Aging and Long Term Care ( 3 Hours) > Chapter 3 - Social Aspects of Aging

Chapter 3 - Social Aspects of Aging

III. Social Aspects of Aging

As noted in the previous section, in the coming years there will be a great increase in the population of older people. There are many current social factors that impact the aging and the quality of life.

A. Marriage and companionship

Losing one's spouse is usually the greatest cause of stress an individual can suffer (Holmes & Rahe 1967) and the burden, as a result of life expectancy averages, falls disproportionately on women. Older men are much more likely to be married than older woman by 71% to 41% and almost half of all older women in 2003 were widows. For the elderly who are not living in institutions, 7.8 million women compared to 2.7 million men live alone. In addition, half of the women 75 and older live alone. With life expectancy for those currently 65 to be an additional 19.5 years for women and 16.6 year for men, these trends look to continue (AOA, 2005).

B. Therapy for Aged Couples

Some couples stay alive and stay married well into their older years, only to find that there are new challenges that bring stress to a previously happy marriage, or new situations that exacerbate old problems. These situations include the children leaving home, retirement, illness, lower financial status than expected, etc. These bring on different needs and roles, the inability to cope with changes and may cause one or both to seek help. In working with older couples the goals can include reducing their anxiety and helping them adapt to the changes that are occurring. If they have had a happy relationship, then chances are good they can be helped to overcome the situational crisis. The therapist can draw on their strength from the past in being able to get through difficult times, make adjustments and live happily with each other. If the problem has been long term, the strength of the marriage may be severely tested and one or the other may decide they no longer have the patience or energy to work through their problems. (Kirschner 1984)

C. Lifestyles of the aged

About 416,000 grandparents aged 65 or more had the primary responsibility of raising their grandchildren. (AOA 2005) This creates a shift in what is considered the normal human life cycle as more grandparents turn to parenting once again. This typically is the result of children lacking functional parents so these heroic grandparents step in. This was not the plan for their last years, but their strength helps provide the grandchildren a greater sense of normalcy. The alternative for the children the foster care system where they are often separated from siblings, and frequently placed into unfamiliar homes, families, schools and communities.

D. Income and Poverty

The median income for older persons in 2003 was $20, 363 for males and $11,845 for females. For one-third of Americans over 65, Social Security benefits constitute 90% of their income. Nearly 3.6 million of the elderly (10.2%) were below the poverty level in 2003. Another 2.3 million or 6.7% of the elderly were classified as near-poor (income between the poverty level and 125% of this level). (AOA 2005)

Income Distribution among the elderly:
Poverty 10%
Low Income 35%
Middle Income 30%
High Income 25%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2003

E. Leisure Activities and Work

Many approaching the older years look forward to retirement when they will have more time to spend on activities that they enjoy. These may include traveling, hobbies, spending more time with grandchildren and various physical activities like running, golf and tennis. The following table illustrates the number of people who participate in regular physical activities. With physical exercise being so important to prolong life and the quality of that life, these numbers are low. Encouraging the elderly to participate in both physical activities and activities that require some mental challenges are important. The therapist should find out the interests the client may have or desire to develop. One approach to help the client become involved in more physical activities is through assigning behavioral tasks developed with the client. This may be walking, playing tennis, golfing, joining different clubs that revolve around physical activities or joining a health club. The client should report back on each task and their involvement in the task. Physical exercise is vital for both physical, mental health and emotional health.
Ages % Involved in Physical Activity
45-64 30%
65-74 26%
75-84 20%
85 10%

Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey

Working Ages

When social security first came into being many felt like that was all they needed to retire and did not plan further. Others want to live at a higher lifestyle and the current cost of living, including incurred debt, prevents them from retiring. Still others very much enjoy working and will continue as long as they are capable. All of these can contribute to people working past the age of 65. On the other hand, many have planned for retirement with the understanding that social security would not meet all of their needs and prepared to retire earlier.
For those who were unable to retire as planned, having to work can cause anxiety, stress and some feelings of depression. Their bodies and minds may also have difficulty with performing the work tasks they had before. These issues should be addressed when assessing the patient. The following table shows the percentage of people still working in different age groups:

For Men
Ages % in Working
55-61 80%
62-64 50%
65-69 35%
70 15%

Each of these show a sharp decline between 1961 and 2003. For example, the percentage of those aged 62-64 who were working in 1961 stood at 75%.

For Women
Ages % in Working
55-61 60%
62-64 35%
65-69 20%
70 8%

Interestingly, where as the percentage of older men still working decreased from 1961, the percentage of older women working increased.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


Question No.3. According to Holmes and Rahe the most stressful event in a person's life is:

a. The death of a child
b. Having a terminal disease
c. The death of a spouse
d. Pain

Question No.8. What percentage of older people live in poverty?

a. 5%
b. 10%
c. 15%
d. 25%

Question No.9. The majority of people 65 and older enjoy regular physical leisure activities:

a. True
b. False

Question No.10. Which of the following is a true statement?

a. The percentage of older working men has increased while the percentage of older working women has decreased since 1961

b. The percentage of older working women has increased while the percentage of older working men has decreased since 1961

Question No.18. Physical exercise is vital for:

a. Physical health
b. Mental health
c. Emotional health
d. All of these

Aging and Long Term Care ( 3 Hours) > Chapter 3 - Social Aspects of Aging
Page Last Modified On: December 4, 2015, 08:32 PM