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Define ‘elderly?’ As you see it, at what age are people no longer young? What is...

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matt09 | (Level 2) Honors

Posted March 1, 2010 at 7:27 AM via web

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Define ‘elderly?’ As you see it, at what age are people no longer young? What is it, specifically, about this age that makes a person “old”?

What are some of the social factors in the United States that have shaped your ideas about the elderly? How often do you think about growing old and, when you do, do you think about it in a positive or negative light? Finally, if aging were eliminated tomorrow by advances in technology, what do you think would be the perfect age to be, and remain at, for the rest of your life? Why?

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 1, 2010 at 7:51 AM (Answer #1)

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There are too many questions to answer in 90 words, but let me get you pointed in the right direction.  If I am to define elderly, that is, the period of life in which one becomes an elder, then in our society it is typically people in their late 60's or older.  It is the time period in which they are accorded respect (or are supposed to be) based on their elder status in society.  To me, being elderly and "old" are not necessarily the same.  Being "old" has a connotation that the body is beginning to break down, and the symptoms of old age are becoming apparent.  Some people who are elderly are in gtreat physical and mental shape.  We usually wouldn't say that about someone who is old.  The age at which we define either of these terms advances over time as people are living longer.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 1, 2010 at 7:55 AM (Answer #2)

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There are many questions here whose answers could comprise multiple books.  At the very least, the answers to such questions would be lengthier than the space provided here.  I would say that there might not be an exact age where one is "elderly."  Senator John McCain launched a bid for the President and he was considered by many to be seasoned in age.  He was not hampered by his age, and while it was attempted to be used at times as an detriment, it never caught on with the public.  I think a person can see themselves as "old" when they feel they are ready to be seen as this. Even then, this might not be a negative perception, but rather as one which indicates a particular stage reached in life.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 1, 2010 at 8:05 AM (Answer #3)

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In my view, our ideas about age are shaped by the media.  I do not mean news so much as just all the things we see on TV, in magazines, etc.

We are very much of a youth-oriented culture.  We worship people with young, hard bodies that look great.  Therefore, we see as elderly anyone who does not look like they could be in a beer commercial.

To me, that is our definition of elderly in this society -- someone who has lost their youthful looks.  This, of course, happens to people at different ages...

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 1, 2010 at 8:49 AM (Answer #4)

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This is a largely subjective question and for that reason, you will get many different responses. You ask a kid this question and he or she will say that 25 is old! And you ask a 25 year old and he or she may see himself or herself and young, but view the 60 year old as old. So, there is no good answer for this.

As for social factors, we are on more solid ground. I would say that the media has a huge role in shaping people's idea of what is "young" or "old." In particular, what the media does, in my opinion, is glorify youth and so it conditions minds to view younger as better than older. Sports also does this. Being able to do athletic things is glorified and it is usually done by the young.

We might also want to talk about the various ways in which older people try to look young or the popularity of plastic surgery as a society's desparate attempt to be young.

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krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted March 1, 2010 at 3:39 PM (Answer #5)

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There is no universally definition to clearly separate elderly persons from others. Different societies consider people to be old or elderly based on different criteria.

Some times people are formally designated as old for specific purposes such as retirement age and for qualifying for certain benefits or privileges given to people based on their age. But there is great variation in this age from country to country as well as for the old age benefit or privilege considered. For example most common age for retirement in government service is 58 and 60 years. This age in most of the develop countries is 65 years. In India itself the qualifying age for old age concessions for railway fare is 60 years, but for reduced income tax liability this age is 65 years. These qualifying ages may also be different for men and women.

In some societies people may be considered old when they become grand parents. Frequently grey hair becomes an important factor when people form judgement about whether or not a person is elderly. The concept of what is considered old age in a society is also influenced by the life expectancy of people in the society. about 50 years back, if a person reached the age of 60, it was considered a rare distinction and many people celebrated their sixtieth birthday on a fairly big scale. But today, if a person dies before attaining the age of sixty, it is treated as early death.

Aging is the process of growing old which involves stop in growth and reduction in physical and mental capabilities of a person. In general a person who lives a healthy active life is able to achieve the peak of his physical strength at the age of about 25. If we consider the combination of physical fitness and skills, a person can attain the highest peak of physical performance at the age of around 30. The mental capabilities can continue to grow much beyond the growth of physical capabilities.  However this requires that the mind is regularly exercised.

It would be ideal If a person can maintain his or her physical health at the peak level for ever. As stated above this peak level is reached at the age of about 25. However if ever remaining 25 years means not growing in terms of skills and mental capabilities, I would prefer to grow old and subsequently die rather than remain young for ever. I have enjoyed my youth while it lasted, but then that enjoyment holds no attraction today. At present I am enjoying different things, and I do not want to exchange these for repeating any enjoyments of the past.

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