Running head: analysis of the elderly

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Analysis of the Elderly

Keaton Bumgardner

Wayne State University

One might ask what makes a person elderly. This is a word that doesn’t have the same meaning in all societies. A technical definition of elderly means being past middle age (Merriam-Webster 2013). However, there are so many different events that happen that might make one think they are becoming an elder. Our country considers the age of 65 and above as someone who is elderly. This is the age of someone who can receive social security benefits and Medicare (Social Security 2013).

Contrary to popular belief, a stable or increased amount of positive effect is associated with increasing age, while negative emotion decreases, leading to more positive emotions in older adults, despite the decline of physical and cognitive abilities associated with aging (Birren, J.E, 2007).

My mother has been a nurse for almost 30 years and many of those years include her working in nursing homes as both a staff nurse and also in management. I have learned a lot about the elderly through her experiences and stories that she has shared with me. I am also currently volunteering in a nursing home so I am able to see firsthand the differences within the elderly. My encounters range from interactions with residents who have dementia to residents who are comprehensive and active in their daily life. During a visit with one of the residents she was sharing about her life as a florist and discussed how she learned to make them and the different churches she would arrange them for. The conversation then turned to her talking about still making the arrangements and taking them to the churches and she spoke in the present tense, when in reality she hasn’t made them in years. Another day I volunteered I worked in the activities department and we did bowling with the residents where we set up a long table with the bowling pins at the end of it and they are able to sit at the table in their wheelchair and roll the ball and bowl. I took my kids who are 8 and 5 so they could help and the residents were very active and loved seeing the children. There was a lot of conversation and interaction. I was able to see how the elderly can range from being so dependent to being very independent.

My grandma is 80 years old and lives in a senior living center. She is still able to have her freedom and independence but also has the care and assistance the she needs. I was able to visit with her and two of her friends who are 76 and 77.

When asked how they are viewed in the light of collective history, they all had a similar answer implying that they have a better and more active lifestyle than what is usually perceived about people their age. My grandma has had some falls that required her to stay in the hospital recently, but overall she is in decent health. The other two women also said they felt blessed because they are healthy and are able to take care of themselves. Many people perceive the elderly as being incoherent and not capable of taking care themselves, which for many seniors is the case.

My grandma did not have a college education and my grandpa was in the coast guard and was able to support his family without my grandma needing to work. During that time period that was the role of the woman. She was to be the homemaker and take care of the children and the husband was the breadwinner. My grandma said she enjoyed being able to stay home with her children (my aunt, uncle and my father). However she had a very unique situation. She had bone cancer and had to have her leg amputated at the age of 40. She had to heavily depend on my grandpa during this time. As independent as she tried to remain, there were certain things she would never be able to do again. She never was able to drive again and relied on her crutches and wheelchair. My grandpa was a very loyal and dedicated husband who never thought twice about having to help out and do extra chores around the house. The one thing that never changed was her love for cooking. She was an excellent cook and even when they moved to Florida she would still send us food. One of my fondest memories would be around Christmas waiting for her package of homemade fudge, nuts, bread and chex mix to arrive in the mail.

I also asked them about functioning in relation to other systems. None of them seemed to ever run into many problems with other systems during their life. When they were younger, education was never a big priority for women so they didn’t have the pressure of having to attend college. My grandma has never been religious and the other two women have been avid church goings their whole life and continue to go to the services that their senior center puts on. There are many events and activities that they are able to take part in on a daily basis.

We talked about values and how society is very different now. It is very clear to them that the younger generation has different values and ways of life then they did growing up. These women were brought up to get married, have children and take care of the family. What was once considered normal for their generation has drastically changed. In today’s society women go to college and have careers before they get married or think about children. It is also more common in today that couples live together and raise a child together while not being married. My grandma made a comment about that being something that would have even been considered back in her day. Luckily she is very open minded and non judgmental. For example, I got pregnant and had to drop out of my sophomore year of college. My boyfriend (my now husband) and I moved in together and raised our son and didn’t get married until 3 years later. She never looked down on me or judged me, but instead loved me and my family unconditionally and has always been very open about how proud she is of me.

This group has comparisons and differences from other people of a similar identity. I was lucky enough to speak to a group of women who were not as critical and disapproving as some elders may be. I think there can be such a huge range of how the elderly can be. A lot of their upbringings and thinking’s are similar to the other older generations, however they were also very self aware and able to live an almost independent life within this community center.

Micro and macro levels of social work are important in the elderly community. The micro level involves working with the individuals and the macro level involves improving or modifying an aspect of society (Grafton, H. & Kirst-Ashman, K. 2012). Even though it was easy for me to discuss these topics with my group of elders, it might not always be so easy and as a social worker it will be my responsibility to learn about different populations and groups so I can serve them respectively and advocate on their behalf. Many seniors begin to suffer from social and psychological problems and depend on social service providers. A study was conducted to determine what forms of elder respect social workers most often use and which forms of respect they consider to be more important. The seven forms that were most demonstrated and considered most important include linguistic respect, salutatory respect, presentational respect, spatial respect and consulting respect (Dunkle, R.E, & Sung, K.T. 2009). I believe these actions and behaviors are important not only when interacting with the elderly, but with any person or group.

The elderly are a very important group because everyone who lives long enough will become one. Not only as a social worker, but as a human being it is important to learn about your elders and respect them because it is inevitable that we will one day be an elderly person ourselves.


Birren, J.E. (2007). How does aging impact emotional experience, expression, and perception? Encyclopedia of Gerontology, 2. Retrieved from

Dunkle, R.E, & Sung, K.T. (2009). How social workers demonstrate respect for elderly clients. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 52 (3), 250-260. doi: 10.1080/01634370802609247

Elderly [Def. 1] (n.d). In Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. Retrived March 19, 2013, from

Grafton, H. & Kirst-Ashman, K. (2012). Understanding generalist practice (6th ed.). United States: Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning.

U.S Social Security Administration. (2013). What is supplemental security income? Retrieved from

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