Aging is an inevitable process and people become old at one point. Old age is associated with dependency and vulnerability to a myriad of problems ranging from ailments to psychological problems as well as being looked after by the younger members of the society. As people grow older, they become frail and thus less productive. However this must not always be the situation. This write up will explore aging considerations, social theories, and the various researches that have been brought forward to promote a successful aging.
Aging as a process has been divided into three different periods of transition. These include young adulthood, middle age, and late life. With many researchers developing interest in issues surrounding aging, a number of theories have been brought forward to explain such issues of concern like those of successful aging. These theories include activity theory, disengagement theory, exchange theory, and gerotranscendence continuity theory. Additionally, there are longitudinal studies which have also been done on the topic. Happy and satisfying old age is thus a well researched and documented issue. This write up will look at these studies, the various aging considerations, and the various theories that have been put forward to explain aging.
According to Bengston (2009), disengagement theory postulates that as people become old, they withdraw from what they had been used to as their daily routines. This leads to a decreased interaction between them and other people in the society. Normally, routines or norms come with rules of conformity. This means that when old people withdraw from their daily routines or norms, they are faced with less reinforcement to adhere to the rules. This process is necessary during the old stage because it allows for greater freedom and hence a stress free, satisfying and happy life.
However, activity theory appears to contrast the disengagement theory. According to Powell (2006), activity theorists argue that for an old age to be satisfying and successful, old people must remain active. That is if roles, activities, and relationships associated with young adulthood are lost, new ones must be developed to take place for the lost ones. Powell (2006) adds that this replacement enhances life satisfaction. The theorists hold that older people must be continually involved in the societal activities as much as possible. Powell (2006) concludes that how active an elderly person is, determines how lively, fulfilling, and satisfying old age will be to him/her. Bengston (2009) supported this notion arguing that old age satisfaction depends on continued involvement in ‘meaningful pursuits’. He asserts that old people must consistently pursue other interests in life to ensure that they are relevant and hence attain a meaning and importance of life.
Exchange theory points to a different perspective to attain a successful and happy old age. The theory, according to Loue (2008), postulates that relationships are a give –take scenarios. As such, he adds that as people advance in age, they face a dwindling exchange of resources and increasingly become takers as opposed to givers. Moreover, based on the fact that they lose the power or the incentive to compel others, their social circles normally get narrow. This means that in order to be able to attain a successful aging, old people must undertake wealth management like maintaining ‘large inheritance’ where applicable. They can also be participating in the ‘social exchange system via childcare’. This gives them some leverage on the exchange system and hence enables them to remain active members of the society. By being active in the exchange, albeit in a small way, they become relevant and important members of the society leading to a successful aging.
The possibility of successful aging is also explained by the gerotranscendence continuity theory. According to Tornstam (2005) the theory presents an adaptive strategy where an individual attempts to maintain ‘existing internal and external structures’ by using methods which borrow from their prior experiences. Being that, the theory states that individuals who are able to adapt well are likely to have a successful aging. Many individuals will always strive to achieve what it takes to realize successful aging.
Just like the theories, the conducted longitudinal studies tend to shed light on how individuals can attain a successful aging. For instance, the Maas-Kuypers study conducted on men and women over 40 years found out that a personality is constantly being throughout adulthood (Hillier & Barrow, 2011). The study discovered that individuals possessing negative personal traits, including being fearful, rigid, and apathetic in their young adulthood ended up being ‘restless and dissatisfied’ in old age. Conversely, they add, those individuals who exhibited traits like being ‘cheerful, less worried, and self assured’ during young adulthood tended to have a ‘self esteem and self satisfaction’ at old age.
On the other hand, the Elder-Liker study was conducted to establish the coping mechanism following the 1930’s great depression. According to Hillier & Barrow (2011), the study focused on women, especially the aged ones, who experienced the depression with a great struggle. They argue that those who survived the depression were self-assured, less worrisome and less fretful. Such women were less bothered by various demands and limitations that life presented. The study thus concludes that people with good coping skills are more likely to enjoy a successful aging.
In the Baltimore study, it has been established that stress is a ‘key modifier of personality continuity’ (Hillier & Barrow, 2011). The study proves that old people will tend to change the situations surrounding a stressful event or change the meaning of the stressful situations. If this is attainable, they will have a successful aging. This theory indicates to the old people the need to acquire stress coping mechanisms.
In conclusion, a successful aging is possible, especially with some aging considerations as illustrated by various theories and studies. For instance, old people need to be active while withdrawing from the norms with so much conformity rules. It is also evident that saving for this stage in life and the ability to participate in the exchange system will facilitate a successful aging. Overall everyone needs to develop or acquire traits like coping skills, easy adaptation, self assurance, as well as remaining cheerful, which are considered to be important to ensure successful aging. The traits are normally acquired during young adulthood stage.