Social/Mental age are the most important. They include the cognitive and behavioral skills needed to survive. The false assumptions of age mentioned below help explain this better.
1. Age comes to a full-circle: The false idea that we age and return to the beginning. This is false because life is completely uni-dimensional, that is, it goes toward one direction only and continues to do so. The implication of this supposition is that therapists should not treat the elderly as if they are children. All the needs of the elderly should be given treating them like older adults worthy of respect.
2.Chronological age prescribes behavior- The assumption that being old is equivalent to being mature. The pro of believing this is merely that we expect adults to act like adults regardless of their situation. This helps establish guidelines for behavior that should be universally followed. As Erik Erickson indicates in his psychosocial theory, maturity is acquired by mastering the challenges that present themselves chronologically the way society is set up. It is not all environmental; it is also biological. As Maslow indicates in his hierarchy of needs, such needs come from the body's need for nourishment, and safety. When the needs are met and the challenge of the age is accomplished then maturity begins under good parenting. The implication for therapy and treatment is that the clinician must not make assumptions for the client.
3. We can only learn new behaviors when we are young- this applies to new habits and second languages, etc, but it is not true, Both the young, the adult, and the elder can learn at different rates but with the same results. If a drug-addicted elder has enough motivation and support, the habit can even becoming extinct. The point is not to have a specific age to learn to do something; one needs to have the aptitude, competence, skill, attitude, and resources. The con of believing this is that we are limiting our elderly and imposing on your youth. Who's to say that 18 is the proper age to enter college? Who is to say that all humans learn only when they learn young? The pro of this theory would be that we focus on providing our youth great learning opportunities; however they should be extended to everyone equally for we learn at EVERY age.
4. Intelligence diminishes with age- if we take this false paradigm seriously then we will not give the clients all the information that they deserve to make informed decisions. The fact about intelligence and cognitive skills is that if you do not use them you lose them. However, the skills can be re-learned or learned differently when put into a different perspective if the first try does not work. As practitioners of social work, mental health, or counseling, we just cannot make assumptions. There is nothing positive that could come from thinking that intelligence tends to diminish. In fact, we should remove that paradigm from society as soon as possible and offer our elderly patients as many learning opportunities as it is possible.
5. The older you are the more you should know- Considering the number of pedophiles, drug addicts and alcoholics who are elderly this is hardly a true statement. Experience makes us mature. Building a life schema is a process that takes some people longer than others, and some do not even experience it. Therefore, age does not indicate knowledge. It is good to believe this for the sake of expecting adults to behave as adults, but it is not always the case.