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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Death Among the Elderly[i]

         Some of the information in this blog post is cited in one of the articles listed below; divided into several sections including: Talking about death, Death Fears, Age, Sex, Ethnicity, Health, Living, and Religiosity.
         Another thing related to this post is that during the 1980’s I watched TV series entitled The Highlander. The theme song was “Who Wants to Live Forever” sung by a group named Queen.  For a long time I  thought it would be great to live forever. But things happening these days make me wonder if I would like to stay alive no matter what the conditions. In addition I would be forced to grieve the passing of family and friends         
         I will be 73 year’s old this coming October. My father died in his 73rd year. (my mom is still alive; is 96 years old and lives with my sister.)  Another factor influencing my thinking is that my brother Reynolds died last month. He lived in Utah so most of our connection was on the Internet. It was a good relationship. His death has had a strong effect on me; including making sure that my Will is updated.
           Over the last several years, independent of Ren’s passing, my thoughts about death and dying have increased significantly. This is unlike the findings of a research article in which “death is not correlated with death fears.” The researchers commented” That the aged are a highly heterogeneous group… and have considerable variation in death fears.”
         The hospice movement may have a positive influence on hospital care for dying persons…Such progress is important particularly for old dying patients since they experience the painful effects of age discrimination even in their dying days
         “It is virtually impossible for old persons to avoid the question of their personal death.  There are simply to many reminders of our eventual fate as we grow old.’
         What about those who believe in life after death?  “Comparison of religious beliefs and death fears among older people has produced conflicting results.  Some findings indicate that religious old persons are less fearful than nonreligious persons. Other studies report that only those with the most fundamental convictions and habits show less death fear; other findings discovered no relationship whatsoever between fear of death and religious belief and activities.” I was raised in a Christian community and I suppose that in a simple way: fear of Hell for the rest of eternity would make a lot of people fearful of death.

         During the past 6 months I have been thinking about my own death. Part of that is because as a substitute instructor I spent 3 hours one evening teaching a session focused on the topic of death and dying.  We talked specifically about the stages of “death and dying” postulated by Kubler-Ross.  One of the positive consequences of all this is that both my wife and I are making sure that our Wills are satisfactory.
          I also have come across a journal article entitled “The Construction and Validation of a Death Anxiety Scale.[ii] The scale is listed below. Along with the research mentioned above the survey may be able help you examine your own attitudes toward your death.

Death Anxiety Scale

1.   I get depressed when I think about death
2.   Hearing the word death makes me sad
3.   Passing by cemeteries makes me sad
4.   Death means terrible loneliness
5.   I become terribly sad when I think about friends or relatives who have died
6.   I am terribly upset by the shortness of life
7.   I cannot accept the finality of death
8.   Death deprives life of it’s meaning
9.   I worry about dying alone
10.    When I die I will completely loose my friends and loved ones.
11.    Death does not rob life of it’s meaning
12.    Death is not something to be depressed about
13.    When I think of death I feel tired and lifeless
14.    Death is painful
15.    I dread to think of deaths of friends and loved ones
16.    Death is the ultimate failure in life
17.    I fell sad when I dream of deat

[i]  Wass, H. & Myers, J. (Nov 1982)  Psychological Aspects of Death among the             Elderly: A Review of the Literature. The Personal and Guidance Journal.
[ii] Templer, D. J. (1970). The Construction and Validation of A Death Anxiety             Scale. The             Journal of General Psychology ,82, 165-177. (For more             information go to   

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