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Growing old is inevitable. It does not matter if someone colors their hair or gets Botox to hide wrinkles; every human being on the planet eventually grows old. So how does someone age gracefully and accept what happens to them in old age? Is it worth live longer if a person is living with pain or unable to care for him or herself? The following goes into details of issues that face today’s elderly.
There is a difference between life span and life expectancy. Life span development is defined as the study that examines patterns of growth, change and stability in behavior that occur throughout the life span and each of its stages (Feldman, page 5). Life expectancy is defined by Feldman as the average expected age of death for people in a population (Feldman, page 413). Modern medicine and geriatrics have helped people live longer than before, but sometimes not with the best quality of life (Living Old). Just because a human being is able to live to see the age of 80 or 90 does not mean the best quality of life possible. There are elderly people living with arthritis, joint pain, cardiovascular conditions and other concerning health issues that arise with old age. So shouldn’t a person be able to choose when they can stop suffering and end the pain?
A huge controversial issue involving the elderly is the debate of physician-assisted suicide. Thanatologists (people who study death and dying) argue that this method is giving the elderly the option of “dying with dignity” because they can choose the timing of their death. I could imagine that would prompt people to make sure they have their affairs in order and say their good-byes and perhaps confirm that the patient has accepted that idea that they are indeed dying. Terminal ill patients would perhaps see this as a way to not suffer as much from their disease. Geriatrics has helped people live longer but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the elderly person is pain free or psychological distressed because of age. Family members of the elderly would object to this course of action because they are afraid to let go or the grief that comes with their passing. Others may object to physician-assisted suicide because of religious aspects. Some states have made physician-assisted suicide legal and requires the sign off from two physicians (Griffiths, page 286).
The remaining question is how someone chooses to spend the time they have left. Perhaps the best way for a person to spend their final years on this Earth is really their own personal decision. I, myself, personally would choose to work as long as I can. I feel working would give me a sense of independence about myself. I would be able to still see people and feel like I am a part of society. Eventually I am sure I would cut down working to part time to do things I do not have time for now such as recreational reading and traveling. I want to see my daughter be successful in life and have a family of her own one day without struggling by herself like I have at times. I want to still be a part of her life and my grandchildren’s lives (whenever they may come). However what I see as graceful aging some else might see as boring. I believe each person should choose how they get to spend the later part of their lives so accepting old age and dying can become easy to grasp.
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