The Wisdom of Years
Understanding the Journey of Life
Aging is viewed by many Americans as being a process of loss and decay, and late life is often seen as a time of life characterized by dependency and despair. In response to prejudicial views of older persons that pervaded the youth-oriented society in the 1960s, Robert Butler coined the term “ageism” to reflect the similarity of these prejudices to racism and sexism. Like racism and sexism, Butler perceived ageism as a way of “pigeonholing” people and denying older adults the opportunity of being individuals capable of unique ways of living their lives. Aging can be a journey that is profoundly different, depending on one's generation and one's lifestyle during earlier years. This chapter examines important facts about the aging of America and discusses ways to promote successful aging. It also considers the implications of aging for continued involvement in such roles as work and family activities. Finally, it looks at common medical and mental disorders of late life, and what we know about the best ways to manage common disorders of aging.
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