Psychological Themes and Issues as a Person Ages Case Study

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Aging and the Elderly: The Case of "Mrs. a"

In understanding the process of aging and segment of the population that is the elderly, a case is developed to provide more in-depth information about the daily challenges and issues that the elderly usually encounter in their lives. While the case that will be presented may not be representative of the elderly group in the United States, the case of Mrs. A would at least provide context on the way aging individuals deal with their realities and increasing limitations, if there are any, in terms of their physical and social movement within their societies/communities.

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Mrs a is 90 years old, and is a wife of a retired U.S. Army General. She has (4) children, two sons and two daughters. All her children have families, and she has ten (10) grandchildren whom she sees every year, specifically during holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year). She lives in a small house in California, the home she had lived with her husband in the past 30 years. Since her husband's death, she has not left her home and still lives in it with two companions, two female relatives (mother and daughter) who help her with her daily needs and activities. The daughter, Mrs. a's great-niece, goes to school as part of the living arrangement between Mrs. A and her cousin (the mother). Three to four times a week, Mrs. A regularly meets with a socio-civic faith-based group of elderly people. It is through this group that Mrs. A socializes with people who experience the same realities as hers. When not involved with her organization, Mrs. A usually stays at home tending to her garden, quilting, reading books on topics that interests her. However, in the past years, she had been assisted by her cousin to do these activities as her physical strength has been decreasing, and she just engages in these activities as an "overseer" who directs her cousin and/or great-niece what activities to and how to do them.

In the discussions that follow, Mrs. a's case will be given full depth, centering on the following themes: physiology, work and retirement, socio-economic status, and death.

Physiological condition

Case Study on Psychological Themes and Issues as a Person Ages Assignment

Mrs a had been an active individual physically until five years ago, when she experienced the full effects of aging on her body. Among the physical limitations or aging that she experiences are poor eyesight, arthritis in her hands and sometimes on her knees when the weather gets really cold, limited mobility when she is suffering from arthritis, stomach problems (particularly on digestion), and general degradation of the physical appearance such as problems with hearing/ear, teeth, skin, and hair.

Mrs a focused on her poor eyesight, arthritis, and limited mobility because these are the physical limitations that have the greater impact on her activities, which she actively participated in until five years ago. She loves reading books, and she had been reading books until her eyesight has become extremely poor. She is now limited to reading books published for people with poor eyesight, with bigger texts/fonts. However, these are limited and therefore, her reading activities have become limited as well. Her children encouraged her to try audio books, but since her hearing has gradually weakened as well, this option is no longer feasible for her. So, she has become dependent on her great-niece to read her books that she wanted to read. Most of the books that she requests her great-niece to read are gardening books, opinion pieces from her favorite news magazines, and novels from her favorite authors, such as Steve Berry. Mrs. A shares that her love for Steve Berry was a common activity she used to share with her husband, who was also fond of reading mystery thrillers based on real historical events.

Arthritis and her limited mobility also affected two other activities she loved doing: quilting and gardening. Mrs. A admits to having the 'eye for details' and these characteristics has made her a good quilter and gardener. She used to quilt everyday, even earning a bit of an income from the quilts that she makes. Sometimes visitors (family friends and relatives) would visit her and see her quilts, and most of the time, they would order from her to make quilts out of fabrics that her friends and relatives have in their homes. She admitted that her quilting had become a profitable 'personal activity' that it occupied most of her time, and she continued quilting until she can no longer physically do it five years ago. However, at the moment, she is training her cousin and great-niece how to quilt, and this has been a productive endeavor on her part. She has seen her cousin take up quilting with great interest, since she has also seen its profitability of it once she becomes skilled and good at it. It is through these 'informal trainings' that Mrs. A gets satisfaction even though she can no longer do quilting herself.

Mrs a is also experiencing stomach, particularly digestion, problems. She now has to eat specific kinds of food because her stomach has become sensitive and now reacts to food that she usually eats. Now, she eats "soft" or rough foods that will help ease her digestion. When she eats meat, she has to cut them into very small pieces so that her stomach would not feel any painful sensation in her stomach. Otherwise, her daily diet is composed of fruits, wheat bread, and oats. One of the 'pleasures' that she has not quite given up on is drinking coffee, although now she alternates coffee every other day with tea, so that she would not experience stomach pains, which happens when she drinks coffee everyday. In addition to stomach and digestion problems, she is now experiencing what she considered as 'full disintegration' of her physical body. She is almost bald, her skin very wrinkled, and while she still has most of her teeth, they are 'periodically' falling off now. But she has accepted the reality that she is now old, and that she has learned to accept these changes fifteen years ago, when she noticed that her thinning hair was starting to show.

These changes that Mrs. A has been undergoing are considered normal for aging individuals. In fact, given Mrs. a's age and activities, she could be considered as a more active individual than perhaps normal aging individuals since she had just stopped engaging in activities that require specific physical exertion and/or mobility when she was already 85 years old (Kulminski, 2007, p. 3). At 90 years old, Mrs. A is still an active individual because of her extra-curricular activities, having the energy to join a socio-civic group within her community and even training members of her household how to the activities that she used to, such as gardening and quilting. Despite the detrimental effects and disadvantages of aging to one's mobility and capabilities, Mrs. A has managed to make productive use of her time and the remaining energy that she has everyday. Mrs. A may be experiencing normative signs of aging, but her willingness to optimize what physical strength and capabilities she has resulted to her being more productive than what would be expected of her as a 90-year-old woman.

Work and Retirement

Mrs a used to be an administrative staff for the military before she met her husband and got married. When she got married, both she and her husband decided for her to resign from her work and become a full-time mother to her children. Thus, in the past sixty years of her life, Mrs. A has been a full-time housewife, and the constant companion of her husband until his death ten years ago. However, Mrs. A kept herself busy through community and civic engagement activities. As wife of a military man, she has been involved in social networking groups organized by military wives, wherein socialization among families are not only limited to social gatherings or parties, but also outreach programs that benefit specific groups in need in the communities they live in (or where their husbands are assigned). Mrs. A has also committed herself intermittently to volunteer work and volunteering projects, such as coordinating feeding programs for the homeless and out-of-school youth.

In the past 15 years, Mrs. A has been an active member of a self-help elderly group in her community. The group is organized primarily as a social network for elderly people living in Mrs. a's residential area. She noted that for aging people like her who are not sent to care facilities or hospices but are cared for by their own family and relatives, it is still essential to have a network among the elderly people as they are the best people to talk to when discussing issues that only the elderly people can understand: physical limitations as a result of aging, increased dependency as the body and sometimes, the mind, becomes weaker everyday, and ultimately, socio-emotional bonding from regular interactions with like-minded individuals.

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