Late Adulthood and the Death of an Individual

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Ageism and stereotypes associated with late adulthood. Ageism is the stereotyping and discrimination against individuals or groups on the basis of their age; ageism can take many forms, including prejudicial attitudes, discriminatory practices, or institutional policies and practices that perpetuate stereotypical beliefs. Ageism becomes an issue when older persons experience discrimination, prejudice, and oppression because of their ages. Ageism has real mental and physical health consequences, including a decreased will to live, less desire to live a healthy lifestyle, an impaired recovery from illness, increased stress and a shortened life span. How individuals can promote health and wellness into late adulthood and mitigate the negative effects of aging.

Some proven ways by experts to promote physical health are: to stay physically active with regular exercise, stay socially active with friends and family and within one’s community. You don't have to become a gym member to exercise; you can even walk at your backyard with your spouse or any member of your family- if there is space. Don't smoke but get enough sleep as good sleep can improve concentration and productivity, good sleep can maximize athletic performance, sleep helps reduce stress, improve your memory and put you in a good mood, can lower your blood pressure. 

Maintain a healthy weight. In other words, eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, dump the junk food in favor of fiber-rich, low-fat, and low-cholesterol eating. Eat more fruits and vegetables and less fast food. Drink more water and fewer sugary drinks. Because the body is primarily composed of water, staying hydrated is crucial to one’s physical health.

The importance of relationships and social interactions as an individual nears end of life. Research has shown that social interaction offers older adults many benefits. People who continue to maintain close friendships and find other ways to interact socially live longer than those who become isolated. Relationships and social interactions even help protect against illness by boosting your immune system. Studies have also shown that the more social relationships someone has, the greater the person's ability to fight the common cold. 

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Friends can help you celebrate good times and provide support during bad times. Friends prevent loneliness and give you a chance to offer needed companionship, too. Friends can also increase your sense of belonging and purpose. In some families, when a man has a terminal disease, it is kept as a secret. In some cases, the wife takes over and would not let any member of the family come close to the sick person. 

The intentions are sometimes sincere and at other times could be due to greed, regardless of final testament. Of course, these are fiercely contested in some families after death. So, getting close to discuss with the terminally ill becomes difficult. It is even more problematic if the terminally ill has no child of his own and the relationship between father and child. Even brothers and sisters have been known to contest the diseased estate in some situations. Cultural and personal attitudes about death and dignity in late adulthood. 

The aging process often results in a loss of memory, deteriorated intellectual function, decreased mobility, and higher rates of disease. During late adulthood the skin continues to lose elasticity, reaction time slows further, muscle strength and mobility diminishes, hearing and vision decline, and the immune system weakens. The aging process generally results in changes and lower functioning in the brain, leading to problems like decreased intellectual function and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer. Many of the changes in the bodies and minds of older adults are due in part to a reduction in the size of the brain as well as loss of brain plasticity. Memory degenerates in old age, so older adults have a harder time remembering and attending to information. In general, an older person’s procedural memory tends to remain stable, while working memory declines.

Erikson wrote his final book, Vital Involvement in Old Age (Erikson et al., 1986/1994), when he was in his 90s. It was based on responses from other 90-year-olds who had been studied since they were babies in Berkeley, California. Erikson found that in old age many people gained interest in the arts, in children, and in the human experience as a whole. His eighth stage, integrity versus despair, marks the time when life comes together in a “re-synthesis of all the resilience and toughness of the basic strengths already developed” (Erikson et al., 1986/1994, p. 40).

Death and dying can be stressful for dying people, their loved ones and care-givers. Psychologists can help. They can assess mood, mental functioning and pain; treat depression, anxiety and other mental health problems; provide end-of-life counseling to the dying and their families; and advocate for good medical care. Two such areas include the early detection of life-threatening illnesses and the quality of life for people diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. 

In his book, 'Family Communication at the End of Life', pointed out that “communication is important between and for terminally ill individuals, family members, and healthcare/palliative care specialists.” Overall, research exploring communication at the end of life is especially relevant because every person experiences the death and loss of loved ones, and ultimately faces the reality of his own death. Man does not live forever. Death is a necessary end, it is a price we all pay at the end of life. Adults can stop abusing drugs, improve nutrition, and exercise regularly. They can decide to be screened and treated, or not. 

These actions postpone many diseases, and older adults are more likely to do them. No matter how old one gets, death is a necessary end and will come when it will come. In some parts of the world, when a young man dies, it deemed a taboo no matter the cause of death and it is forbidden for his elders to visit his grave site or say goodbye. Well, from the Christian angle, consolation is got from the fact that there is hope, such as the hope that there is life after death and the departed soul would rest in the bosom of the Lord and that the death occurred for a reason.

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