By aging we understand the result of the effects of the accumulation of various molecular and cellular damages that occur over time throughout life. Those who are within the stage of old age are considered older adults, but at what age is considered Senior?
The life of the human being is represented by several stages, which although debatable when it begins and ends one and another, we can distinguish the following:
- First age: includes from infancy to youth.
- Second age: also called middle age, it refers to adulthood.
- Third age: refers to old age.
At what age is considered a Senior Adult?
The third age is considered in a range of ages close to 60 years. For example, in Colombia a person who reaches 55 years of age is considered a senior citizen, in Spain it is considered as of 65 years, while in Mexico, after 60 years of age, they are an older adult. .
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a person is considered to be elderly from 60 years of age in low and middle-income countries, while in high-income countries a person over 65 is considered Elderly.
During the third age, people no longer have the work obligations or financial burdens that their children represent. Therefore, during this stage of life a new conception of independence is reached. For these reasons, the third age should be considered as a stage of fullness in the life of the human being. However, this is not fulfilled in most cases due to various factors such as: chronic diseases, disabilities, economic dependency, among others.
The role of the elderly in society
When older adults reach this stage of life in good health, they can make contributions to their family, community or society after retirement. It is of the utmost importance to reach this stage of life in optimal conditions, in this way it is guaranteed that the older adult has the necessary capacities to carry out the activities that are important to him and to be able to contribute to his family and society.
The third age is a stage of transitions and adaptations to losses in human life. Some of the transitions will depend on the health conditions of the older adult, such as a change of residence to one that adapts to disabling conditions, social changes, for example retirement and the loss of family and friends.
Change of address
There are various reasons why an older adult chooses or is forced to change their residence. The main objective of the change is to improve their living conditions. However, when this change is forced, the older adult may not take it in the best way. Some of the reasons why you must change your residence are:
- Being in a smaller place that requires less maintenance compared to a large house. Especially when the older adult lives alone.
- Presence of disabilities Most of the houses do not have the necessary conditions to provide comfort to an older adult with a disability. For example, an older adult with muscle weakness, a user of orthopedic supports or a wheelchair, will find it difficult to move around in a house with stairs or steps between rooms, so they could be confined to a single room.
- Moving to a home closer to family members and even to their home. In some cases, the older adult creates dependency to carry out daily activities, such as preparing food, shopping or housework. Being close to family members, they can serve as your support network to carry out these activities.
- Economic deficiencies Not all older adults have a pension or it may be insufficient for their minimum monthly expenses. Moving home with relatives reduces some expenses such as rent or utilities.
- Lack of support networks. When the older adult does not have family to rely on, and is in adverse economic conditions, it is very likely that they will choose to move to a nursing home or nursing home.
After retirement or retirement from working life, the elderly person goes from an active role to a passive one. In it, they must adapt to changes such as reduced income, alteration of social role and modification of their daily activities and routines. Depending on the reasons for retirement, it will be the adaptive response of the elderly. In other words, if you have retired for medical reasons, retirement is likely to be a problem for you. On the contrary, if your retirement is programmed, it will be a stage of greater fulfillment.
Loss of family and friends
In the elderly, social life and interpersonal relationships decrease. In this stage, people must face the death of friends, spouse and family. After a loss of this type, the health of the elderly person can be impaired by it. Seniors will be forced to go through a grieving process that will change various aspects of their lives.
Those who are in mourning are more likely to suffer from mood disorders such as depression or anxiety. During this stage there may be sleep disturbances, eating habits or routine of daily activities. Mourning can affect a person for days, weeks, and even months. However, if it is prolonged and prevents the performance of basic activities, even if they have suicidal ideas, the older adult should be evaluated for early detection and treatment of depression.
Stereotypes of old age
One of the most important problems faced by older adults, in addition to disabilities secondary to chronic diseases, are the stereotypes that society itself has imposed on them. Older adults are often seen as burdensome, dependent, weak, and even detached from reality.
All of these concepts, assumptions, and generalizations that apply to older adults are, most of the time, completely wrong. Despite these stereotypes, older people contribute to society in different ways: within the family, most of the time, they help children to care for grandchildren in childhood, and they can become the support during their adolescence. We also observed a part of the elderly population being in charge of sick relatives within the home.
However, their contributions to the family or to society are little recognized, even the activities they carry out, most of the time, are not remunerated. When retiring from work life, the older adult performs these types of activities such as the need to stay active, feel useful or maintain a lifestyle. Despite the motivation and capacity of the elderly to be able to carry out this type of activities, they must face problems such as discrimination and inequity in old age.
Discrimination against older adults
Age discrimination is expressed through prejudicial attitudes and practices that encourage stereotyped treatment of the elderly. The stereotypes placed on the elderly by the same society are conceived from a rigid conception of the stages of life, in which young adults are in the prime of life, while the elderly they are in a process of decline and deterioration in the twilight of life.
This rigid view of the stages of life sees the years of old age only as a continuation of the years after retirement. However, when the elderly is reached in optimal health and functional capacities, this stage of life can be of great fulfillment and maintain an active life within society. Age discrimination is based on the obvious biological, physiological and psychological deterioration of older adults, which favors unproductivity and reduces levels of independence.
Inequality in old age
Socio-economic conditions are not the same for all seniors. The reasons for these inequalities are mainly a consequence of the previous living conditions of the older adult himself. If during your working life you did not have social security, your income will be affected by not having an old-age pension. This, in turn, will reduce their quality of life, favoring the appearance of diseases and disabilities.
Health policies must be improved so that all older adults have the same opportunities to improve or maintain their current health. Not all older adults have access to health services, which generates inequality of opportunity among older adults.
Social policies must also improve, they must be focused on improving the social conditions of the elderly. By improving these, the older adult finds several important health benefits. For example, it is believed that one in five cases of Alzheimer’s worldwide is due to a low educational level. Therefore, it has been proposed to considerably reduce the prevalence by improving access to education, in addition to methods focused on reducing the incidence of vascular risk factors and depression.
Self-perception of Old Age
In a survey that I tried to investigate, At what age is considered an Elderly Adult? conducted by the University of the Santo Tomás de Aquino Group Fraternity, 490 adults over 65 years of age were interviewed. The survey was carried out within the framework of the slogan “Aging and Health” proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO). The result of the answers gave an average of 68 years of age to be considered as an older adult.
This survey showed that the perception of the age at which the third age begins increased with the age of the respondents. Only 24% of the elderly, under 71 years of age, feel included within this age group. Something that is striking, being that the WHO establishes the age of 60 years to consider an older adult in low and middle-income countries, while in developed countries it is considered as of 65 years.
Perhaps this difference between the age to be considered an older adult established by the WHO and the perception of older adults, is the idea of conceiving themselves as old mainly because this stage has been stereotyped with the decrease in capacities, activities and possibilities.