Participant’s Cultural Background
The elderly woman is a Caucasian living in the United States and has been living within the culture of the west throughout her life. Therefore, her life has not been adversely affected by other cultures. The Western culture is such that it emphasizes individualism and independence thus each person seeks autonomy through education, employment and involvement in various social activities. Information provided to me indicated that she was a teacher before she retired and involved herself in community work. In particular, her social work revolved around providing guidance and counseling services to young adults and adolescents.
According to Schulz & Jutta (1996, p. 704), aging is not universal and affects people in different ways as influenced by diverse factors that the individual is exposed to, among them being education, social support, diet and nutrition. These factors mediate the process of aging thus determine the success or failure of aging. Generally, the participant had been influenced by the factors especially education, nutrition and social support. The participant had been influenced by education owing to the fact that before her retirement, she had been a teacher and lived with her family who provided her with social support and adequate nutrition.
She is a Caucasian thus culturally, her family is keen on her diet and wellbeing. Setting where participant was observed I observed the participant in her home where she lives with her family for a week. I was able to make my observations constantly because the participant does not live far from where I reside. The house is medium in size and houses six people with the participant being the oldest. She lives with her son, the son’s wife and their two children as well as a nanny. There is an open back yard behind the house where there is a swimming pool and a garden with flowers and grass.
The elderly woman spends most of her day in this area with the assistance of a nurse and in some occasions in the company of her son and grandchildren. She generally deals with various aging issues. For instance, she is dealing with retirement and decreased income, dealing with loss of spouse and getting ready for her own period of death. She does not engage in energy demanding activities such as walking long distances, climbing the stairs, lifting heavy objects, among others. She claims that whenever she involves herself in strenuous activities, she breathes a lot.
According Leahy, Grafe and Fuzy (2004, p. 124), when people grow older, their blood circulation becomes less efficient hence they become sensitive to diverse things such as energy demanding activities and extreme temperatures. In general, I made my observations within the compound in which the participant was residing in. During my one week of observation, I did not see her travel but she always saw her family off whenever they were going out. Behaviors displayed At this stage of development, there are a number of behavioral characteristics that can be observed in the elderly participant physically, socially and psychologically.
This is because the individual is likely to have retired, thus undergone significant evolution. 92 years of age means that the person is shifting towards the end of his or her life cycle. It is often a time when they can spend time with their grandchildren, engage in leisure activities and overlook the issues that caused stress and anxiety in the prior decades. The participant was participating in some activities that enabled her to enjoy her aging. For example, in the mornings, I would see her in the
Although the pace of engaging in the activities was slow, she seemed to enjoy doing that work and it sometimes required the intervention of the nurse to stop her from gardening. According to Peck’s theory, during old age, an individual experiences Ego Differentiation vs. Work Role Preoccupation where the elderly individual is prone to cling to lifestyles that he or she previously lived or engage in activities that enhance their self esteem (Saxon, Saxon & Etten, 2002, p. 26). The participant had slower responses as well as reflexes.
When she is asked about something, I observed that she took a while before she responded. In addition, she seemed to be forgetting various instructions within a short period of time especially in situations when the instructions or information given were verbal. I realized this after she asked my name a couple of hours after I had told her. However, she had definite memory of visual gestures because she could spot her son’s car from a distance. According to Leahy, Grafe and Fuzy (2004, p. 123), aging affects the person’s ability to remember and concentrate because it affects memory.
It is difficult for the old to think fast and logically due to old age. However, the degree of memory loss differs with individuals. In most cases, the elderly often experience memory loss of recent activities whereas past activities are easily remembered. The elderly woman has lost several things ranging from independence, friends, health to family although she may have increased wisdom. The elderly are faced with some developmental tasks such as bending with declined physical energy and loss of well being. This is indicated by her behaviors such as having difficulties picking up things when they fall.
For example, during one of my observations, she was walking towards the car but her hat was blown off by the wind. However, she was not able to bend and pick hence was assisted by her grandson. In addition, her reaction to the hat that had been blown off was slow in both speed and verbal response. Saxon, Saxon and Etten (2002, p. 26) point out that in the process of aging, Body Transcendence vs. Body Preoccupation influences the elderly to an extent that for older adults with the capacity to rise above preoccupation with their health, they have the ability to engage in activities that grant them individual satisfaction.
Her vision, taste, hearing, and smell are quite poor. For her vision, she usually has difficulties reading and noting details in some visual objects and this explains the reason why she always wears her spectacles. She is not able to see small sized objects. For example, in case a button falls on the carpet, she cannot find it. Her taste is also poor because she always complains about food and drinks. For instance, she often complains about food having inadequate salt which is rarely the case or that the fruit juice given to her is tasteless.
Her hearing has been impaired by old age because when communicating with her, one has to speak loudly or talk close to her ears. On several occasions, her grandchildren are forced to almost shout so that she can hear them. This has brought frustration to the participant owing to the fact that she finds it strenuous to communicate with those around her. In the course of my observation, I noted that the participant did not have a good sense of smell. I made this observation when the nanny burnt the food and while everyone else was finding fault in the strange smell, she just said, “I don’t smell anything”.
Schulz & Jutta (1996) point out that during aging, it is common for the elderly to loose their senses of smell, touch, taste, hearing and sight. This is attributed to the decline in the ability of the senses of the body to function adequately. In conclusion, it is evident that old age results to changes in diverse aspects of life to psychological and physical changes in the life of the elderly. Aging affects persons differently depending on factors such as nutrition, social support, education and diet.
Conversely, aging generally results to a decline in the ability of the body to function due to a decline in the capacity of a number of body parts to function e. g. respiratory system, urinary system, circulatory system, nervous system, and musculoskeletal system and hence affecting the activities they get involved in. Therefore, at old age, the elderly should be well taken care of because they do not have the ability to function effectively as they used to in their previous years (Leahy, Grafe & Fuzy, 2004).
Leahy, W., Grafe, J. & Fuzy, J. L. (2004). Providing Home Care: A Textbook for Home Health Aides. Albuquerque: Hartman Publishing Inc.
Saxon, V. S.S, Saxon, V. S. & Etten, M. J. (2002). Physical Change & Aging: A Guide for the Helping Professionals. New York: Springer Publishing Company
Schulz, R. & Jutta, H. (1996). A Life Span of Successful Aging. Journal of American Psychologist. Vol. 51 (7), pp.702- 714