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Aging Health Aspects, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 754

Essay

Question One

It could be argued that an issue in why support may be less than beneficial for the elderly lies in a kind of ageism itself.  Actually, this problem likely arise from one form of ageism and an inherent flaw in sociological approaches of this kind.  On one level, it is probable that too much support translates to elderly parents in a negative way, increasing distress because they perceives themselves seen as helpless (Silverstein, Chen, & Heller, 1996, p. 970).  Studies and research aside, this seems to be a type of social breakdown virtually orchestrated by the intended support.  Concern generates active caring around those no longer fully independent, as many elderly persons are, but too often this concern is given with no appreciation of the feelings it must create.  To be assisted is one thing; to be assisted because it is clear that you are perceived as requiring constant assistance is another, and it is easy for the most well-meaning support system, such as family, to lose sight of the fact that an individual’s sense of identity  usually relies on their sense of autonomy.  Consequently, the support creates a chain of social breakdown, as the elderly person has no choice but to view themselves in this same way.

It is suggested that reconstruction can reverse this kind of breakdown among the elderly (Palmore, Branch, & Harris, 2005,  p. 273).  However, such a course is not likely to succeed if the flaw in sociological approach mentioned above is not addressed. That is to say, these efforts can only work when there is full interaction and honesty between the concerned parties, and on strictly individual levels.  Sociology deals with groups, necessarily, but few things are as personal as how an individual adjusts to inabilities brought on with age.  Put another way, the social breakdown of excess support occurs because there is no real understanding of the individual’s needs; similarly, then, reconstruction can only succeed when the individual feels themselves to be viewed as precisely that.

Question Two

It may be cynical, but it is also probable that, when people refer to “social support,” they do so only in terms of what they themselves feel is appropriate.  Even more cynically, emotional support is likely the least willingly offered, if only because the range is so inherently wide. Instrumental support, of any other kind, is that which is most reliably needed because it assists with the pragmatic matters often difficult for the elderly (Stets, Turner, 2007,  p. 601).  This practical aspect of it, however, translates to a kind of control, or foreseeable extent.  In this, it is like informational support; both forms, in most circumstances, can be offered in ways that do not disrupt the supporter’s existence.  Emotional support, conversely, can be problematic because, if it is given at all in a constructive way, it demands high levels of interaction and consideration.

This leads to the issue of knowing when the support is appropriate, or beneficial.  As noted, there is only one way this can occur, and that is through honest exchange of thought and feeling between the two agents.  In a very real sense, there can be no single judge of when support is right, because the thing itself exists only as a cooperative entity.  It’s “rightness” can only be determined when those involved assess it as such.  Even if the receiver feels the support is effective and correct, this cannot be the reality if the provider feels strained or abused, because the support then lacks an essential element of itself: the sense that it will be there as long as it is needed.  This goes to an idea of a perfect social support scenario, by means of the above illustration of a poor one.  Reciprocity is the key, and the rightness of the social support has little to do with the expressions that support takes.  What matters is that, through understanding and communication, all parties have a valid sense that the “give and take” is being conducted in a way meeting the needs of all.  Put another way, the social support without this level of consistent and mutual understanding is the support likely to collapse.

References

Palmore, E. B., Branch, L. G., & Harris, D. K.  (2005). Encyclopedia of Ageism. New York: Psychology Press.

Silverstein, M., Chen, X., & Heller, K. (1996). “Too Much of a Good Thing: Intergenerational Social Support and the Psychological Well-Being of Older Parents.” Journal of Marriage and Family, 58, 970-982.

Stets, J. E., & Turner, J. H.  (2007).  Handbook of the Sociology of the Emotions.  New York: Springer.

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