In Row and Kahn’s model of SA, absence of disease and disability is counted as one of the components of SA, while in the past life satisfaction was regarded as major factor in SA (Calasanti, 2015). On the other hand, SA finds diverse definitions in different cultures (Palmore, 1975). Cultures hold various views on ageing and constitute their distinct social expectations and norms related to the elderly population in terms of their attitude and performance concerning family, socialization, and activities (Wrosch & Freund, 2001). Therefore, SA could be considered as a multidimensional concept which relates to different aspects of one’s life and it could be affected by cultural context.
In this essay, relying on the late adulthood stage in the psychological development theory of Erik Erikson (1902 -1994) the focus has been on addressing several aspects of personal life including reminiscence, family, activity, health, financial security, and spirituality to review their impact on developing SA within two societies namely Iran and Australia with reference to some theories focusing on both physical and psychological aspects of SA.
In his eight stages of psychological development namely infancy, toddlerhood, early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, middle adulthood, and late adulthood, Erik Erikson (1950) stated that each stage contained a conflict or crisis to be resolved in order to move successfully to the next stage. He considered late adulthood as 60 years old and above when the focus of development turns toward contemplation on life experiences..
Correspondingly, in collectivist cultures like Iran, strong emphasis is laid upon family life and dependence on the experience and knowledge of old people (Omidvari, 2014). While seeking wisdom from elders has been an Iranian historical tradition, it is practised widely up to now and considered as one of the components of SA (Jorkesh & Nazari, 2019)). Giving advice and sharing wisdom as a definition of SA may appear to be a fresh role at old age which could prevent the elderly from suffering a sense of having a meaningless life leading to despair, depression, or resentment. At the same time, it may link with Erikson’s reminiscence notion as one’s reflection on the past (Bee & Boyd, 2011). Reminiscence has a positive impact on the aged and it is a way of sharing their experiences, thoughts, and wisdom with the younger generation (Goldwasser, Auerback, and Harkins,1987). In Iran sharing wisdom by the elderly seems to involve reminiscence which is mentioned by Bee & Boyd (2011) as having therapeutic effect resulting in decreased levels of depression.
In Australia, it seems that contemplation on life, integrity, sharing wisdom, and reminiscence takes a different shape among the elders. According to the Minister for Aged Care (2000) the level of personal development and education among Australian elders is increasing. Therefore, the significance of learning among Australian elders might indicate their search for a sense of meaning in the late stage of their lives which may conduce to the integrity mentioned by Erikson. Reminiscence in Australian society seems to go beyond family circle as it has found its way into therapeutic practices and nursing homes as a treatment mostly employed in narrative therapy resulting in increasing contentment and reduction of depression (Bee & Boyd, 2011).
While connecting with other fellows is a dominant feature of human life, the family is the closest unit of connecting and relating (reference). Balets and Baltes (1990) believe that family contact and parentship are determinantal to SA. Furthermore, older adults regard relationship with others highly important as it leads to fulfilment (Hooyman and Kiyak 1988). Similarly, grand parenting has turned to play a significant role in the aged population worldwide. Its benefits extend emotionally and socially to grandparents, adult children, and grandchildren resulting in psychologically healthy ageing and provide enjoyment for the grandparents (Peterson, 2013).
According to Zanjari, Sharifian, Hosseini, Rafiey, and Mohammadi (2019), in Iranian families, the individual's life is dominated by family and family relationships. In the Iranian context, psychological well-being is centred around family life. Family members live together and support each other closely in times of need. Older Iranians consider their success tied with the success and happiness of their children. So for the elderly, a child's success is believed as their success. Also, the typical Iranian family usually includes grandparents. Many grandparents in Iran are bringing up their grandchildren thus they avoid loneliness, social isolation, and loss of valuable roles, prevent mental disorders, and arrive at a higher level of satisfaction (Jorkesh & Nazari, 2019).
Though Australia has been portrayed as an individualistic society where independence and individual ways of living are practised (Collins & Arthur, 2010), according to the Minister for Aged Care (2000, p9) ‘family ties, the giving and receiving of support, having fulfilling family roles, and caring are core family concepts for older Australians’. Besides, individuals between 55-64 years are the highest age population who provide financial support to other family members willingly (Minister for Aged Care 2000). Thus, valuing fulfilling family roles and caring for the family in addition to financial support in Australian elders appears to be contributing to SA and psychological well-being among Australian elderly (Ranzijn, Hatford, and Andrews, 2002). Further, Cummins et al. (2002a) maintain that older Australian consistently express more satisfaction with relationships with spouse and family which is strongly associated with a sense of well-being.
Two psychological perspectives namely disengagement and activity theories have viewed successful ageing in terms of activity in different ways. In response to the exploitation of the aged working force in the 1950s, disengagement theory was developed by social scientists Elaine Cumming and William Earle Henry (1961). The theory states that withdrawal from social roles and engagements is a normal outcome of ageing (Peterson, 2013). Therefore, it deems SA related to intentional disengagement from the social interactions active prior to the old age.
In Iran disengagement from activity at old age was accepted largely until a few decades before (Jorkesh & Nazari, 2019). Social expectations tended to assign less activity and responsibilities to the old people and elders were happy to stay back and involve in tasks which were less active and entailed fewer responsibilities. However, according to Zanjari et al. (2019), successful ageing in contemporary Iran relates to active participation in society, seeking new knowledge, and undertaking voluntary work. This may indicate the transition of traditional social views of ageing toward a more active perspective opening a dynamic space for the elders in Iran to enjoy higher levels of contentment with old age.
Comparably, older adults aged 65 and over in Australia contribute to society immensely by undertaking volunteer activities. Besides they engage in providing care and emotional assistance to family or non-family members (Ranzijn, Hartford, and Andrews, 2002). Minister for Aged Care (2000) has reported that Australian older people attempt to maintain their physical, cognitive, and psychological health by the membership to sport clubs, attending concerts, theatres, art galleries, and libraries (Howe and Donath 1997).
Therefore, it seems that active participation in social activities and personal life promotes a sense of being useful and wellbeing and results in maintaining a healthy level of physical and psychological well-being in both societies. Additionally, active engagement in social activities may compensate ‘empty nest’ syndrome or widowhood in older adults.
While active participation on personal and social levels are largely deemed as significant factors contributing to SA, Rowe and Kahn (1987) proposed avoidance of disease and disability as well as maintenance of cognitive capacity, in addition to active engagement as a model for SA (1997, as cited in Bee & Boyd, 2011).
Correspondingly and contrary to negative stereotypes which label old adults as ‘too old’, the great majority of older Australians are active and healthy and view their health positively. Australia’s health and aged care systems as well as a variety of funding support health of the aged in Australia (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2003a). ABS National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing (Australian Institute of Health & Welfare 2002b) reported a lower level of mental disorders among Australian older people as they are affected less by panic attacks and depression. However, this doesn’t dismiss the fact that an estimated 10-15% of Australian elders are affected by depression or anxiety (Haralambos, 2009). By-and-large on similar ground, Javadi, Mohammadi, Jafaraghaee, and Mehrdad (2015) find Iranian elders discounting disease as a barrier to successful ageing however chronic diseases and frequent hospitalization impact SA. The Iranian elderly population maintain their health by seeking health information and regular check-ups. Besides, by undertaking learning activities such as reading books and browsing the media they tend to prevent cognitive issues such as dementia and Alzheimer; thereby, safeguard themselves against any possible psychological problems such as anxiety and depression (Zanjari et al. 2019).
One major difference in health issue relevant to the aged population in the two societies seems to be the level and extent of health care administrated by the state to the elderly. Compared to Australia, Iran lacks sufficient supplementary medical and educational support services dedicated to its aged population (Noroozian, 2012).
While old age is marked by the dawn of reduction of activity and paid work, financial security plays a significant role in life satisfaction and an anxiety-free life (Rickwood 2005). Pension and retirement schemes executed by governments as well as the organizational services may lessen the burden of worry over finance among the older adults and prevent social isolation, loneliness, and distress. According to Javadi et al. (2015), Iranian elderly support themselves financially by means of relying on a pension, savings, and homeownership. Thus, they protect themselves against possible economic threats and dependence on their children or residing in nursing homes.
In Australia, financial security counts as one of the major components of personal wellbeing (Cummins et al. 2002a). Also, Minister for Ageing (2002, p.i) stated ‘future retirement income needs are not a major concern in Australia given that a ‘sound retirement incomes system, projected growth of superannuation assets and accumulation of private savings will ensure adequate retirement incomes.’ Therefore, the aged section of the society has the capability to finance themselves in both Iran and Australia.
Palmore (1975) mentions that ageing in societies oriented by spiritual thinking believing in life after is held positively while western cultures, influenced by less spiritual orientation and inclined to youth-focused-values, tend to hold ageing less favourably. Zanjari et al (2019) in their framework of SA among Iranian elders count spirituality as influential factors in SA. They posit spirituality, religious beliefs and behaviours such as going to the mosque, praying to God and being honest as important components in the formation of successful ageing. Besides, it may trigger activities based on participation in religious ceremonies which promotes further socialization and activity.
While spiritual care is considered as a way of helping older people in their search for hope and meaning especially when they face issues of grief, loss and uncertainty, Hughes, Bellamy & Black (1998) mention spiritual life as important for two-thirds of Australian elders as they find meaning, peace, and wellbeing in their lives.
I reflect that spiritual beliefs may ease the way of accepting and preparing for death as well. According to my personal beliefs, building of therapeutic relationships is very important in order to provide elderly care. The aspects of empathy, support and respect are important for addressing the needs of the elderly. The older adults witness various fears with the decline in the cognitive ability. It becomes important for the counsellor to be aware of the capacity of the client for better decision making in the process of counselling. Another important finding from the above discussion is it also becomes important for the counsellor to keep in consideration the cultural aspects of the client while conducting the counselling sessions.
SA is affected by different physical, cognitive, and psychological factors. While SA could be considered as a culturally-bound concept finding different definitions in different societies, it seems that developing integrity leads to life satisfaction and promotes acceptance of age-related changes and deficiencies in both societies of Iran and Australia. At the same time, many factors in personal life in both societies including reminiscence and wisdom, connection with family, active engagement in social activities, maintenance of health, financial security, and spirituality contribute to achieving a sense of integrity, well-being, and satisfaction in old age. However, the definite role of medical, psychological, and recreational support services provided by the government to the elder population is not on an equal level in the two countries.
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