Topic 2.1. Aging and old age as a social and psychological problem.

Lecture number 1.

Over the past 50 years, thanks to economic, medical, scientific, technical, cultural and other progressive social achievements, in all countries of the world that have achieved significant socio-economic prosperity, a completely new demographic phenomenon has emerged – population aging. The aging process of the population has taken on a rapid character. The steady growth in the proportion of older people in the structure of the world’s population led to the formation of new ideas about old age, the role of older people in social development.

The proportion of the elderly in the population (60 years and older) rose in Russia from 6.7% in 1939 to 11.9% in 1970. In 2002 was 18.5%, and currently reaches over 23% and continues to grow due to falling birth rates and a reduction in the number and proportion of children in the population.

There are more than 30 million people over working age in the Russian Federation. The elderly are a rapidly growing socio-demographic group, accounting for one fifth of the country’s population. The proportion of people of retirement age since 2000 has exceeded the proportion of children under 15 years of age. In the period up to 2016, a steady increase in the number of older people is projected.

Old age is characterized by specific problems: deterioration in health, reduced ability to survive, “pre-retirement unemployment” and reduced competitiveness in the labor market, unstable financial situation, loss of the usual social status. Elderly women are in an unfavorable position, which is significant while maintaining a long-term disproportion between the male and female population. The proportion of older people among migrants and people without a fixed place of residence and occupation is quite large.

Currently, negative attitudes towards the elderly in the family is one of the most hidden forms of domestic violence, which leads to difficulties in assessing the scale of the problem, because, due to family ties, the victim refuses to take legal action against the abuser and tries to save him from punishment.

Today, every fifth inhabitant of Russia is an old-age pensioner. In almost all families, at least one of the family members is an elderly person. The problems of third generation people can be considered universal. Elderly people need increased attention from society and the state, and are a specific object of social work. In Russia, about 23% of the population are elderly and old people, and the trend of increasing the proportion of elderly people in the total population continues, it becomes obvious that the problem of social work with the elderly is of national importance.

Age-related social and economic costs to families caring for older relatives reduce the family’s reliability as a source of support for older people. Lonely and elderly people and elderly couples are often in an unfavorable situation.

The study of the aging process, which is the subject of study of various biomedical, psychological and sociological schools, shows that in the course of life there comes a moment in which the development process, i.e. enrichment and complication of the functioning of internal organs, as well as its corresponding provision, slows down, and subsequently passes into the stage of regression, or involution, which is called the theory of human aging.

The concept of the essence, causes and mechanisms of aging has changed over time. This was associated not only with the development of knowledge, but also with a change in the characteristics of aging in society. First of all, the average life expectancy grew, this determined the change in living conditions and the social system, the success of medicine and other advantages of progress and civilization. Modern ideas about the theory of aging in gerontology are based on the following provisions:

Aging and old age are a natural process of age-related changes that occur in the course of ontogenetic development at all levels of life;

Aging of cells, organs, functional systems and mental processes occurs unevenly.

The theory of aging in the heterochrony of development and involution is universal and operates both at the interpersonal and intrapersonal levels.

Interpersonal heterochrony is expressed in the fact that individuals mature and develop unevenly, and different aspects and criteria of maturity have different meanings for them.

Intrapersonal heterochrony is expressed in the inconsistency of the timing of biological, social and mental development.

The process described in the theories of human aging is accompanied by a weakening of homeostatic processes and, at the same time, the adaptation of all body systems to a new level of vital activity.

Biological theories of aging. According to researchers in the field of biology, aging and death are basic, essential biological properties that reflect the functioning and evolution of all living organisms, including humans. Biologists study the body, trying to change the nature and limit of age-related changes, to understand what caused these changes, how they can be controlled, corrected, how to mitigate the effects of the aging process. In this regard, biological science has a number of theories that directly affect the subject of the process described in the theory of human aging. The most common in the scientific world abroad are two of them. These are theories of “programmed aging” and “non-programmed aging”.

“Programmed” aging. Representatives of this theory proceed from the fact that the functioning of a living organism is programmed by nature only for the period of its active life, which includes the development of the organism and growth to reproduction. Supporters of this theory of aging and old age argue their conclusion by the fact that the law of natural selection has always acted and continues to operate in nature, and therefore old individuals are rarely found in natural conditions: before becoming old, they either die themselves or are destroyed by their own relatives. Biological activity is genetically incorporated into a living organism, extending only to the period of its so-called biological usefulness.

“Unprogrammed” aging . Representatives of this theory of aging proceed from the position that in the process of changes associated with aging, other mechanisms that are not included in the genetic program, which have an “unprogrammed” effect on the body, can also act.

Biological theories of aging are the most substantiated and verified. However, they do not take into account the differentiation of two aspects of old age – physical and psychological, and the role of the psychological factor in the lengthening of human life.

Socio-psychological approaches in the theory of aging and old age. J. Birren, after analyzing the literature on aging, came to the conclusion that biologists provide a definition of aging more often than psychologists, and sociologists never give it. At the same time, both psychologists and biologists use the indicator of life span as a dependent variable. The biosocial essence of a person gives grounds to consider personal-psychological changes in late age as a combination of mutual influence of biological and social in their genesis. Accordingly, in the theory of aging, the authors divide the process into three interrelated and overlapping processes:

Psychological aging – how an individual imagines their aging process (for example, young people may feel psychologically older). The feeling of old age is realized in the specifics of the individual’s attitude to the process of his own aging when compared with the aging process of other people. Here we can talk about the psychological asymmetry of one’s own and “alien” old age, when it seems to the individual that he is aging faster or slower than everyone else;

Biological aging – biological changes in the body with age (involution).

The biological approach also focuses on the physiological side of old age, the psychological one – on the mental and mental aspects of aging,

Social aging – how the individual relates aging to society; behavior and fulfillment of social roles by the elderly. studies old age in a social context in three areas:

Ø Individual experiences of an elderly person;

Ø The place of an elderly person in society;

Ø Problems of the theory of old age and their resolution at the level of social policy.

Thus, in all these approaches, it is possible to calculate common ideas about issues that are socio-psychological.

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