Gerontological counseling

Research Paper (postgraduate) 2010 54 Pages

Psychology - General


Table of Content


Chapter One
1.2. History of gerontology
1.3.Baby boomer
1.5.Aging and end of life issues:
1.6.Impact on history and culture:
1.7.Differences in the Baby Boomer Generation
1.8.Current Challenges and Issues Facing Baby Boomers
1.9.Baby Boomers Are Encountering Economically Driven Social Issues
1.10.Boomers Are Reconfiguring Their Work and Their Retirement Patterns
1.11.Relationship Difficulties Are Prevalent Among Baby Boomers
1.12.Demographics of Today's Baby Boomers
1.13.Tomorrow's Challenges and Opportunities for Baby Boomers

Chapter Two
2.0.Gerontological Counseling Comes of Age
2.1.Brief Reflection on Aging in History:
2.2.Important Considerations
2.3.What Counselors Should Know
2.4.Promoting Self-Empowerment Through Gerontological Counseling
2.5.Standards for Gerontological Counseling
2.6.Counseling Theories for Use With Aging Baby Boomers
2.7.Competencies Necessary for Working With Aging Baby Boomers

Chapter Three
3.0. Ageing
3.2.Life divided into various ages
3.3.Ages can also be divided by decade:
3.4.Cultural variations
3.6.Causes of ageing

Chapter Four
4.0.Theories on the Causes of Aging
4.1.Theoretical Disclaimer
4.2.Current theories can, in general, be separated into two groups:
4.3.DNA Damage/Repair Theory
4.4.Free Radicals & Anti-Oxidants
4.5.Free radicals wreak havoc at a cellular level since they are able to:
4.7.Known antioxidants include:
4.8.The Free Radical / Oxidation Theory
4.9.Mitochondrial DNA Theory
4.10.Radiation Theory
4.11.Disposable Soma Theory
4.12.Genetic Theory
4.13.Immunological Theory
4.14.Telomere Theory
4.15.Is the Aging Process Variable?
4.16.Possibilities of Increased Lifespan
4.17.The ageing process
4.18.Normal Aging and Disease
4.19.What do these age-related changes in our body systems mean?
4.20.Slowing the ageing process
4.21.Slowing the "aging process"
4.22.The Evolutionary Causes of Aging and Death
4.23.Different causes of aging



My profound gratitude goes to Almighty God and my Savior Jesus Christ who made it possible for me to complete this course successfully. I am indebted to several researchers, writers who have accelerated the development of the literature on gerontological counseling. First of all, my parents should accept my appreciation and commendations for giving birth to me and for relentless rearing me to the apogee of their preference, even at death. My special thanks go to Dr Dawn Ring, my academic advisor in my Master degree program, Dr Edgar Colon, Dr Lauran Benjamin and Dr Franklin Valcin, my academic advisors in my doctorate degree program, in Atlantic International University for their untiring assistance. I am very grateful to them for the pains they took in reading through my academic course works and ensuring that I get the best out of my life endeavor. I am most grateful to every one of them for the painstaking in reading through my papers,line upon line, correcting mistakes and at the same time offering me useful suggestions at anytime I deviate in other to bring out the very best in me while writing this paper. My special thanks go to the Academic Department and Student Services of the Atlantic International University (AIU) for their moral support and encouragement and profitable academic interaction. I must also thank the Financial Department for the “Flexible Payment Plan “and even when I was not able to met up with the tuition fee due to some financial difficulties their tolerance and understanding always boost my morale and determination to persevere. I am highly indebted to Dr Jacqueline E. Edwards, who facilitate my Admission process (Admission Counselor) and also made herself accessible while in her ill condition throughout this course in counseling, Advising and directing me to get the best out of this study. My special thanks goes to Mr Biam (Director Police Pension Office), Mr Esai Dangabar (Director Police Pension Office),Mallam,Atiku,A.Kigo (Director Police Pension Office), Mrs Uzuoma Attang and all the past and present directors of the police pension office for their morale and financial support and encouragement. I am also very grateful to my dearly beloved wife, Faith Nnenna Osemeka for remaining relatively calm and supportive even when my academic works began to absorb a frighteningly large percentage of my waking and sleeping hours. I thank her for her concern and uncompromising demand for excellence in whatever I do.

Finally, I am beholden to my children; Caleb Osemeka, Emmanuel Osemeka, Elijah Osemeka, and David Osemeka for enduring my denial of attention during the period of the work. Notwithstanding the help and encouragement I received from these individuals, imperfections and errors of omission or commission in this thesis are entirely my responsibility.

Chapter One


The Second World War (WWII) was fought by America’s “Great Generation” (Brokaw 1998) when the war ended, all who had been involved, both in military and civilian capacities, celebrated. Then began the task of creating the postwar nation and society. Perhaps because of their wartime challenges, the predominant values of this Greatest Generation have been identified as “responsibility, duty, honor, and faith”(Brokaw, 1998).Because they had experienced the sacrifices and the atrocities of war, their maturation processes were accelerated. In record numbers, they married and gave birth to a phenomenal number of infants, 76million in the 18years between 1946 and 1964. This group of infants, now between 40 and 58 year old, became known as the baby boomer generation. Many researchers (Moen 1998; Morgan 1998; wong, 2002) have described this generation as unique beyond its number. The year 1946, with the return of the soldiers from WWII, unstandably seen as the beginning of the baby boomer generation, whereas 1964 is viewed as the end of the “boom”. In1965, the fertility rate in America returned to pre-WWII levels. Consider, for example that member of the baby boomer generation(76million) make up over 40% of the adult population in the United states. When compared with their parents (26 million) and those who followed members of Generation X(46million). The first of the baby boomers entered their 7th decade of life in 2006, and they constituted the largest number of persons ever born in a single generation(in case only 18years) from 1905 until the end of the 20th century in the United states. Baby boomers some of whom has attended the age of 55 to 60 in the year 2006, which make up the largest 5 year of age group born in the 20th century(Morgan 1998). The appearance of such a large population bubble containing a record number of aging individual led Wong(2002) to comment “if aging was a disease in this country, public heath might declare it a national epidemic(p.3).

1.2. History of gerontology

It may be said that the history of gerontology begins with agriculture; prior to this the hunter-gatherer societies that existed could only support a marginal existence: food supply was short; frequent movement a necessity. These and other reasons meant that extremely few reached 'old age'. However, it could be argued that in a society with a life expectancy of 14 (such as 10,000 BC), being '40' was 'old'. Things changed with the coming of agriculture. A more stable food supply and the lack of frequent movement meant that humans could now survive longer, and beginning perhaps around 4000 BC, a regular segment of the population began to attain 'old age' in places such as Mesopotamia and the Indus river valleys. Agriculture didn't simply bring a steady food supply; it also suddenly made older persons an economic benefit instead of a burden. Older persons could stay and watch the farm (or children); make pottery or jewelry, and perform social functions, such as story-telling (oral tradition, religion, etc). and teaching the younger generation techniques for farming, tool-making, etc. After this change, the views of elder persons in societies waxed and waned, but generally the proportion of the population over 50 or 60 remained small. Note that in ancient Egypt, Pharaoh Pepi II was said to have lived to 100 years old. Certainly Ramses II lived to about 90; modern scientific testing of his mummy supports the written record. Ancient Greeks valued old persons for their wisdom (some reaching 80, 90, or 100 years old), while old age was devalued in Roman times. In the medieval Islamic world, elderly people were valued by Muslim physicians. Avicenna's The Canon of Medicine (1025) was the first book to offer instruction for the care of the aged, foreshadowing modern gerontology and geriatrics. In a chapter entitled "Regimen of Old Age", Avicenna was concerned with how "old folk need plenty of sleep", how their bodies should be anointed with oil, and recommended exercises such as walking or horse-riding. Thesis III of the Canon discussed the diet suitable for old people, and dedicated several sections to elderly patients who become constipated. The Canon of Medicine recognized four periods of life: the period of growth, prime of life, period of elderly decline (from forty to sixty), and decrepit age. He states that during the last period, "there is hardness of their bones, roughness of the skin, and the long time since they produced semen, blood and vaporal breath". However, he agreed with Galen that the earth element is more prominent in the aged and decrepit than in other periods. Avicenna did not agree with the concept of infirmity, however, stating: "There is no need to assert that there are three states of the human body sickness, health and a state which is neither health nor disease. The first two cover everything." The famous Arabic physician, Ibn Al-Jazzar Al-Qayrawani (Algizar, circa 898-980), also wrote a special book on the medicine and health of the elderly, entitled Kitab Tibb al-Machayikh or Teb al-Mashaikh wa hefz sehatahom. He also wrote a book on sleep disorders and another one on forgetfulness and how to strengthen memory, entitled Kitab al-Nissian wa Toroq Taqwiati Adhakira, and a treatise on causes of mortality entitled Rissala Fi Asbab al-Wafah. Another Arabic physician in the 9th century, Ishaq ibn Hunayn (died 910), the son of Hunayn Ibn Ishaq, wrote a Treatise on Drugs for Forgetfulness (Risalah al-Shafiyah fi adwiyat al-nisyan). In medieval Europe on the other hand, during its Dark Ages, negative opinions of the elderly prevailed; old women were often burned at the stake as witches. However, with the coming of the Renaissance old age returned to favor in Europe, as persons such as Michelangelo and Andrea Doria exemplified the ideals of living long, active, productive lives.While the number of aged humans, and the maximum ages lived to, tended to increase in every century since the 1300s, society tended to consider caring for an elderly relative as a family issue. It was not until the coming of the Industrial Revolution with its techniques of mass production that ideas shifted in favor of a societal care-system. Care homes for the aged emerged in the 1800s. Note that some early pioneers, such as Michel Eugene Chevreul, who himself lived to be 102 in the 1880s, believed that aging itself should be a science to be studied. The word itself was coined circa 1903. It was not until the 1940s, however, that pioneers like James Birren began organizing 'gerontology' into its own field. Recognizing that there were experts in many fields all dealing with the elderly, it became apparent that a group like the Gerontological Society of America was needed (founded in 1945).

Two decades later, James Birren was appointed as the founding director of the first academic research center devoted exclusively to the study of aging, the Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center at the University of Southern California. In 1975, the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology became the first academic gerontology department, with Birren as its founding dean.In the 1950s to the 1970s, the field was mainly social and concerned with issues such as nursing homes and health care. However, research by Leonard Hayflick in the 1960s (showing that a cell line culture will only divide about 50 times) helped lead to a separate branch, biogerontology. It became apparent that simply 'treating' aging wasn't enough. Finding out about the aging process, and what could be done about it, became an issue. The biogerontological field was also bolstered when research by Cynthia Kenyon and others demonstrated that life extension was possible in lower life forms such as fruit flies, worms, and yeast. So far, however, nothing more than incremental (marginal) increases in life span have been seen in any mammalian species.Today, social gerontology remains the largest sector of the field, but the biogerontological side is seen as being the 'hot' side.


(old man) is the study of the social, psychological and biological aspects of aging. It is distinguished from geriatrics, which is the branch of medicine that studies the disease of the elderly. Gerontology includes these and other endeavors:Studying physical, mental, and social changes in people as they age;

- Investigating the aging process itself (biogerontology);
- Investigating the interface of normal aging and age-related disease (geroscience);
- Investigating the effects of our aging population on society, including the fiscal effects of pensions, entitlements, life and health insurance, and retirement planning;
- Applying this knowledge to policies and programs, including a macroscopic (i.e. government planning) and microscopic (i.e. running a nursing home) perspective.

The multidisciplinary focus of gerontology means that there are a number of sub-fields, as well as associated fields such as psychology and sociology that also cross over into gerontology. However, that there is an overlap should not be taken as to construe that they are the same. For example, a psychologist may specialize in early adults (and not be a gerontologist) or specialize in older adults (and be a gerontologist).The field of gerontology was developed relatively late, and as such often lacks the structural and institutional support needed (for example, relatively few universities offer a Ph.D. in gerontology). Yet the huge increase in the elderly population in the post-industrial Western nations has led to this becoming one of the most rapidly growing fields. As such, gerontology is currently a well-paying field for many in the West.

1.3.Baby boomer

1.3.0.Baby boomer

is a term used to describe a person who was born during the demographic Post-World War II baby boom. The term "baby boomer" is sometimes used in a cultural context, and sometimes used to describe someone who was born during the post-WWII baby boom. Therefore, it is impossible to achieve broad consensus of a precise definition, even within a given territory. Different groups, organizations, individuals, and scholars may have widely varying opinions on what constitutes a baby boomer, both technically and culturally. Ascribing universal attributes to a broad generation is difficult, and some observers believe that it is inherently impossible. Nonetheless, many people have attempted to determine the broad cultural similarities and historical impact of the generation, and thus the term has gained widespread popular usage. In general, baby boomers are associated with a rejection or redefinition of traditional values; however, many commentators have disputed the extent of that rejection, noting the widespread continuity of values with older and younger generations. In Europe and North America boomers are widely associated with privilege, as many grew up in a time of affluence.

As a group, they were the healthiest and wealthiest generation to that time, and amongst the first to grow up genuinely expecting the world to improve with time. One of the unique features of Boomers was that they tended to think of themselves as a special generation, very different from those that had come before. In the 1960s, as the relatively large numbers of young people became teenagers and young adults, they, and those around them, created a very specific rhetoric around their cohort, and the change they were bringing about. This rhetoric had an important impact in the self perceptions of the boomers, as well as their tendency to define the world in terms of generations, which was a relatively new phenomenon. The baby boom has been described variously as a "shockwave" and as "the pig in the python." By the sheer force of its numbers, the boomers were a demographic bulge which remodeled society as it passed through it. The term Generation Jones has gained popularity to distinguish those born 1954-1965 from the earlier Baby Boomers. The United States Census Bureau considers a baby boomer to be someone born during the demographic birth boom between 1946 and 1964. The Census Bureau is not involved in defining cultural generations. Influential authors William Strauss and Neil Howe label American Baby Boomers 1943 to 1960. In Canada, one influential attempt to define the boom came from David Foot, author of Boom, Bust and Echo: Profiting from the Demographic Shift in the 21st Century, published in 1997 and 2000. He defines a Canadian boomer as someone born from 1947 to 1966, the years that more than 400,000 babies were born. However, he acknowledges that is a demographic definition, and that culturally it may not be as clear-cut.. Doug Owram argues that the Canadian boom took place from 1946 to 1962, but that culturally boomers (everywhere) were born between the late war years and about 1955 or 1956. He notes that those born in the years before the actual boom were often the most influential people among boomers. For example, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones), while those born in the 1960s might well feel disconnected from the cultural identifiers of the earlier boomers. Bernard Salt places the Australian baby boom between 1946 and 1961.


1.4.0.Size and economic impact:

Seventy-six million American babies were born between 1946 and 1960, representing cohorts that would be significant on account of its size alone. These cohort shares characteristics like higher rates of participation in higher education than previous generations and an assumption of lifelong prosperity and entitlement developed during their childhood in the 1950s. The age wave theory suggests an economic slowdown when the boomers start retiring during 2007-2009.

1.4.1.Cultural identity:

Boomers grew up at a time of dramatic social change. In the United States, that social change marked the generation with a strong cultural cleavage, between the proponents of social change and the more conservative. Some analysts believe this cleavage has played out politically since the time of the Vietnam War, to some extent defining the political landscape and division in the country. In 1993, Time magazine reported on the religious affiliations of baby boomers. Citing Wade Clark Roof, a sociologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, the articles stated that about 42% of baby boomers were dropouts from formal religion, a third had never strayed from church, and one-fourth of boomers were returning to religious practice. The boomers returning to religion were "usually less tied to tradition and less dependable as church members than the loyalists. They are also more liberal, which deepens rifts over issues like abortion and homosexuality." It is jokingly said that, whatever year they were born, boomers were coming of age at the same time across the world; so that Britain was undergoing Beatlemania while people in the United States were driving over to Woodstock, organizing against the Vietnam War, or fighting and dying in the same war; boomers in Italy were dressing in mod clothes and "buying the world a Coke"; boomers in India were seeking new philosophical discoveries; American boomers in Canada had just found a new home and escaped the draft; Canadian Boomers were organizing support for Pierre Trudeau. It is precisely because of these experiences that many believe those born in the second half of the birth boom belong to another generation, as events that defined their coming of age have little in common with leading or core boomers.

The boomers found that their music, most notably rock and roll, was another expression of their generational identity. Transistor radios were personal devices that allowed teenagers to listen to The Beatles and The Motown Sound. In the 1985 study of US generational cohorts by Schuman and Scott, a broad sample of adults was asked, "What world events over the past 50 years were especially important to them?" For the baby boomers the results were:

- Baby Boomer cohort no,1 (born from circa 1946 to 1955), the young cohort who epitomized the cultural change of the sixties Memorable events: the Cuban Missile Crisis, assassinations of JFK, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., political unrest, walk on the moon, risk of the draft into the Vietnam War, anti-war protests, social experimentation, sexual freedom, drug experimentation, civil rights movement, environmental movement, women's movement, protests and riots, Woodstock, mainstream rock from the Beatles to Jimi Hendrix experimentation with various intoxicating recreational substances Key characteristics: experimental, individualism, free spirited, social cause oriented Key members: Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush

- Baby Boomer cohort no.2 or Generation Jones (born from circa 1956-1964) Memorable events: Watergate, Nixon resigns, the Cold War, lowered drinking age in many states 1970-1976 (followed by raising), the oil embargo, raging inflation, gasoline shortages, Jimmy Carter's imposition of registration for the draft, punk or new wave from Deborah Harry and techno pop to Annie Lennox and MTV Key characteristics: less optimistic, distrust of government, general cynicism Key members: Douglas Coupland who initially was called a Gen Xer but now rejects it and Barack Obama who many national observers have recently called a post-Boomer, and more specifically part of Generation Jones.

1.5.Aging and end of life issues:

As of 1998, it was reported that as a generation boomers had tended to avoid discussions and planning for their demise and avoided much long term planning. However, beginning at least as early as that year, there has been a growing dialogue on how to manage aging and end of life issues as the generation ages. In particular, a number of commentators have argued that Baby Boomers are in a state of denial regarding their own aging and death and are leaving an undue economic burden on their children for their retirement and care.

1.6.Impact on history and culture:

An indication of the importance put on the impact of the boomer was the selection by Time magazine of the Baby Boom Generation as its 1967 "Man of the Year." As Claire Raines points out in ‘Beyond Generation X’, “never before in history had youth been so idealized as they were at this moment.” When Generation X came along it had much to live up to and to some degree has always lived in the shadow of the Boomers, more often criticized (‘slackers’, ‘whiners’ and ‘the doom generation’) than not.

1.7.Differences in the Baby Boomer Generation

Differences exist between the baby boomers and previous generations. We--one of us born in the late Depression and one an early baby boomer--were able to have a candid dialogue about these significant differences and how they will likely affect the ways that the members of the different generations will respond to growing older and to the challenges associated with extended life expectancies. Baby boomers are unlike their parents in the following ways:

- Baby boomers are in better physical health than the generation that preceded them (Zapolsky, 2003).
- Baby boomers are more highly educated with different quality-of-life expectations.
- Baby boomers hold worldviews vastly different because they have been raised in a country at relative peace and have not faced a global war. Furthermore, unlike any prior generation, their worldviews have been expanded by mass media, technological advances, and world travel.
- Baby boomers have not experienced the same struggles, including the deprivations wrought by the early Great Depression, as their parents did.

Fewer tragedies and family sacrifices were the goals set by their parents for the baby boomers, and all this was believed possible because their parents were America's Greatest Generation--strong, courageous, and self-reliant (Brokaw, 1998). Did America's Greatest Generation pass this legacy to its children? The baby boomers did grow up differently than their parents did. They are more affluent than their parents, perhaps because of their education, their courage, or their ingenuity, or a combination of these (Vaillant, as cited in Chesser, 2003). Although the previously cited differences make them unique, these same differences will affect the needs of those baby boomers who will reach their 60s in this decade and the future concerns of the baby boomers who are still in their 40s.

1.8.Current Challenges and Issues Facing Baby Boomers

A few of the challenges facing the baby boomers are similar to those facing the entire United States. In 2003, the United States was at war against terrorism. The country was beginning to emerge from the worst economy in almost a half century and was experiencing changes in traditional (nuclear) family structure. More than 60% of the American public saw the bulk of their retirement savings and investments dwindle. A great number of these Americans with disappearing savings are baby boomers. This is the generation that is "reconfiguring the nature of work, family and retirement" (Moen, 1998, p. 43). These workers will be among those affected by the move to delay payments of Social Security benefits to individuals 67 years or older. Even when the benefits begin, these individuals will almost certainly be unable to depend on Social Security as anything more than a supplement to other resources necessary for the financial demands resulting from increasing life expectancies.

Baby boomers are changing the shape and scope of retirement (Simon-Rusinowitz, Wilson, Marks, Krach, & Welch, 1998). Many will be more affluent than their forebears; some will start new and different careers or jobs when they reach "retirement age." Some baby boomers, because of choice, need, desire, or boredom, will remain in their current positions. Unlike those eligible for retirement in the late 1980s and throughout the early 1990s, Simon-Rusinowitz et al. found that the majority of baby boomers will not be financially secure even at age 67. With the stock market collapse in 2000, along with the tragic events of September 11, 2001, conditions necessary to allow baby boomers to retire will be different.

1.9.Baby Boomers Are Encountering Economically Driven Social Issues

For those baby boomers struggling with finances and unable to consider early retirement, additional concerns are becoming apparent both in the workplace and the greater global economy. One issue is age discrimination. "Fueled by charges from workers in their 40s and 50s, the number of age bias complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) increased by 41% between 1999 and 2002" (Nicholson, 2003, p. 10). Sixty-four percent were complaints from litigants between the ages of 40 to 59. This discrimination is particularly noteworthy for baby boomers because they see themselves as the generation that fought for the equality of all workers and against ageism in the workplace. As children and teenagers, baby boomers experienced the civil rights movements that occurred in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. As young adults, they helped develop some of the core values of U.S. society that prohibit discrimination against any minority group. Regarding the issue of age discrimination, common sense would suggest that as the economy tightens, businesses, industrial organizations, and even educational institutions will find reasons to give incentives to their highest paid employees to retire or resign--or ultimately will force them to do so. The vacancies created by these forced retirements or resignations are often not filled, and the responsibilities of the individuals who held those jobs are assumed by younger, lower paid employees.

This action is already causing older adults to seek counseling for problems and concerns related to stress at work (Valliant, as cited in Chesser, 2003). Two other issues for baby boomers that parallel age discrimination are (a) health care and its escalating cost and (b) the impending potential demise of Social Security benefits (Simon-Rusinowitz et al., 1998). Baby boomers, historically the largest population group, may watch Social Security funds disappear because of their sheer numbers. This is yet another reason to believe that the baby boomer generation will seek counseling more than has any previous generation.

1.10.Boomers Are Reconfiguring Their Work and Their Retirement Patterns

Consultant David Corbett (2003) wrote, "there is an extended middle age these days, and retirement may be delayed by many to age 80 to 85, not necessarily at 60 to 65" (p. A6). This can give pause to those who have thought of aging and "retirement" in a traditional sense. Baby boomers have been the focus of several studies on persons planning to work longer than have members of previous generations ("Boomers at Midlife," 2003; Corbett, 2003; Skorupa, 1999; "Work Life," 2000). Following is a summary of several facts mentioned in the above studies that are common to baby boomers.



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Title: Gerontological counseling