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Aging

   

Perceptions of Aging...

   
 
   Demographics of Aging
     Perceptions of Age 
    Myths of Aging
    Age and Ability
 
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  Aging is a continuous, complex, and dynamic process that begins with birth and ends with death. And unless we die in our early years, we will each grow old and experience the effects of the aging process.  

 
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  Aging Defies Definition

Aging is not mearly the passage of time. "It is the manifestation of biological events that occur over a span of time. There is no perfect definition of aging but, as with love and beauty, most of us know it when we experience it or see it." *

THE AGING PROCESS BEGINS WITH BIRTH AND ENDS WITH DEATH.

Thus, human aging is:

  • UNIVERSAL - everyone ages

  • INEVITABLE - we cannot stop the process

  • IRREVERSIBLE - we will never be younger than we are today

The commonly understood meaning of age, aging, or becoming old, is showing the effects or characteristics of increasing age. But biological age does not correlate with chronological age. In fact, there is no reliable measurement for determining our biological age. Time itself produces no biological effects. Events occur in time but not because of its passage.

And, while most of us recognize advanced age when we see it, appearances alone do not determine how old we really are. Thus, aging is a very individual experience, that defies a universal definition. We are, therefore, all unique.

*Hayflick, Leonard. "How and Why We Age." New York: Random House, 1994.

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  Aging is a Complex Individual Experience

The aging process is a complex series of post-maturational changes that are only beginning to be understood.

We have difficulties understanding these changes because:

  • each person ages differently and at his/her own pace

  • different body systems within the same individual age at varying rates

  • it's difficult to distinguishing between "normal" changes and those which are pathological

No two of us are alike...

Aging is best characterized by diversity—no two of us are alike. Consequently, the elder population is an extremely diverse group of aging individuals with wide differences that defy characterization. And as individuals, we may or may not experience a specific change at a specific chronological age. While each individual follows a similar aging path, it is a very wide path.

Each arrives at a particular point, at a different chronological age, and with a different degree of functional change.

Even our bodily systems age at varying rates. At any particular age, no two of us experience the same physical or sensory changes. Thus, an "old" person could have "aged" lungs and a "young" heart, while a "young" person might have "young" lungs and an "old" heart.

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  The Four Views of Aging

Our bodily systems undergo changes throughout the aging process. But because genetics and environment impact on each individual differently, these changes are quite selective.

Most young people view old age through the narrow lens of youth, directed by instincts based on a sense of misguided empathy. They assume, incorrectly, that they know what someone of their age or physical condition is experiencing based on their imagination. This is known as The Psychologist's Fallacy.

    
       
   
 
    Young People's View of Aging  
   
Chart 1
 

Most young people believe that functional capacity climbs rapidly and steadily from birth until they reach their peak at age 25-30.

From then on, their functional capacity declines, they eventually grow old, and die.

 
       
   
 
    Old People's View of Aging  
   
Chart 2
 

Most old people hold an equally erroneous view of aging.

They believe that functional capacity climbs slowly and steadily from birth until they finally reach their peak at age 65.

At that time functional capacity declines, they become old, retire, and die.

 
       
   
 
    The Four-Phase View of Aging  
   
Chart 3
 

A third and more accurate pattern of our life span portrays life as proceeding in four phases:

Phase 1.   A period of measured growth, rapid skill development, socialization, and structured learning.

Phase 2.   A period of adult productivity, responsibility, and accomplishment, characterized by freedom of choice, independence, and self-sufficiency.

Phase 3.   A period of functional decline with a corresponding loss in our ability to perform our activities of daily living.

Phase 4.   As our vital functions decline rapidly, our activity level drops, our bodily systems begin to atrophy, and our biological processes continue to deteriorate until death occurs.

 
       
   
 
    The Critical Support Point  
   
Chart 4
 

As we age, we depend more and more on our products and environments to compensate for our progressive functional decline.

Such assistance extends the critical support point (CSP) and enables us to remain independent longer and continue to perform our normal activities of daily living.

 
       
   
 
       
    Transgenerational products and environments extend the critical support point for the young, the old, the able, the disabled— without penalty to any group.  
       

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