By Anita S. Harbert, Leon H. Ginsberg
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Additional resources for Human services for older adults: concepts and skills
Social Age and Age Grading Aging in the everyday interactional world is socially defined. To be ''old" or "elderly" is to have reached some social milestone. The term age-grading refers to age positions and the system developed by a culture to give order and predictability to the individual's life course. Students entering college define themselves and behave differently than they did earlier as seniors in high school, because they now occupy a different position. Different things are expected of them, and their behavior is judged accordingly.
Studies suggest there is no simple answer to the question of whether problem-solving abilities increase or decrease with age. Some evidence suggests that as people age, their knowledge increases, and this strengthens their problem-solving ability. Furthermore, how effectively older people solve problems is determined by whether the problem contains familiar or unfamiliar elements. Problems containing familiar elements are frequently solved more quickly by older people than by young people. Other evidence suggests that older individuals do not function as effectively where speed or pressure are concerned.
Where once the image of the elderly was of frailty, there are now energy and curiosity, courses to take, choirs to join, diets to break, children to counsel, battles to fight, whims to follow. But with these come other, less cheering images and prospects. Among them is the still haunting presence of the elderly poor, most of them widows, many of them black, collapsing into a safety net that cannot support their weight. The well-being of America's senior citizens, though far greater than 20 years ago, is by no means universal.