Another form of discrimination faced by older adults lies in the LGBT community. As estimated by, (Fredriksen-Goldsen, Kim, Shiu, Goldsen & Emlet, 2015) “2. 4% of adults aged 50 and older identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. ” This accounts for more than 2. 4 million older adults, in the United States. In comparison to heterosexuals of the same age, lesbian, gay male and bisexual older adults are more likely to experience mental distress. Due to their life course and different historical events, older adults grew up in a society that did not necessarily accept people who were gay or lesbian (Fredriksen-Goldsen et al. 2015).
This forced them to stay silent about their sexual orientation throughout their life and possibly into old age. This kind of experience that one goes through is determined to have an effect on the mental health of individuals. I believe that more research needs to be done about LGBT older adults and that the necessary steps that need to be taken to make them feel comfortable in who they truly are, as they age. As mentioned, older adults face discrimination that people in other stages of life do not necessarily understand, but will eventually one day go through the same situations.
However, minorities, in particular, immigrants, face a different disadvantage. They experience discrimination throughout their life including right up to old age. The mental health of an individual has many factors and one of them includes immigration. Individuals who immigrate to a new country at a later age tend to experience a loss of connection with family members and a loss of social status that they may have had back home. A lot of immigrants leave their home country involuntarily which results in a loss of control over their lives because they did not have a say in whether they want to leave or not.
Life circumstances such as a war in their home country could force them to move from their home. An individual who migrates to a new country will have difficulties adjusting no matter what their age is; however, an older individual faces even more hardships along the way. The losses that one goes through along with the addition of stressors that are related to old age tend to result in isolation from society. Due to the fact that these individual’s are in a new country, they do not know many people and are not well informed about the resources available to them especially because they may not know how to navigate the new country.
According to (Khanlou, N. , Pilkington, Beryl, & Springer, 2015) this is problematic, “as seen by a study that showed that the amount of social support received by immigrants and refugees determined their feelings of isolation versus belonging. ” The language barrier that immigrant older adults struggle with is something that is indicated to be one of the most significant barriers in making a connection with the new community that they reside in and it results in a negative effect on their mental health (Khanlou, N. , et al, 2015). All individuals deserve a safe space and to feel that they are a part of something; that they belong somewhere.
Apocalyptic demography, which is a concept that “describes the process of overstating the negative effects of demographic trends, particularly of population aging, for society” (Funk, 2016) may have an effect on older adults mental health. Our society continuously tells individuals that as you age your life will become unsatisfying and because you are aging you are bringing the rest of society down with you. This will no doubt be in the mind of those who are aging and those who are already at an old age, which can cause them to have a negative self-perception due to the message that is out there in society.
Having a negative self-perception of oneself can in turn lead to mental health outcomes that are negative as well. Individuals may even want to alter their features by using cosmetic surgery. The cosmetic surgery could go wrong and this could then make them feel even less adequate at continuing the journey of life. A person may not want to be seen in public or interact with others if they feel terrible about themselves and instead will isolate themselves away from the society that sees them as a negative contribution.
The opposite of apocalyptic demography is positive ageism. Which, according to (Funk, 2016) is “an overemphasis on positive images of aging, which can inadvertently devalue & actually stigmatize older persons who cannot meet this ideal. ” This is similar to the kind of pressure young adults may be faced with as they enter their career or begin to start a family. If society puts emphasis on positive ageism then those who are unable to meet those standards may feel that they are not aging the way they should be.
This kind of pressure builds up in enormous ways. For instance, if an older adult does not have the time or is having a decline in their health and is unable to volunteer they may feel that they are not contributing to society the way they should be. This could cause them to isolate themselves because they do not want others to know about their failures, as seen in the eyes of society. The importance of helping older adults feel part of the community is essential. It is also crucial that older adults have support from individuals other than their spouse.
The results of informal support from other family members as well as friends have seen to help lower depression in older adults (Muramatsu, Yin & Hedeker, 2010). When an individual is adjusting to old age, retirement or a decline in health, it can invoke uncertainty and hopelessness (Muramatsu, Yin & Hedeker, 2010). Having somebody to lean on during difficult times is likely to reduce stress and anxiety about difficult situations. Although, the most efficient support comes from those who an individual is close to and knows well, some older adults may not have that kind of support.
Therefore, it is essential to have support from outside sources that could help the individual adjust to their new life. For instance, volunteers who can keep the older adult company within the community. This could build the relationship among the community as well as allow the older adult to feel loved and cared for even though they may not have a family of their own. According to (Futeran, S. , & Draper, B, 2012) a study found that meeting the needs of patients, in particular their social needs resulted in a better quality of life for the older adults.
Also, (Apesoa-Varano, Barker, & Hinton, 2015) mention that if depression in late-life is left untreated it will results in a poor quality of life. The social needs of an older adult are important because all individuals, young or old, need someone to talk to and express their feelings to. We should be putting ourselves the shoes of those who we will one day become. We will all grow old and be faced with the same circumstances. It is important to have social support surrounding older adults so that they feel loved and cared for and to assure them they are not a burden to us. Social isolation is very difficult for a person to go through.
According to (Cornwell & Waite, 2009) it has been found that the health risks, which are associated with social isolation, are comparable to the dangers associated with smoking cigarettes and obesity. Also, “individuals who lack social connections or report frequent feelings of loneliness tend to suffer higher rates of morbidity and mortality as well as depression and cognitive decline” (Cornwell & Waite, 2009). At times it can be very difficult for older adults to stay social due to issues such as health problems that can get in the way of their normal day-to-day routines.
Older adults may not be able to drive anymore therefore do not have a way of getting to social events. Sometimes, older adults may even feel that they are a burden to those who help them out and instead decide not ask for help. Cornwell & Wait, 2009 also state that individuals who do not experience loneliness on a regular basis and who do receive social support tend to have better coping skills, greater self-esteem and a sense of a control. I believe that as a society we need to work on spreading a positive message for every individual. Life should not be about meeting the standards that are placed upon us by others.
Everyone has a different path that they will embark on and some paths will be similar, as well. We need to support each other and encourage each other to believe in ourselves instead of bringing one another down. We need to talk about mental health as something that can decline for every one at every stage of life and that it is okay to be sad but that there are things that can be done to feel happy again. There should be more programs available for older adults to participate in that can make them feel part of the community but without making them feel like they are “old.
As well as making the word “old” not mean a negative thing but simply some thing that all individuals will eventually have to deal with. We should allow older adults to participate in cosmetic surgery if that is something that would make one happy but also encourage aging without cosmetic surgery if that is what makes another happy. The media is a crucial source of information and it would be beneficial if it contributed to older adults being seen in movies and TV shows on a more regular basis.
This would allow older adults to see themselves portrayed instead of only seeing “young” actors and could in turn contribute to their mental health in a positive way. Another way to contribute to the mental health of older adults would be to never make any situation as “us vs. them. ” Even if an older adult is experiencing health decline or issues with their mental health, they should be treated as an equal. We should look at the common problem in society that alters older individuals mental health rather than putting the blame on them as individuals.