Current Views of Ageing: Unduly Pessimistic or Unrealistically Optimistic

Essay by PepsUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, April 2004

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Gerontology is a relatively unexplored field in relationship to the entire human civilization. Because we are in the demographic infancy of old age, we are said to be still in a societal and cultural exploration phase of old age. Therefore, what we witness today, as old age, has not yet settled into a stable culture or environment. Instead, in the years and decades to come, the facts and processes of old age are likely to undergo rapid changes to both cultural and behavioural representation. Although some individuals have reached old age before the twentieth century, today close to 50% of the population reach the age of 75. Like the rest of the developing world, Australia is experiencing a rapid increase in the proportion and absolute number of older persons. Taking the traditional retirement age of 65 as a reference point marking the beginning of the 'old age', about 12.1 percent of Australia's population or 1.85

million people fall into this category, with the group aged 80 and over growing most rapidly. (Baltes &Graf, 1996; Browning, Gething, Helmes, Luszcz, Turner, Ward & Wells, 2000)

Ageing is not merely a biological phenomenon experienced identically by all people, neither is it necessarily separate stages or states of being which just 'arrive' The ageing process needs to be represented as a social, physical, psychological and spiritual process in which individuals have created for themselves or have imposed upon them. Older people both experience and give meaning to their ageing within the constraints of specific material conditions (e.g. issues such as housing, income and access to relevant services) and social conditions (e.g. issues such as ageism and age discrimination; gender, race and empowerment; cultural and linguistic diversity). Experiences of past and future cohorts are likely to be very different from today's cohorts so care...