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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Knowing Ourselves

Some Information About Our Aging Selves[i]

         In the fall of 2010 I posted on this blogspot an item entitled Who Am I? It was based on the theory and research of Alfred Adler who’s model of personality I used during the years I practiced as a registered psychologist in British Columbia.  I still believe that his theory is very useful in developing an understanding of our aging personality. But so are the ideas of Robert Atchley and I intend, in this blog post, to use the article cited at the bottom to discuss the self-continuity life of elders.  I used Adler’s model to counsel individuals during their working lives.
         The question is just how much adjustment is required as we move into old age.  How do we know just what is happening? To this Atchley asserts “…it is our experience of aging, first in others and then in ourselves, that creates what aging means to us in contrast to what aging means in our culture or to people in general.”
         Atchley continues by saying he will discuss 1) aging as a subjective experience, 2) negative messages about aging that we receive from others 3) changes in personality and self that provide the context in which experiences and messages are received, 4) various defenses for maintaining a positive self image, and 5) various factors that can result in low self-esteem in later life.” 
         I will provide some information from each of the five sections.

1)   As we age even with the experience of much physical decline some people “…still retain a vital and hopeful outlook. Others are utterly defeated by seemingly trivial changes in circumstances.”   Further as older persons we must be able to struggle against age discrimination.  We are often categorized by the idea that we “…lack the physical, mental, social or educational resources necessary to cope on our own with the demands of life.”
2)   “There is no question that what others tell older people about themselves and about aging and the aged in general is sometimes based on negative stereotypes and delivered in a cruel and impersonal way.”  I specifically relate to this with my studies of ageism.
3)   Research has “…found that after middle age, adaptation patterns show no significant changes with age.  This is consistent with psychology’s Continuity Theory that is the tool Atchley is using.
4)   Changes in self-concepts which include what we think we are, what we think we ought to be like, our “…moral assessment of how well we live up to our ideal self and self esteem “…whether we like or dislike ourselves and how much.” As we develop experience this tool becomes increasingly useful.
5)    What we think and feel about ourselves as we age?
     “The self-concept and ideal self are often tied to the social positions we occupy, the roles we play, and the norms associated with our personal characteristics (note that while I retired last August, I have continued to feed this blog and have signed up as a substitute instructor at Kwantlen). 
         When we are in younger age groups, youth, young adult, and middle age, with the roles we take up and let go of, it is “…often difficult to develop a firm sense of self”. “Self-esteem, scores of older people living independently in the community are nearly double those of high-school students…Another way to say this is that self-acceptance increases with age and experience.”
         Finally, just to keep things balanced:

         “To the extent that one’s observations of one’ self are relatively honest, the theory gets better as time goes on…But other people never develop a firm theory of self that even could be tested. They don’t quite know what to expect of themselves in various situations, and the result is inconsistent and confused behavior.”
 The article discussed above has more information about this topic.  If you have access to research data bases GO FOR IT!!

[i] Atchley, Robert C. (1982).  The Aging Self. In Psychotherapy: Theory Research             and Practice;  Vol. 19, (4)  (downloaded from the internet) p.p. 388-396

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