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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Four S’s In
The Transition to Retirement

  Ask yourself how you relate to the following questions.

·      What kind of transition is retirement for you?
·      Is your retirement a positive, negative, expected unexpected, desired or dreaded transition?
·      Did it come or is it coming at the worst or best time possible?
·      Is it “on time” or “off” schedule?
·      Is it voluntary or imposed?
·      Are you at the beginning, middle, or end of the transition/

·      What kinds of strengths and weaknesses do you bring to retirement?
·      Do you believe there are options?
·      Are you optimistic?

·      Do you have support from family, friends, co-workers and supervisors?
·      In what ways do people give support?
·      In what ways do they hinder your efforts to change?

·      What ways do you tend to cope? Do you have several or just one?
·      Can you creatively cope by changing the situation and manage reactions to stress?

[i]  Modified from a ppt  presentation  An Overview of  Nancy Schlossberg’s Transition Theory  Azusa Pacific University.  The theory is designed to help anyone going through… “any event of non event that results in changed relationships, routines,  assumptions and roles.”   I have modified it to focus on retirement.  If you are feeling stressed, seek consultation with someone you trust.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Digging Deeper Into Ageism

The Theoretical Basis of Ageism[i]

Ageism consists of a negative bias or stereotypic attitude toward aging and the aged.  It is maintained in the form of primarily negative stereotyped and myths concerning the older adult.  Takier (1980) outlines four factors that have contributed to this negative image of aging.  Each will be discussed below.

The first factor that is postulated to contribute to ageism is fear of death in Western society.  Western civilization conceptualizes death as outside the human life cycle (Butler & Lewis, 1977). As such, death is experienced and viewed as an affront to the self. Death is not seen as a natural and inevitable part of the life course. This can be contrasted with Eastern philosophy where life and death are inextricably woven together and the “self” continues throughout. To be a person, in Western society however, means that one must be alive and in control of the events of one’s life.  Therefore, death is feared.[ii]
As death is feared, old age is feared; death and old age are viewed as synonymous in American society (Kastenbaum, 1979). Kastenbaum (1973) hypothesizes the ageism attitudes serve to insulate the young and middle-aged from the ambivalence they feel towards the elderly.  This ambivalence results from the fact that the older adult is view as representing aging and death.  Butler (1969) states: “Ageism reflects a deep seated uneasiness on the part of the young and middle-aged – a personal revulsion to and distaste for growing old, disease, disability; and a fear of powerlessness, ‘uselessness’, and death.” (p.243). This represents the most commonly argued basis for ageism.

The second factor postulated by Traxier (1980) to contribute to ageism is the emphasis on the youth culture in American society. For example the media, ranging from television to novels, place emphasis on youth, physical beauty, and sexuality.  Older adults are primarily ignored or portrayed negatively (Martel, 1968; Noththcott, 1975).[iii]  The emphasis on youth not only affects how older individuals are perceived but also how older individuals perceive themselves. Persons who are dependent on physical appearance and your for identity are likely to experience loss of self-esteem with age (Block, Davidson, & Grumbs, 1981)
The emphasis in American culture on productivity represents the third factor contributing to Ageism in American culture (Traxier, 1980)[iv].  It should be noted that productivity is narrowly defined in terms of economic potential.  Both ends of the life cycle are viewed as unproductive, children and the aged.  The middle-aged are perceived as carrying the burdens imposed by both groups (Butler, 1969). Children, however, are viewed as having future economic potential. In as way, they are seen as economic investment.  Economically, older adults are perceived as a financial liability.  This is not to say that older adults are unproductive.  However, upon retirement, the older adult is not longer viewed as economically productive in American society and thus devalued.
The fourth factor contributing to ageism in American society and the so-called helping professions is the manner in which aging is originally researched.  Poorly controlled gerontological studies[v] have reinforced the negative image of the older adult.  When aging was originally studied researchers went to long-term care institutions where the aged were easy to find.  However only 5 percent of the older population is institutionalized.  Thus the early research on the aged and aging was based on non-well, institutionalized older individuals.  There is still a need for more research to be undertaken using a healthy, community-dwelling older population.

The factors cited above represent four contributing factors to ageism. It is proposed that individual ageist attitudes can be decreased through continual exposure to and work with older adults. (Rosencranz & McNevin, 1969) However, there appears to be a large societal influence on ageist attitudes. Therefore, until these societal influences are addressed, ageism cannot be obliterated.[vi]  For example, if the fear of death and therefore aging is not somehow addressed societally, then younger individuals will continue to attempt to make the older population somehow different from themselves. The differinations of themselves from older adults, thus serves to protect them from the reality of death.

[i]  Found by Goodling “The Theoretical Basis of Ageism.”  All of it is an exact copy of that posting.
[ii]  Interestingly I recently found some research that indicates that in western society deeply religious and atheistic persons handle the problem of death the best.
[iii]   It is interesting that these references are from the 60’s and 70”s.  Do you think that the media has improved their images of elders since then?
[iv]  Obviously this data was collected in the USA. An interesting question is whether this applies to all or most of Western Culture.
[v]   This material was gathered and published several decades ago. Whether is biased or not.  Let’s assume that current gerontology is playing a the top of the game these days
[vi]  For those interested in current ageism, I suggest that you examine one of my earliest posts on this blog, that shows the results of Yongjie Yon’s recent research and myself on Ageism in British Columbia.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Another Step

Making the Most of Retirement[1]

     While searching through the Net I came upon this electronic book focused on retirement. It consists s  of 13 chapters. I figured that some of you would find Chap 1 so interesting that you would look up the source that is listed at the bottom of this blog entry. This chapter (#1) will help sharpen your understanding of the challenges which develop as an individual enters and moves through the retirement period. 

Eight Phases
     Research has found eight "phases" of retirement for most people. These phases actually begin several years before retirement and continue through a course of progressive adjustments throughout the final phases of life.
     Phase one begins about three to five years before retirement.  This phase is usually referred to as "Fantasy" time as it consists of primarily of dreaming and planning for retirement and the new options which will be available after retirement begins.
     The second phase begins about one and a half years before retirement. This period is the "Excitement" time.  As the actual date of retirement is now within sight, serious struggles in obtaining necessary details about retirement benefits, income, health coverage, etc. Problems are often encountered that could have been solved if dealt with sooner, but, because of the proximity to the retirement must be dealt with as they are.
     "Stress" time is characteristic of the third phase.  This occurs upon actual retirement.  This is a time when everyone dealing with the retiree needs to be aware of and compensate for pressures and stresses the newly "freed" individual is subjected to.
      For about the first two years after retirement the "Honeymoon" phase (4) occurs.  This is a time of catching up on delayed projects,  and enjoying the new freedoms of retirement.
      The fifth phase starts at about three to four years after retirement.  This is the period of "Retirement-Routine, Rest and Relaxation."  The individual has accepted, at least for the present, the adjustments to switching from a job every day to the flexibility found in retirement.
     The "Disenchantment" phase (#6) is about four to six years after retirement. This is a period in which the retiree often develops a lack of self esteem.  The person begins to feel the need for productivity.  Because there is not a service or product produced, as when the retiree was employed, the haunting question of "Who am I?" surfaces.  As a result there is often a floundering feeling of being lost and ill at ease.
     Fortunately from the sixth to eighth year most people go through a "Reorientation" phase.  This is a period when learning to accept and enjoy the "roles" of retirement is usually mastered.  The challenge during this period is to develop a new sense of self worth and new direction.
The final phase can be identified as the "Settle Down to Routine" period. This is usually a time of contentment. 

     "Growing old doesn't have to mean growing slow or growing ill," according to Dr. Gene Cohen, deputy director of the National Institute on Aging. Good health habits and attitudes are important going into old age. But serious illness may plague an older friend at any case.
      Rabbi Harold Kusher in "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" 
(Schocken Books, 1981) states: "We either stay away entirely...or we come and try to avoid the reason for our being there. The first step is to realize that it is your presence, not your words, that means the most."



Monday, March 19, 2012

Ageism in the Workplace

      There has been a good deal of interest in the material I have posted regarding Ageism. Most of the findings have not been directly connected with work.  I recently came upon a research paper that focused directly on the study of ageist experiences prior to retirement.[i]  The authors introduce their topic by describing workplace ageism as being “…manifested as prejudice (based on attitudes), discriminatory practice and institutional habits.”
      They then go on the hypothesize that “…age discrimination seems to take place in at least six different human resource areas in the workplace.” The authors investigated workplace ageism in three European countries; Norway, Sweden, & Finland.
Those six items are listed below. Those answering the items were ask to respond by checking 1 of 5 alternatives ranging from “totally disagree” to “totally agree.” 
      See how many of them relate to your current work situations or if you are retired, things that happened prior to your retirement.

1. I was passed over/left out in cases of promotion or internal recruitment.
2. I do, or did not, have equal opportunities for training during work time.
3. Younger workers were(are) preferred when new equipments, activities or working methods were(are) introduced.
4. Elderly workers less often took(take) part in development        appraisals with their superior than younger workers.
5. Elderly workers have less wage increase than younger        workers.
6. Elderly workers are not expected to take part in change processes and working methods to the same degree as their younger peers.

[i] Furunes, T. & Mykletun, R.J. (2010). Age discrimination in the workplace: Validation of the Nordic Age Discrimination Scale (NADS). Scandinavian Journal of Psychology: 51, 23-30.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Warding off The Effects of Ageism

          This is another presentation based on information in Todd Nelson’s book[i] about ageism.  In the wider community there is a lot more information about the effects of ageism with much less about what we can do about it.  It is referred to as The Identity Assimilation Effect.  “The IAE is a product of the older individual’s desire to preserve a positive sense of self in the face of increasing threatening images of aging as a negative state of existence” Research has connected the IAE effect with “…identity processes and self-esteem in middle and late adulthood.”  
         Examples of items in their research are: 
1. Have many doubts and questions about myself.
2. Don’t spend much effort reflecting on who I am. 
3. Try to keep a steady course in life but am open to new idea. 
         They then correlated this with people’s responses to Rosenberg’s self-esteem scale[ii] that includes statements like:
1. On the whole I am, satisfied with myself
2. I am able to do things as well as most other people.
3. I certainly feel useless at times.
As they expected a significant relationship was found.
         Finally, the authors indicate, “… that it is during the late middle age and retirement age period that the effects of ageism may be strongest and defenses such as denial necessary to counter it’s deleterious effects.  If you find this material interesting you will love their book.

[i] Todd Nelson (20020. Ageism: Stereotyping and Prejudice against Older Persons.  IET             Press. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.   ISBN 0-262-140775  The chapter was written by  Susan Krauss Whitbourne & Joal R. Sneed.
[ii]  You can see the whole questionnaire just google Rosenberg self-esteem scale 

Monday, March 12, 2012

More About Ageism

Aging, Physical Decline and Ageism[i]

 As many older persons know “…As the body ages, a multiple of physical transformations take place.  Some of these, such as wrinkling of the skin and the graying of hair, are generally expected to occur for most individuals at certain points in their lives.”  
            My hair, what’s left of it, is grey and I have growing spaces on my face that are indented due to the tools I wear to bed to counter my sleep apnea. It’s part of the game and I sleep much better. 
   However,“…widespread societal perceptions of the elderly as unhealthy, characterized by physical decline and unsuitable work persist.  “For example young persons in a major study, rated young individuals as more physically qualified than older people for ‘demanding’ work.  In another study younger people over he age of 65 had serious health problems.
            “Also, stereotypes about the imminent physical decline of older workers  are also represented in language that can be herd in the workplace, some of which is beginning to appear in age discrimination lawsuits.  Examples of this ageist language includes phrases such as marking time, fading fast, on the shelf, one foot in the grave and ready for the scrap heap.”
            On the other hand “In contrast to widely held stereotypes that depict older workers as chronically absent and injury prone, the research literature suggests quite a different story.”
            In conclusion “…societal perceptions of older workers as unhealthy, characterized by physical decline…and “ in many cases represent polar opposites  to what research in these areas suggests.”
            The book from which I got this information is very interesting the other chapters produced by different authors are:
   Section I    Chapters 1,2,3, and 4
1.    Doddering But Dear: Process, Content, and Function in Stereotyping of Older persons
2.    Ageism: Denying the Face of the Future
3.    Implicit Ageism and
4.    Social-Developmental View of Ageism

Section 2. Chapters 5, 6, 7, and 8
5.    Attitudes Toward Older Adults
6.    Ageism in the Workplace: A Communication Perspective
7.    Ageist Behavior and
8.    The paradox of Well-Being, Identity Processes, and Stereotype Threat: Ageism and Its Potential Relationships to Self in Later Life

Section 3 Reducing Ageism and Future Directions 9,10 & 11
9.    Acting Your Age
10. Will Families Support Their Elders? Answers From Across Cultures
11.  Reducing Ageism

[i]  Robert McCann & Howard Giles  (2002)  In  AGEISM: Stereotyping and Prejudice Against Older Persons ( Edited by Todd D. Nelson  ISBN  0-262-14077-2) Published by Massachusetts Institute of Technology.