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.

In fact, the well elderly often are known to provide financial support and other modes of assistance to their younger family members, to the many charitable organizations that seek funding for needy purposes, and participation in complex financial investments and saving opportunities. This rejects the false notion and stereotyping that the older population is a financial and emotional drain on family and society. They are decidedly not!

The aged offer numerous and expanding opportunities for living a comfortable quality of life. The following statements are examples that amplify what the term “expanding opportunities" means:

  1. the availability of numerous social networking organizations that are easily accessible, that deal with loneliness and ways of combating its fallout;
  2. the increased time spent with loved ones due to enhanced quality of life practices and that are influenced by a lengthening pattern on longevity;
  3. with an increase in longevity comes an incentive to seek and accumulate valued life experiences;
  4. a chance to change or at best, modify their assigned roles. 

As the well elderly leave certain roles behind, they are energized by what they hear and see that encourages them lo · select new roles. These roles could be as a grandparent, a second career, an activist in the political, social, or community arenas, a decision-maker, an advocate for ethical and social programs, a participant in policy making, or a creative pursuit in the arts.

The outlook for the future then is what? The answer can be found in our current older generation and surprisingly, where all of us will be one day if not already. Therefore, planning for the aged is really planning for all of society.

Areas such as health care delivery, the acquisition of a secure income, greater social involvement and the use of quality leisure time, can lead to enjoyable possibilities.

For the less active old individual, the researcher, Burnside suggests that, "Intervening with the problem of unrelieved loneliness can be dealt with by first listening to the elderly and then exploring what may be the significant issue that is causing their pain. Helping them to express that pain may, in effect, help them to compensate in ways that focus on their personal loss.”

According to a recent AARP article, "Loneliness carries a stigma that hampers efforts to help those who may be lonely. It can convey to that individual a sense of social failure.”

It is important to know that social scientists are not studying loneliness merely for gathering statistical information. Rather, their interest is to identify the main issue such as unrelieved feelings and the intensely personal experience of rejection, disconnection and a longing that Burnside and her colleagues believe can produce pain as real as any caused by a physical injury.

The goal then is to:

  • harness the negative physical as well as emotional consequences plaguing the elderly individual;
  • continue surviving the years ahead with health intact, but as important, with lasting and satisfying memories;
  • and leave something of their philosophy on growing old for posterity whether for family or society.

I recently reviewed an article entitled, "Leave Your Job, Not Your Life.” The writer emphasizes, "Retirement is a first step toward understanding loneliness and the pain that it can cause is real.” He suggests several ways of how to tackle it.

Help yourself by helping others! i.e. A sense of purpose can moderate loneliness.

Be click-smart! i.e. Contact friends that are on-line but don't linger forever. Tue web is not a substitute for a healthy face to face connection.

Befriend yourself! i.e. A sense of isolation can be softened by focusing on yourself. It is suggested that you begin an autobiographical journal that can lessen the loneliness.

To the reader: The last three points listed have their ups and downs. I don't expect, nor am I encouraging you to abide by them. They are merely suggestions that when faced with the discomfort of loneliness you may want to consider these ideas. In addition to the above, the social constraints imposed by the Coronavirus have precluded some of these suggestions for social interactions.

Stay safe, stay healthy.

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