from www.ilcusa.org/_lib/pdf/Aginginjapan.pdf

Novelli, William D. (July 20, 2001). ‘Beyond Fifty: America’s Future.’ Retrieved July 12, 2007, from http://www.aarp.org/about_aarp/aarp_leadership/on_issues/aging_issues/a2002-12-31-novellicleveland.html

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