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Changes During the Ageing Process

Info: 2202 words (9 pages) Nursing Essay
Published: 11th Feb 2020

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Tagged: ageing

Physiological and sociological ageing is an unpreventable process to which, each individual goes through. Although each ageing process varies greatly from each individual to another it tends to speed up as we age. “Ageing can be defined as increasing the number and proportion of elderly in society” (Calasanti & Kathleen, 2006)

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We age from the moment we are born, however the changes that occurs during ageing results from losses that is gradual overtime. It is said that loses can often start from young adulthood (mid 20’s-30’s) because our bodies being able to adjust and maintain health in most individuals, it is said the loss in not shown until later on in life. “We lose 1% of organ functionality per year from the age of 30 years old” (Martin GM, 2007) “the majority of these changes are not seen until after age 70” (Critchley, 1931, 1934) The considerable difference in the rate of ageing and organ efficiency lies within the presence of disease and/or the ability of the body to adapt to external stress. The three main models of changes that we need to focus on during our ageing process are; physical, psychological and social. At any given time, one can be effected or all of them together which can impact on a person’s quality of life. As we’re all unique in our own right, each person’s ageing process can be different ageing cycle.

“The pensioner population is expected to rise despite the increase in the women’s state pension age to 65 between 2010 and 2020 and the increase for both men and women from 65 to 68 between 2024 and 2046.” (Parliament, 2010)

According to the NHS, individuals are living longer than ever before and our society is expanding. With the NHS explaining that “with the fastest rise in the ‘oldest old’, means that the overall number of people in our society withhealth or care needs has risen. In turn, this has altered the very nature of our health and care services, with older people now the biggest users”

As we get older, it is common for some memory loss such as forgetting names or appointments, this is normal due to “memory being affected by age, stress, tiredness, or certain illnesses and medications” (NHS, 2014)

Typically common illnesses and diseases occurs (however not exclusive to elderly individuals) is Dementia, Cancer and also Arthritis.

Dementia is a progressive disease. Affecting all parts of the brain such as the frontal lobe, occipital lobes, temporal lobe, and parietal lobe. “Dementia is a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline of the brain and its abilities. This includes problems with: memory loss, thinking speed, mental agility, language, understanding, judgement” (NHS, 2014)

According to the Alzheimer’s Society there are “around 800,000 people in the UK with dementia. Current statistics show that one in three people over 65 will develop dementia, and two thirds of people with dementia are women”. Research undertaken by Alzheimer’s Society has shown that young people also develop dementia and it is not exclusive to elderly people.

According to Cancer Research, 2013 “Cancer is a disease caused by normal cells changing so that they grow in an uncontrolled way. The uncontrolled growth causes a lump called a tumour to form”. Age Concern UK, conducted a study in the years between 2009-2011 and found that the most top 5 cancer diagnosed for men aged 75 and over is prostate, lung, bowel, bladder and stomach cancer. Their research also found that the top 5 commonly cancer being diagnosed for women over 75 and over; breast, bowel, lung, pancreas and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma cancer. Also shown during this research was that “36% of all cancers are diagnosed in the elderly” (UK, 2009-2011)

Arthritis is not exclusive to elderly people and it is a myth to say that “only elderly people have arthritis” it also affects younger individuals also. “Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation within a joint. In the UK, around 10 million people have arthritis. Two of the most commonare osteoarthritisand rheumatoid arthritis.” (NHS, 2012) According to Arthritis Research UK, 2013: “Osteoarthritis is a common form of arthritis statistic shows that 8.5 million people are affected by Osteoarthritis.”

“In people affected by osteoarthritis, the cartilage (connective tissue) between their bones gradually wastes away, leading to painful rubbing of bone on bone in the joints. The most frequently affected joints are in the hands, spine, knees and hips. Osteoarthritis often develops in people who are over 50 years of age. However, it can develop at any age as a result of an injury or another joint-related condition” (NHS, 2012)

“The psychological aspect of ageing is a phase of personal integrity with despair” (Erik Erikson, 1950) during the final stages of the cycle of life; the individual is often seeking a sense of integrity and trying to avoid a sense of despair. Elder age often becomes a time of reflecting back on their life which allows a return of events during their own personal lifetime. “To the extent we have succeeded in effectively solving the problems that had arisen at every stage of life, we have developed a sense of completion and fullness that is to say, the feeling of full life” (Gullette, 2004).

Societies views on ageing has been deemed as somewhat negative, it has been argued that the older population can be wrongly so, be a drain on society. Due to advantages in modern medicine and technology it has been clearly proven that there is a better quality of life for older people.

The government has also contributed in helping improve quality of life to over 65’s by providing; state pension, free TV licence, free bus pass, winter fuel allowance, help with care & nursing fee’s* (if individual doesn’t have any form of assets such as property*) and legislations in place for best interests of individuals and pushing them to remain independent where possible by staying in their own home rather than carting off elderly people into nursing homes or care homes once they reach retirement age. Elderly individuals do also contribute back to society such as volunteering, childcare for grandchildren and also, most continue to work and pay their taxes after the “state pension age” of 61 and 68 years old.

Ageing is different from one individual to another because all human beings are unique in their own right, it’s hard to pinpoint how the ageing process affects each individual physical, intellectual abilities and psychological quality of life however, individuals needs change as they age and in order to meet a standard of quality of life their needs should be simultaneously met where possible.

During life, we all often begin to experiences many types of losses this can include loss of many things such as material things; health, jobs, homes. Death of relatives, friends and pets. At times, this can come all at once or spaced out nevertheless; losing an object or an individual close to you can be overwhelming sadness period in anyone’s life which can result in problems physically and mentally such as depression.

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Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s pioneering research on grief and grieving has made a significant indent on the bereavement and support care of those individuals that are grieving. In fact such an idea or understanding of grief was a rare and novel idea before Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross 1969 research which inaugurated her “five stages of grief” which is detailed as; first stage, shock and denial and sometimes overwhelming, the second stage is anger. Dr Kübler-Ross explains that the realisation of reality emerges after the initial shock. The feelings of anger may be directed at the loved one whom passed over or people around the person who is grieving. Following from that the third stage of grief is said to be bargaining, the person who is grieving can be thinking the classic “should of, could of, would of” … I wish I would have done this, I wish I would have done that. I wish I would have told them this, seen them more before passing etc. forth stage of the process is said to be depression, a mixture feelings of sadness and mourning and the final stage of the process is acceptance; this phase is a mixture of accepting what has happened, knowing that you cannot change the past. Allowing themselves to continue living after a loved one has passed without feeling guilty about “moving on”.

Although the five stages of grief model was initially developed to help health care professionals around the world understand the grief of their patients and their relatives who are on the verge of passing over, it has now been comprehensively adopted by individuals around the world not just medical professions but individuals who are facing to be in a situation of their loved ones passing over.

The stages are arguably an experience during which, the sorrowful process of the experience of grief are somewhat, easier to understand the grieving process. The idea also provided an in-depth understanding of grief and for helping others cope through personal trauma of grief. Going through grief is understandably, one of the hardest things an individual can ever go through, but realising that they don’t have to do it all by their selves can help “ease” the pain from grieving.

These days there is lot of support groups available for people who are grieving. The support groups can benefit others by sharing their loss and pain by openly talking about their circumstances and feelings is an active step for them to work through their pain and come to term with that has happened to them.

Another positive is that by sharing the loss and pain with others going through the same thing, eventually the individuals find themselves giving compassion and reaching out to help others within the support group with the hope they will survive through the terrible personal trauma of grief.

Although many theories has been developed regarding the ageing process, the theory of disengagement has generated the most interest to this day (Cumming & Henry, 1961) according to their theory; “as people age, they tend to withdraw from society, and this can be mutual, with society”. Cumming & Henry had argued “this was a consequence of people learning within their limitations with age and making way for new generations of people the fill their roles”. However, it is said that the disengagement theory is controversial, and many individuals do not agree with it.

One negativity of disengagement is the low self-esteem that can occur of disengaging. This could have a knock on effect of simply “not engaging” with others if they believe they are not “worth it”. “This qualitative change will accompany the quantitative reduction in social interaction taking place between the elderly and society” (Masoro, 2006).

Within diverse societies, it is argued that the disengagement theory is a negative one. When the disengagement theory was created by Cumming & Henry, the tradition within society back then was allowing older people to live at home with their families rather than using any form of nursing and residential care.

The activity theory was originally developed by Robert J. Havighurst in 1961; originally the activity theory was conceived as a response to then, the recently published disengagement theory of ageing.

As mentioned above, the disengagement model suggested that it is natural for elderly to disengage completely from society when they realise that they are close to their death. According to activity theorists, as people interact with their environment and each other, they achieve a series of outcomes.

As individuals engage within activities, it gives them something to focus on and keeps themselves as well as their brains active which can minimise depression and feelings of being unwanted.

The activity theory has been to understand the emotional changes within ageing adults. Research has found that elderly individuals that has remained in employment, or being able to peruse hobbies or day centres etc. can actually improve a quality of life as it keeps themselves busy and actively engaging with others can improve their self-esteem dramatically.

As we’re all unique in our own right, it’s hard to define ageing process for every single human being. But on average, whilst most over 60’s might still be in employment, having independence and remaining in their own home and others might be unable to mobilize and lost their independence and residing in a care home. Following from research of this essay, as long as all elder individuals needs and preferences are met, their quality of life is at a high standard and appropriate help and support is available then processing through the later adult ageing process will be significantly easier for the individual going through the ageing process and dealing with complications that can occur such as higher risk of developing illnesses that can occur as we age.


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The ageing process is of course a biological reality which has its own dynamic, largely beyond human control. However, it is also subject to the constructions by which each society makes sense of old age. In the developed world, chronological time plays a paramount role.

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