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The Elderly and Self Esteem - Does Aging Negatively Effect Self Esteem?

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The Elderly and Self Esteem - Does Aging Negatively Effect Self Esteem?

The issue of self esteem is widely regarded as a problem faced solely by adolescents and young adults. Many research studies choose to focus on how media can impact how a person perceives themselves when compared to the rest of the population but fails to look at self esteem over the entire lifespan. As age is such a factor in the development of healthy self esteem at a young age, it stands to reason that on the other side of the spectrum self esteem may again become an issue. Self esteem problems can arise when a person is going through significant changes in their life and developing new roles within society. When transitioning from middle aged adult to senior citizen, retiree or whatever title one chooses to designate themselves by, does a person's self esteem become negatively effected?

Exploring the issue of self esteem in a broad topic in itself but by narrowing it down to a specific age group (people over the age of 60), it becomes a very specific field of study. It is an area that is not widely understood by the general population because one can only understand that perspective by actually facing it. Many middle aged adults have a basic understanding of teen and young adult self esteem issues because they have already lived through it while having a limited knowledge of how growing older may impact them in the future as well. Understanding what kind of potential negative (or positive) effects the aging process may have on self esteem is especially important when placed in the role of caregiver for an elderly person.

Understanding how self esteem impacts the elderly is interesting because it is an inevitable stage of life that is clouded in mystery. No one understands what it feels like to be "old" and this failing can lead to many negative opinions and assumptions about the aging process. Becoming older is seen by the majority as a decline in one's abilities, health and overall value of society. No longer working or raising children, it is possible for the elderly to be seen as living the easy life while in fact they are facing new problems such as increased health risks, the denial of previously acquired privileges (such as a driver's license) or being separated from loved one's because of death or relocation. It is an aspect of self esteem studies that seems to be largely ignored.

Before beginning to research this topic I expected to find very limited information about how the aging process can directly impact self esteem. I did assume that most research would indicate a sharp decline in self esteem as people age (almost a direct correlation) with the most elderly groups studied having the lowest self esteem overall. These assumptions came from preconceived personal ideas I had about what it means to be older and how I believed this would impact my own self esteem over time. The research I did find both supported some of these notions but completely showed opposite results in other areas.

According to the research of Roy and Russell, many elderly citizens would define themselves as "pretty happy" with their lives overall. According to their article, asking a simple and basic question regarding a person's current happiness showed the same results as asking longer and more philosophical questions. I though this was extremely interesting as the age group between 65-74 years of age had the highest "very happy" ratings of the group at 38.6%. This would be the time I would have assumed that self esteem took the first severe negative hit because it is when many people are first retiring and adjusting to the changes going on in their lives.

It is interesting to note that (in this study) across the general population of ages, ranging from 18 years old to 85+, the rating of "not too happy" remained relatively the same and low (not higher that 15.4%). The two most extreme spectrums had the highest rating in this category. Does this imply that no matter what a person's age is, self esteem is not truly negatively impacted for the majority of the population? Of course this was a basic one question survey about a person's present happiness and there are always several factors to consider before drawing any firm conclusions but it does suggest some interesting material to pursue further. Are people in general pretty happy with their lives and who they are, no matter how old they are?

When studying self esteem in the elderly it is always important to note what issues they are facing at that time. Death becomes more predominant of an issue (both one's own mortality and the mortality of close friends and relatives) and coming to terms with this stage of life might be an incredible emotional burden. The end



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