Gerontology Norman from the film On Golden Pond
Recall the character of Norman from the film On Golden Pond that you watched for the previous lesson. Using information from this unit’s readings and study notes, write a 3-5 page paper in which you:
1.Describe Norman’s human environment.
2.Select the following theories:( Activity) and use it to describe how Norman and his human environment interact.
3. Explain why you chose the theory you used to analyze Norman’s environment.
4. Tell whether you feel that the theory you have used is useful and credible.
the writing should be based on the film called “on Golden Pond” the link for the movie
or in youtube
focused on applying major theories of aging from biology, psychology, and sociology to interpret how people age in United States society.
HOW RELATIONSHIPS CHANGE WITH AGE
You have learned how Person-Environment Fit determines personal competence. This lesson examines the environmental piece of that equation—specifically, its human component. Gerontologists have studied how older individuals interact with the human environment, and have come up with a number of descriptions of what happens. Some of these are described below.
Role theory describes society’s expectations about how people should behave and what they should do. These expectations are based on a wide variety of factors, including age. A role is like a part a person plays, with a script that is written jointly by society and the person who takes on the roles (in some cases the two negotiate the details, in others behavioral rules are black and white, and anybody who breaks them is considered an “oddball”—or, perhaps even mentally ill or a criminal). The pressure put on people to conform to expectations is part of the process of socialization.
Some societies and cultures have more rigid roles than others. Roles may include those of male, female, student, parent, employee, businesswoman, husband, wife, son, patient, doctor, etc. Obviously, most of us hold a number of roles at any given time; some, we hold for a lifetime, some are brief, and others change over years. Many roles are associated with a certain age or stage of life, or “age-graded.” Age-grading is the expectation that people will adjust their behavior by modifying, adding or dropping roles to match what others believe they should do at a given age. For example, a 14-year-old girl is, in most Western cultures, considered to be too young to be a mother; in other cultures, however, motherhood may be within the age-normative expectation for that age group. In the classic picture of age-grading, roles are added gradually as we grow up, and increase in number throughout our middle-years. At some point, role loss may occur as children leave home, we retire from work, family members and friends die, and some hobbies and interests are abandoned. Theoretically, if society pushes an older person to drop unapproved roles, and no new roles are added, they can be left with only one role— “Old Person.”
There are several other theories about how and why people change their relationships with others as they age. The earliest (and most commonly applied) include Activity, Disengagement, and Continuity theories. Each of these is briefly described below. In addition to these three theories, a number of others have been proposed, and are described in your text. You will notice that some of these theories focus on individual behavior while others focus on social systems.
Activity theory sees age-related changes as leading us to adjust to the loss of old ties as we age. It says that normal adaptation includes finding new, and perhaps even a greater number, of interests to replace the dropped ones. New activities are chosen freely and can include volunteering, church involvement, and fun leisure pursuits like traveling or golf (perhaps even bungee jumping). This may explain why some retired people say that they are busier in retirement than they were while working. You will notice that activity theory emphasizes that the responsibility for staying active rests with the individual rather than resulting from of a push from society. Role theory, on the other hand, describes society as the party that calls the shots.
Like Role theory, Disengagement theory describes the loss of roles as a process that is enforced by society. As one after another role is lost, power is gradually transferred from older to younger individuals. Disengagement leads older adults to move gradually into passive roles with fewer and more superficial interactions with younger members of society. The positive consequences of disengagement, for both the individual and society as a whole, is that the elder gets to take it easy and prepare for death, and that valuable resources and responsibilities get passed on to the new generation. There is no research to support the idea of Disengagement as a normal stage of life. Unfortunately, some people still think that it is normal for older adults to retreat into their good memories of the past, and withdraw from the world. Disengagement, as a picture of “normal aging” should be actively rejected. In fact, an older person who looks and acts increasingly disengaged should be assumed to have a health problem that needs diagnosis and treatment.
Finally, Continuity theory was developed to reflect findings of the Kansas City Longitudinal Studies. This research revealed that people do not change dramatically with age (no surprise, as we found earlier that personality does not usually change dramatically either). But, critics of this theory note that it “overlooks the role of external social factors in modifying the aging process” (Hooyman & Kiyak, 2011, p. 289). While it is reasonable to assume that society changes its demands and expectations constantly, and that people must adapt to those changes, we have pretty good evidence that aging individuals seem to maintain their identities as they adapt. A comprehensive theory would have to look at both sides of the equation. Until we have a perfect theory that explains everything, the existing theories are very useful tools that stimulate us to observe more closely and ask important questions.
THE HUMAN ENVIRONMENT
The human environment includes family, friends, neighbors and members of the larger community. Your text offers detailed descriptions of how relationships within each of these groups influence aging, and is influenced by its aging members. We will review some of the high points in these notes.
We begin life within our family of origin, joining its newest generation. From this background, many of us move out to form a nuclear family group, usually in partnership with another adult, and a third generation may grow out of the partnership. With the unfolding of new generations, new relationships and obligations of importance to individuals and society are forged.
Kin relationships in modern America are shaped by our history as an immigrant nation, in that most of us tend to have fewer layers of kinship recognized as “close family” than those in older cultures. Riley and Riley (1996) add the following elements to the description of the “classic” American family: 1) because parents and children are living much longer, they are closer to being equal in status; 2) property transfer is no longer the main reason for formal ties between generations; 3) most older adults are quite healthy and independent; 4) modern families are becoming more and more diverse in age because of the creation of blended families through divorce and remarriage, and; 5) modern life offers many alternative types of relationships that compete with the traditional one of parent-child.
It is important to remember that, even though American culture seems to shape most of our lives, many cultural variations exist and that, within these variations, the notion of “family” and quality of family relationships differ widely from what is described as the American “norm.” In fact, it has not been uncommon in the U.S, since its beginnings, to see cultural variations within the generations of one family, or parts of one community. Most often, the younger generation is seeking to move away from family traditions and integrate into the larger culture while the older generation is trying to maintain it. You can reference specific facts about some of the major U.S. “minority” cultures in your text.
Spouse and partner relationships are built on love. Sternberg (1986) researched people’s idea of love and how it is manifested. Based on his research, he developed a theory of love based on three components: 1) passion—an intense physical attraction; 2 intimacy—the feeling that one can share thoughts and actions with the other; and, 3) commitment—the willingness to stay with that person through good and bad times. Based on these components, he identified seven forms of love:
1. Liking: Intimacy is present, but no commitment or passion
2. Infatuation: Lots of passion, no intimacy or commitment
3. Empty love: Commitment only
4. Romantic love: intimacy and passion, but no commitment
5. Fatuous love: passion only
6. Companionate love: intimacy and commitment, no passion
7. Consummate love: all three components are present (the ideal)
Increasing numbers of younger adults are choosing not to marry early, and some never marry. Although men marry later than women, the age at which both marry today is higher than it has been in recent history, with the average age of men being 26.3 and women 25.1 for first marriages occurring during the year 2000. The number of cohabiting couples at all ages has increased significantly in the past few decades. Cohabitation of older adult couples is often motivated by financial and family concerns, since a deceased husband’s pension often provides for his widow only as long as she remains unmarried, and because some parents bow to their adult children’s disapproval of their remarriage.
Gay or lesbian partners also form partnerships, and experience similar patterns of mutual support and satisfaction as do heterosexual couples. Despite the legality of same-sex marriages, they often have difficulties with adoption of children, inheritance, legal guardianship, and ability to make health-care related decisions for each other in health crises. Mourning the loss of a partner is also more difficult, as some in our society may not accept the closeness of these partnerships.
Maturity of both partners at the time of marriage and a similarity of values and interests lead to satisfaction. Satisfaction with love relationships is highest at the beginning of the relationship and after retirement, with the rock-bottom tending to occur at midlife. Divorce is the legal dissolution that ends a marriage, and the divorce rate among older adults has gone up recently; whether this is a cohort effect or merely a greater overall acceptance of divorce than was true in the past is unknown.
Death of a partner occurs for women more frequently than it does for men, as women tend to marry older men, and to live longer. Men who experience divorce or widowhood remarry at a significantly higher rate than women do. The average age of widowhood is 66 for women and 69 for men. Considering that women live about 5 years longer than men, and tend not to remarry after the death of a spouse, most of them are widows for about 15 years. Among the oldest-old, widows outnumber widowers 5:1, and that proportion is double in women of color because they are widowed earlier—this is due to a lower average life expectancy for men of color.
Many Adult Children continue to receive financial support, and most obtain emotional support from their parents after they leave home. In fact, many adult children return there when circumstances require them to seek additional assistance. After adult children are stable and on their own, most maintain frequent communication with their parents over the years, and often despite geographical separation. Eventually, most parents turn to their adult children when they need support or care.
Thanks to our increasing life-span, families can include as many as four or five generations, with older adults sometimes caring for their even older parents. Next to spouses, adult children provide the most care to older adults. It is notable that the financial value of informal care-giving in the United States, most of it given by spouses and adult children, is valued at $200 billion dollars a year (Hooyman & Kiyak, 2011).
Not only do children receive assistance from their parents, and provide for them, but an increasing number of elders are responsible for their grandchildren in “skipped generation households.” It has been estimated that 800,000 older adults are doing this. Of these, 47% are of European-American, 36% of African-American, and 15% are Hispanic-American. This is a particularly stressful job, since there is little legal protection, and often limited financial support for grandparents who must navigate health care and school issues for their charges. Fortunately, a 2003 Supreme Court decision has supported the awarding of foster care benefits to grandparents (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2005).
Grandchildren: With increasing life-spans, not only can one be a grandparent for 30-40 years, but also a great-grandparent. Some grandparents are formal and distant, and others take on direct parental responsibilities, but most fall somewhere in between the two extremes. The high value many grandparents put on their relationships with grandchildren has been explained by the “Generational-Stake Hypothesis” which explains that, although grandchildren are eagerly looking ahead to building their own place in the world, grandparents see that generation, and those to follow, as their legacy. An interesting idea, don’t you think?
Sibling relationships can last for a lifetime. Siblings share family history, and have a genetic structure more similar to each others’ than anybody else can have (even a parent). For these, and many other reasons, this relationship is special. The strength of sibling relationships varies with stage of life and gender. In younger years, siblings may be rivals or hold grudges about past squabbles, but these tend to be forgotten with age. Gender influences the strength of relationships, with two sisters being the closest, brother-sister pairs next, and brothers being the least close. Relationships tend to intensify among siblings at crucial times in their life histories—marriages, births, and death of their parents and spouses, when support can come from the sharing of common memories.
Friends are important to all aging adults, but particularly those who live alone. Friendships tend to be a place where women share primarily emotional content, and men share primarily interests and common activities. Interestingly, women tend to have more friends than men do, and many married men perceive their wives to be their “best friends.” People tend to have more friendships in their younger years, and these friends are often selected because they connect individuals to ideas, places, and new opportunities. By old age, many friendships have been lost due to death, or changes in interest or location, and fewer new ones are made. But friends in the older years are very important, and most people over age 85 still actively maintain friendships. Old friends tend to have been around for awhile and are valued for being trustworthy and loyal. The main purpose of these friendships is to provide opportunities to bounce ideas off somebody who will not judge or misunderstand. Adult children offer support, but friends can do so without any motive other than mutual liking (and they remember events and ideas in the same context as the elder because they often come from the same cohort). This type of relationship provides a safe and gratifying outlet. Having close friends is important, and the presence of at least one friend in whom one can confide has been shown to predict a higher level of life satisfaction in older adults (Antonucci, 1985).
Neighborhoods represent the smallest level of community. Having close neighbors and frequent contact with them is particularly important if family ties are not strong, or if family is at a distance. Friendships can develop and bloom within neighborhoods, as well. This easily navigated space can also provide an opportunity for the older adult to be with people of various ages, including children, and share their wisdom and talents with others. Older adults seem to have varying ideas as to what type of neighborhood to choose. Some prefer a carefully planned and safely gated place where people are of similar ages to theirs, while most prefer mixed-age neighborhoods (AARP, 2001). Older adults tend to prefer to age in place, in homes where they have lived for years. Overall, 76% of older adults are satisfied with their neighborhoods, and even those in poorer quality neighborhoods report a 71% level of satisfaction (HUD, 1999).
THE HUMAN ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIAL SUPPORT
The human environment is made up of social networks composed of people interacting with one another. The amount of interaction determines a person’s social integration. There are obvious benefits to being able to get help from other people. But there are more subtle benefits to two-way integration. We know that the process of giving and receiving assistance (reciprocity) is desirable for older adults and improves their function and self-esteem. Integration also makes social support available to older adults.
Unfortunately, some of the negative events that are normative (expected) for older adults also change network composition, thereby lessening contact with others. For example, couples seem to drift away when widowhood occurs, children may visit less frequently when older adults move into age-restricted housing, or if either adult children or the older parent makes a geographical move. It is also important to note that loss of ongoing contacts with groups that are oriented to higher levels of activity occurs when an older adult is homebound due to illness, or is no longer able to drive. In fact, even though less healthy elders probably need the benefits of greater social integration most, social selection seems to encourage healthier elders to join the most active groups and expand their networks, while their less healthy companions drop out of relationships that they cannot cope with.
Social support is defined by as occurring when an individual believes that one or more other people exist who would provide emotional, financial, and instrumental support. (Krause, 2001) We have already discussed the value of friendships, the importance of confidants, and how older adults benefit greatly from maintaining reciprocal relationships with others in their social environment. Social support is a very special kind of benefit related to, but not identical to other human contacts. In fact, it can come out of and occur along with additional benefits from relationships. Social support can help buffer normative events such as illness, widowhood, loss of employment, and the death of friends and family members that occur with aging. For example, Cobb (1976) found that social support from adult children reduced depressive symptoms in their older parents.
Social support has been shown to have two important specific effects: First, it has a direct effect of reducing stress—that is, a person can cope with a lot more stress without harm if there is also some social support available at the same time as the stress is bearing down; this applies to both physical and psychological stress. Amazingly, research has shown that people with severe asthma, for example, need fewer drugs to control their disease if they have social support available to them. Secondly, the presence of social support seems to have an indirect effect on health status by influencing people to follow through with health treatments that have been recommended.
Social support can also come from any other person in the human environment, including health care providers, and others including hairdressers, barbers, mail carriers, and other people with which one interacts with in the community. It is vitally important for people of all ages, but particularly for aging adults, to maintain social integration and its associated benefits.
AARP (2001).The 1999 national survey of sector 202 elderly housing. Washington, DC: AARP Public Policy Institute.
Antonucci, T.C. (1985). Personal characteristics, social support, and social behavior. In R.H.Binstock & E. Shanas (Eds.). Handbook of aging and the social sciences. (2nd ed.). (pp.94-128). New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
Cavanaugh, J. C., & Blanchard-Fields, F. (2006). Adult development and aging. (5th ed.) Belmont, CA: Thompson Wadsworth.
Cobb S. (1976). Social support as a moderator of life stress. Psychosomatic Medicine, 38, 300-314.
Hooyman, N.R. & Kiyak, H.A. (2011). Social gerontology. (9th ed.) Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Krause N. (2001). Social support. In: Binstock RL, George LK, editors. Handbook of aging and the social sciences. 5th ed. Academic Press; San Diego, CA. pp. 273–294.
Riley, M.W., & Riley, J.W. AJR. (1996). Generational relations: A future perspective. In T.K. Hareven (Ed.). Aging and Generational Relations: Life-Course and Cross-Cultural Perspectives (pp.283-291). New York: Aldine deGruyter.
Sternberg, R.J. (1986). A triangular theory of love. Psychological Review, 93, 119-135.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Office of Policy Development and Research. (1999). Housing our Elders. Washington, DC.