Running head: HEALTHY AGING IN THE ELDERLY
Social Support and Physical Activity Corroborating
Healthy Aging and Quality of Life in the Elderly
Can morbidity be deterred in the elderly or is disease and illness a fact of life for the aged? Does social support and physical activity play a part in preventing secondary aging processes? This paper will modestly explore and discuss the effects of social interactions and routine activity of the elderly upon healthy aging and quality of life. “Successful healthy ageing is impacted by a healthy lifestyle and is positively related to a reduced mortality risk and a delay in health deterioration” (Merrill, Myklebust, Myklebust, Reynolds, & Duthie, 2008). It is not the absence of disease or disability that qualifies healthy aging, but response to the aging process that defines quality of life (Gilbert, Hagerty, & Taggert, 2012). According to Erik Erikson it is the eighth stage of development: integrity vs. despair (Erikson, Erikson, & Kivnick, 1986); the point in life where the reality of death becomes imminent and a review of life determines meaning (Elhman & Ligon, 2012). Social participation and an active lifestyle are good at any age but for the elderly it is the cover over the deep dark hole of despair and loneliness.
Keywords: integrity, despair, activity, social, healthy aging, aging process, support
Social Support and Physical Activity Corroborating
Healthy Aging and Quality of Life in the Elderly
As we grow older our bodies change, our thoughts are more reflective, and our friendships more selective. Growing old is not a cookie cutter process. For each individual it is different. Some stay very busy, while others quit. They gradually halt participation in day-to-day events, or they take up yoga, run a marathon even go back to school. Successful aging is determined more by mental attitude than physical ability; how past life is perceived and future life accomplished. It is how change is managed that determines healthy aging and quality of life in the aged. Growing old is a process gerontologist divide in two categories, “primary aging” and “secondary aging” (Berger, 2011). Primary aging is defined as the universal changes occurring with age that are not caused by diseases or environmental influences. Secondary aging is defined as changes involving interactions of primary aging processes with environmental influences and disease processes (Masoro & Austad, 2006). According to Berger (Berger, 2011) there are three stages of old: “young-old,” “healthy, active, financially secure and independent;” “old-old,” although still independent suffer from “reductions in physical or mental ability or social support;” and last, “oldest-old,” “infirm, at risk for illness and injury.” Not preferring to use the word old, some gerontologist describe four stages of aging as: “optimal aging,” “usual aging,” “impaired or pathological aging,” and the fourth, “successful aging,” (Rowe & Kahn, 1998) “signifying extensive social interaction and activity” (Berger, 2011).
The elderly tend to measure functional capacity by “their ability to carry out, independently, their routine activities, also called the activities of daily living” (Brito & Pavarini, 2012). After years of independent living, dependency on someone to carry out normal everyday functions can be emotionally and socially debilitating, even more so than the illnesses that made them dependent. “Loss, in instrumental activities of daily living contributes to greater estrangement from one’s social surroundings and consequently to a tendency to be isolated in one’s residence” (Brito & Pavarini, 2012).
Erik Erikson provided an in-depth philosophy in his final eighth stage of development: integrity vs. despair. This is a time in which the elderly desire to unite their vast experiences...
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