Working with the elderly

By Ranjan K Baruah

These days we could see many old age homes in different areas where elders stay or are kept by others. Like crèche for kids, old age homes are also becoming crucial these days. The year 2020 marks the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations and the 30th Anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons which is observed around the world on October 1. This year 2020 has seen an emergence of COVID-19 that has caused an upheaval across the world. Considering the higher risks confronted by older persons during the outbreak of pandemics such as COVID-19, policy and programmatic interventions must be targeted towards raising awareness of their special needs.
The importance of older people are felt everywhere. On December 14, 1990, the United Nations General Assembly designated October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons (resolution 45/106). This was preceded by initiatives such as the Vienna International Plan of Action on Ageing, which was adopted by the 1982 World Assembly on Ageing and endorsed later that year by the UN General Assembly.
Gerontology is the study of the social, psychological, cognitive, and biological aspects of aging. It is distinguished from geriatrics, which is the branch of medicine that specialises in the treatment of existing disease in older adults. Gerontologists include researchers and practitioners in the fields of biology, nursing, medicine, criminology, dentistry, social work, physical and occupational therapy, psychology, psychiatry, sociology, economics, political science, architecture, geography, pharmacy, public health, housing, and anthropology.
It encompasses studying physical, mental, and social changes in people as they age investigating the biological aging process, effects and mechanisms investigating the social and psycho-social impacts of aging investigating the psychological effects on aging, investigating the interface of biological aging with aging-related diseases, investigating the effects of an ageing population on society applying this knowledge to policies and programs, including the macroscopic (for example, government planning) and microscopic (for example, running a nursing home) perspectives.
The multidisciplinary nature of gerontology means that there are a number of sub-fields, as well as associated fields such as physiology, psychology and sociology that overlap with gerontology. Gerontologists view aging in terms of four distinct processes: chronological aging, biological aging, psychological aging, and social aging. Chronological aging is the definition of aging based on a person’s years lived from birth. Biological aging refers to the physical changes that reduce the efficiency of organ systems. Psychological aging includes the changes that occur in sensory and perceptual processes, cognitive abilities, adaptive capacity, and personality. Social aging refers to an individual’s changing roles and relationships with family, friends, and other informal supports, productive roles and within organisations.
In simple it is multidisciplinary and is concerned with physical, mental, and social aspects and implications of aging. Geriatrics is a medical specialty focused on care and treatment of older persons. Although gerontology and geriatrics have differing emphases, they both have the goal of understanding aging so that people can maximise their functioning and achieve a high quality of life.
Considering the rising elderly population in India, there is acute need for individuals who can provide quality care to the elderly. Now when most of the families are going nuclear, the elders are left alone to take care of themselves. This also brings opportunity for individuals to build their careers. Careers related to this may be purely medical or social and other support. There are diploma courses like Diploma in Geriatric Care which will produce quality individuals who will provide appropriate service to the elderly population.

(The author can be reached at 84739453734 or [email protected])

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