With a billion baby boomers world wide coming of age between now and during the next decade, aging and those issues that impact aging in a healthy way are receiving a lot of attention. The goal is for people to age in as healthy a way as possible, because the alternative would create a substantial strain on already weak healthcare delivery systems. In 2006, USA Today published an article on aging gracefully (1). The article examined aging, from the perspective of health span vs. life span, and in the discussion is revealed the debate over funding for research on issues associated with aging (1). Research designed to answer questions about aging does not rank high on the list of items that the public wants to lend their support to, and funding to create programs to assist the elderly and to resolve issues that elderly citizens face is even less popular. These are some of the reasons that there is a lack of interest in the aging process as it goes beyond the subjects of botox and cosmetic surgery. It is what Mike Hepworth (1995) refers to as the obvious (p. 5). In other words, for most people, aging is obvious, it is about getting old, and most people, younger people, either don't understand that there is much more to aging and the aging processes, or they do not want to discuss it.
This essay looks at aging and the issues that surround it. We'll look at the social issues, but the physical, neurological, and mental issues too. The broader the range of issues discussed, the greater the individual reader's breadth of understanding, and that it is something we will all experience. There is, therefore, good reason and need to become educated about aging and the aging processes that are not just outwardly obvious.
The Human Factors
As we grow from infants, through young childhood, adolescence, and into and throughout adulthood, we discover things about ourselves as human beings. We discover that we have mental, physical, and nutritional needs in order to enjoy fully a healthy and happy life as an individual, and as a son or daughter, parent, and, finally, as a grandparent. The question, however, that remains to be asked is: What is old? It is a question that social researcher Priscilla Ebersole (1998) asks in her book, Toward Healthy Aging: Human Needs and Nursing Response. Old, says Ebersole, is where the biological, psychological, sociological, and spiritual essences of humanity come together in a unitary being (p. 2). It is probably at that point that is recognized not just as outwardly aging, but inwardly aging, too, that is for the first time in our lives when each of these crossroads mentioned by Ebersole comes together, even if briefly, and, if we have aged in a healthy way, we experience a complete awareness of the world around, ourselves as individuals, and, through our spirituality, that which will transcend the bodily experience. Regardless of education, it is a level of awareness, an internal wisdom even, that comes only at that critical point in our lives when we are closer to death than we are to life.
For those who have not had the benefit of aging in a healthy way that brings them to the crossroads as identified by Ebersole, there will be health issues that make it…