As older people age, they suffer a lot of biological problems. However, in some societies, these problems are considered good things. I have found a lot of information on this from the Human Body Video.
As humans get older their eyesight deteriorates. They get things like double vision, cataracts, they have trouble focusing and eventually they can go completely blind.
Hair loss is suffered as people age. Some people’s hair will go grey or white. Men sometimes go bald, but this usually doesn’t happen to women, but they can get patches after a shock.
Peoples’ skin also deteriorates, they get wrinkles, it becomes thinner, losses its elasticity and it losses proteins like Elastogen. Sometimes spending more time in the sun and absorbing more of its rays increase this.
Peoples’ teeth degrade after many years of use.
The ratio between fat and muscle often changes as you age. By 70, elderly people have less than 30% of their muscle strength. Older people usually have more fat than muscle and generally lose a lot of their muscle. Women become more pear shaped as fat deposits are put down, but men normally gain weight in the stomach.
Elderly people’s ears and nose often seem to carry on growing after puberty. This may be the skin just stretching.
Elderly people become more susceptible to disease and illness as they age.
Often all of their senses begin to fade/fail, for example their hearing or eyesight. Therefore the brain has to work harder to process everything. Elderly people become confused more easily because of this.
Cartilage wears away and therefore bones wear away after many years causing a lot of pain.
After many years, fat blocks arteries, which cause many heart problems, like blood clots.
The body is always renewing itself. Each time a cell is copied to renew itself, the copy degrades and errors begin to creep in.
When the body processes oxygen, free radicals are produced. These particles damage cells and over a lot of time damage the body.
Many of these problems that elderly people experience are potentially life threatening after a lot of time. However some of the problems are merely cultural. For example the skin degrading is a cultural problem because it only changes the persons appearance not their main functions. It has been taught to us thought generations that wrinkles are a very bad thing, but in other societies, it is not considered a bad thing, but a sign of maturity, experience, wisdom and these people should be respected. These cultural problems are a degrade in the body that some cultures see as a bad thing and others see as a good thing. Another example of this is being over weight. In our culture we see this as a bad thing, but others don’t not mind it and it can be a sign of social status.
How are old people represented by the
Old people are shown in the British media as very old, close to dieing, desperate for help, often with many different illnesses and generally useless.
There are often adverts on the television showing old people using mechanical aids for simple things like getting up stairs. Stannah stair lifts are a British stair lifts company. They have several different adverts running on the television. Most of them show people of about 70 years and above using one of their stair lifts. This is a bad representation for a lot of the older people in the world because a lot of people of that age do still have a large range on move ability and have no problems getting up stairs.
Also companies that sell things like incontinence products are very biased and have a very stereotypical view of what elderly people are like. They show elderly people as needing help with almost everything, which is not the case for many people.
T.V. programs often show old people in a bad light. Dad’s Army is a program about a group of mostly elderly people in World War 2, acting as the home guard. There are various episodes that show stereotypical views of old people – they are unfit and young people are much better. One foot in the grave is about an elderly couple living out their later years in the suburbs. It portrays old men as “old gits” – awkward, stubborn and difficult.
Both sources K ; L are newspaper articles about pensioners showing them in a bad light. K shows pensioners as too poor to turn heating on. The quote from the neighbour portrays pensioners as having no social life or friends. Source L uses the stereotypical ” little old lady” and portrays pensioners as sentimental and stubborn.
The general British media show elderly people in a very bad light, when actually most are not as bad as they are made out to be. Some company’s aren’t like this and show elderly people in a better light. For example, car insurance and house insurance companies for the elderly show them more as responsible adults, that shouldn’t have to pay for what young people do. This is closer to what the majority of older people are like.
Compare the status of old people in modern industrial society with those in small scale and traditional societies. Suggest reasons for these differences.
Source F shows Masai warriors being addressed by some elders. To them, elders are seen as old, yet wise, important, powerful, influential and to be respected.
Source G is similar to source F in that elderly people are important. It also shows a female elder instead of a man, therefore women are respected just as much as a man, which doesn’t always happen in our society.
In our society, elderly people are considered old, unwise, old fashioned, out of date and mostly useless. The differences between these attitudes could be because of the pace of society and the rate of change. For example, the Masai have barely changed their ways for many years. Therefore the elders have had extensive experience in what the younger people are doing. Also they have no real education, therefore the elders teach them and the skills of the elders are very important, not like in our society. The elders teach their children things like hunting making clothes, cooking and becoming warriors.
In small scale societies they think of death as a more positive thing than we do in our society because they strongly believe that when they die they will go on to a better place. In our society it is feared and revered. People generally try to escape it. This is possibly because religion isn’t such an important aspect of our society after the scientific discoveries in recent times.
What are the positive aspects of old age? Why do we hear so little about them?
There are lots of positive aspects of getting old. Starting at a slightly younger age, you get to retire from work. This means there is a lot more free time and less worries and hassles to be thinking about. Once they have given up their job they then start getting a pension. This is a free financial support that becomes very helpful in old age. They then don’t have as many financial worries like as big a mortgage and they have family to help them with what is left over.
Old age means that at places like restaurants and in sales in shops, the elderly get extra discounts on various things. They can also get discounts on some insurance because they are less likely to claim on it. They are also less likely to get robbed, as they get older, contrary to some peoples perceptions. Actually, people between the age of 16 – 30 are much more likely to get robbed. This is shown in “A positive view” from the booklet.
Some charities, for example Chelsea Pensioners, for people who served in the war, only aid elderly people over a certain age limit. This can be very helpful for people with a lot of problems in old age. These charities and other small groups also organise special evenings and days out for the elderly to “brighten up their day”. One example of this is over 60 Bingo. Another thing these groups organise with the shops is shopping deliveries for the elderly, which wouldn’t usually happen for younger people.
A bonus of being elderly is that some people respect you. Therefore they will help you with various things, for example younger people will often help an elderly person get across a busy and dangerous road.
Once elderly people find it difficult living at home for any reason, like needing help with their life or because they want some more company, they can move into a retirement home. This will make their life a lot easier and younger people don’t get the chance of having this luxury.
One last positive aspect of old age is having children and grand children. Their children are grown up by now and their grand children are looked after by their parents, so the elderly people only have to do the “nice parts” with them.
We don’t hear about all of these positive aspects of getting old because the elderly are an outsider group in our society, therefore the majority of people aren’t interested in hearing about the elderly. They also aren’t represented well in the media because there are very few older reporters, so they don’t get any space in newspapers or on the television. The majority public in the UK just don’t consider the elderly important, so they don’t get told about them.
How useful are the sources in helping you to understand the experience of old age?
Most of the sources are useful in some small way, but some are a lot more helpful in making me understand old age than others.
Source A is not particularly useful, but it is a useful variation on the other sources. Sources B and C are useful in that they show a stereotypical view and an un-stereotypical view of elderly people. Sources D and E are helpful in that they are both reliable case studies of the people they talk about. Sources F and G show a view of elderly people in different cultures and how they are respected. These are two helpful sources. The adverts in source H aren’t very helpful, but they do show that people are categorised into age groups. Source I is not helpful to me because it is a very biased view because it is from the Liberal Democrats, who show a certain view to win votes. Source J shows another stereotypical view of the elderly and it doesn’t really tell the truth about the elderly.
Sources K to M are from newspapers. Source K is another source that shows the stereotypical view of the elderly in that they always need help with their life or they will die. L and M are from 1975 so they are quite old and out of date so they may not be relevant any more. The human body video was very helpful in informing me about biological problems, however it isn’t all the scientists views, it only shows a few scientists views.
On their own, each source is limited, but together they give a wide view. In my opinion however, we can never really understand exactly what old age is like until we are of that age because we can never know every little detail from what a few people tell us.