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Volunteerism and Aging

Volunteer services provide an attractive role for many aged individuals. Interestingly, women have traditionally volunteered, but the greatest increase in volunteering has been among elderly men. The number of older women who volunteer has remained relatively constant.

Statistically, 35% of the 65 and older population are engaged in some type of volunteer work. Most of the work is with religious organizations. Those who are involved as volunteers feel they are contributing to their community and are filling gaps in services that otherwise might be unmet. Their self-esteem and usefulness appears to prevail. Here is a list of several programs that include senior volunteer opportunities:

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Stress Reduction and Aging

The aged frequently experience a decrease in their ability to cope with the multiple stressors of life that can result in a waning of their capacity to adapt. The following is a review of several themes that are recommended by the researchers and that offer practical suggestions for those who are dealing with the excessiveness of life’s stressors.

Theme I – Progressive Relaxation

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Pain, Comfort and Aging

By definition, “comfort is a state of ease and satisfaction, of bodily freedom from pain and anxiety.” According to recent research, “The absence of physical pain is not always sufficient to provide comfort. The aged may have their biologic needs satisfied but still be emotionally distressed.”

Nurses understand the significance of the word “comfort” which describes the goals and outcomes that aid in determining the nursing measures needed to administer care. However, the meaning remains vague and essentially abstract to the person who is the recipient of that nursing intervention. The researcher, Hamilton, studied the meaning and attributes of comfort from the point of view of the chronically ill elderly who is hospitalized in a geriatric setting. Hamilton’s definition of comfort is “multidimensional, and means many things to different people.” The researcher, McCaffery’s definition of pain is “whatever the person experiencing pain says it is.”

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The Geriatric Orphan and Aging

The geriatric orphan is described as an elderly person with no close friends nor survivor or family members who are available to provide emotional support. He or she has had significant others and lost them to death, distance or fractured relationships. This individual has not, however, desired to be alone. The researcher, Boyack suggests, “It is imperative to establish a surrogate network, assist the individual through their grief, resolve any unfinished business and seek appropriate resources for maintenance in the community as long as desired and able.” However for some, it can be a welcome relief to be among others in a congregate or institutional setting despite a commonly held belief against residing in a nursing facility or setting.

As we observe this individual we begin to understand the three Rs that define the tasks of aging as identified by the researcher, Cynthia Kelly. They are “accepting reality, fulfilling responsibility, and exercising rights.”

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Establishing a Legacy and Aging

A legacy is one’s tangible and intangible assets that are transferred to another and may be treasured as a symbol of the individual who is bequeathing it. The elderly should be encouraged to identify that which they would like to leave and who they wish their recipients to be. This process has great significance and tends to prepare one to “leave” with a sense of meaning.

Legacies can provide a feeling of continuation and tangible ties to their survivors. Legacies may range from memories to material bequests that will live on in the minds of others. The researcher Erikson’s seventh stage of man identifies the generative function as the main concern of the adult years and the last stage, the eighth, as that of reviewing with integrity or despair what one has accomplished.

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Frailty, Vulnerability and Aging

The elderly, because of reasons of pride or because of mental impairment may not always state their problem or problems directly. Tolerance and patience may be required in teasing out the issues. Often a great deal of trust must be present before a frail elder will confide in a professional who may be caring for them.

Working with this group of older individuals simply takes more time to form a strong relationship to be effective. That relationship must also include a sincere and caring attitude. The older individual in return for that care may worry and want to give “gifts” of some sort to staff and caretakers. It is their way at an attempt of feeling less dependent and an attempt to have greater control over their situation.

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Belonging and Aging

In this article, I will be examining the concept of belonging, i.e. relationships with family, friends, and community as it relates to the aged individual.

There is a classic study by the researchers Lowenthal and Haven who qualify the importance of a caring relationship as a buffer against, what they declare “age-linked social losses.”

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The Potential of Music Therapy and Aging

Music therapy is an established, evidence-based concept that promotes the health goals within a therapeutic setting. Its benefits are recorded in numerous studies that recommend a personalized approach to conditions that include autism, brain injury, Alzheimer’s, pain management and more.

Music therapy benefits people of all ages, but especially the aged individual.

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The Faculty Educator and Aging

The importance of the field of geriatric Nursing, relies on the ability of the college educator to encourage student interest in the care of the aged patient. Educational resources are readily available and can be found in professional journals, textbooks, audio-visuals, face to face seminars, webinars and approved college curriculums.

Educators depend on various teaching strategies and learning modules that benefit the learner. One particular teaching strategy has the student write a narrative that helps her explore the experiences and decisions that first led her to Nursing as a chosen profession.

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Resistance-Exercise and Aging

For the aging individual, exercise is associated with an array of benefits that support a longer life span. A recent study supports its connection to protecting and enhancing brain function. In 2016 scientists released their findings of a controlled trial study that investigated the effects of resistance training on cognitive function in older adults.

Resistance training, also called strength training, is exercise that employs weights, machines, bands or other devices that work key muscle groups. The researchers wanted to determine whether cognitive improvement occurred as a result of either increased aerobic capacity or increased muscle strengthening.

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The Well Elderly and Aging

The emergence of a population group identified as the well elderly is the result of social and demographic progress in the industrial world. More elderly people are living longer and poverty, frailty and dependence are not necessarily the common characteristics attributed to most old people.

The future portends a healthier well elderly population who are better educated and physically as well as emotionally prepared. Society has, at present, begun utilizing their capabilities for the foreseeable future, thus guaranteeing a potentially rich human resource.

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Social Networking and Aging

A classic study by the researchers Lowenthal and Haven, demonstrated the importance of a caring relationship as a buffer against “age linked social losses”. The maintenance of a stable intimate relationship was more closely associated with good mental health and high morale than a high level of activity or elevated role status.

In other words, one appears to be able to manage stresses if relationships are close and sustaining, and if they are not, prestige and keeping busy may not always prevent depression.

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Admitted to a Nursing Facility and Aging

The early days after admission to a skilled nursing facility are often critical to the newcomer. The anxiety surrounding the older person’s separation from his home, personal possessions and the dread of what may await him, may eventually intensify.

It is this time when a facility should be expressing their concern for this individual’s state of mind and how they plan to deal with it. Without a well thought out care plan there can be an unintentional disruption to the newcomer’s previous life that may leave him no opportunity of moving forward and settling into a new environment.

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Grandparenthood and Aging

Grandparenthood has multiple meanings for the person, depending in part on age at the initial time of grandparenthood, and the number and accomplishments of the grandchildren are probably a source of status. The stage of grandparenthood may come to middle-aged persons depending on the age of their own childbearing and age of their children’s childbearing. The relatively young grandparent may either like and accept or resist the role and may not like the connection of age and being a grandparent.

Grandparents are often happy with their role in that they can enjoy the young person and enter into a playful, informal, companionable and confiding relationship. The grandchild is seen as a source of leisure activity, someone for whom to purchase items that are also enjoyable to the grandparent.
Grandchildren have a special tie to grandparents. The research indicates that even when there was a divorce in the family, adult children from divorced families continued their relationships with grandparents.

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Romance And Aging

Travel agencies try to persuade us that romance flourishes in the right setting. Advertisements barrage us with products that promise to make us sexy, glittering, powerful, desirable.

Although these messages are biased and superficial, they do touch upon the truth. There are circumstances that quicken our heartbeat and sharpen our appreciation for sensual possibilities. We feel good and want to share the feeling. We look good to each other and something very pleasant might well happen.

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The Caregiver’s Role and Aging

The role of the middle-aged offspring in caring for the elderly parent has been often described in social science research and popular magazines. Even as elders are being cared for, they are a source of support – emotionally, socially and financially – by providing living arrangements for the adult child who may be the caregiver.

The caregiver in an elderly couple is most frequently the wife, as women live longer than men and are usually younger than their spouses. If the woman is impaired, the husband will often become caregiver.

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The Well Elderly and Aging

The emergence of a population group identified as the well elderly is the result of social and demographic progress in the industrial world. More elderly people are living longer and poverty, frailty, and dependence are not necessarily the com­mon characteristics attributed to most old people.

The future portends a healthier well elderly population who are better educated and physically as well as emotionally prepared. Society has, at present, begun utilizing their capabilities for the foreseeable future, thus guaranteeing a potentially rich human resource.

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Tactile Stimulation and the AD Patient | (AD = Alzheimer Disease)

The need for tactile stimulation or touch, continues throughout our lives. Older adults may experience less touch because they have fewer contacts in their immediate environment, compared to the younger person.

As the senses of sight and sound decrease, touch becomes an increasingly important means of communicating. Touch then becomes a vital vehicle for expressing emotions and a way to make meaningful contact with others.

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Learning New Things and Aging

Virtually everyone remains capable of learning throughout their lives. There is no known age at which the elderly lose their ability to learn new things although due to illness and other medical issues, many can and do experience increased difficulties in learning.

It may appear as if the elderly have failed to grasp any new ideas. This is not because they have been unable to learn, but because they may choose not to risk making mistakes and looking foolish – a caution which the old share with younger people.

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DEPRESSION: The Signs and Aging

We often mistake an old person’s quiet withdrawal and lack of complaint as philosophic acceptance when, in fact, she is putting her best possible face on a bitterly disappointing, humiliating or frightening situation.

Either assumption, that it is normal to be unhappy or that old people are somehow happy about being unhappy, obstructs our view of the person’s true state of mind. Signs of distress deserve attention in old age as much as at any point in the lifespan.

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