Psychological Changes in a Human When He Grows Old

by Audrey Brown June 14, 2016
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What are the different transitions associated with the human life stages? What are there association with the different phases of a human life cycle?



When one considers the different transitions associated with the human life stages, many of them are associated with childhood, youth and middle age and are talked about and studied more than the life transitions that happen during old age. One such transition in the last decades of human life is becoming a grandparent. In this essay we are going to look at the elements of this transition and its impact on relationships and concepts of self as well as what the literature has to say about this stage of life.
Many of us dream and prepare for being parents from when we are children and often have an idea of what kind of parent we would like to be. Sometimes reality is the same as our ideas and sometimes parenting turns out to be different, more difficult or more rewarding, but in any case, parenthood is often anticipated and planned more than grandparenthood.
Let us now look at some predictable and unpredictable elements of becoming a grandparent. The first unpredictable element of being a grandparent is that unlike choosing to become a parent, becoming a grandparent depends on the choice made by another individual – a son or daughter, to become a parent.
The first time one hears the news about becoming a grandparent can be a delightful or a stressful event (Cunningham-Burley, 1986). To some prospective grandparents, having grandchildren comes as a sign that old age has arrived and can become a cause of stress. In today’s society, grandparents are increasingly assuming the role of caretakers for their grandchildren (Bert Hayslip Jr, 2005) and the anticipated changes in lifestyle and also the changing perception of themselves as now officially entering old age can be a cause for stress for many people who become grandparents for the first time in a society where youth is valued over old age. (John Bond, 2007)
In relation to the concept of self, of an aged person, grandparenthood is being presented as a way of bringing “agefulness” into old age in a society which values youth over old age. (Gerben J Westerhoff, 2007). While the nature of grandparenting can vary depending on age, socioeconomic factors, sex and the ethnicity of the person involved (Erber, 2011), we live in a society where older people who have to deal with the loss of many of their physical faculties due to ageing are finding it difficult to be accepted for their wider experience of life and the wisdom they bring to various life situations. (John Bond, 2007). In such a scenario, grandparenthood becomes a way of passing on their skills and life experiences as well as being a meaningful contributor to the family and society, inspite of their reduced physical faculties and earning capacity. Thus grandparenthood can lead to an increased concept of self for an aged person, making them feel that they are contributing to family life in a meaningful way.
Research findings show that the stress factor in becoming a grandparent has decreased over the last couple of decades and many grandparents report an increase in their sense of being well connected with becoming a grandparent. (Donald C. Reitzes, 2004) In fact, in the same research many people report more satisfaction in their grandparent identities when compared to their other adult identities (Donald C. Reitzes, 2004). This is a significant finding from which I would like to infer that grandparenting is less stressful than parenting, which could be an area of future study. The increased sense of well being in becoming a grandparent could be because of the less active role of parenting required in becoming a grandparent (Jetse Spray, 1982)
When the expectations and experiences of grandparenthood were compared using sex of grandparents and lineage as criteria, it was found that the experience of grandparenthood was different for men and women. Grandmothers reported more satisfaction in being a grandparent than grandfathers and maternal grandparents were more satisfied with their experience of being grandparents. (Karen Somary, 1998) An interesting work on the influence of grandparents speaks of the role of grandparents as rescuers during family crisis in a society with an increasing number of teenage pregnancies, single parents and working parents. (Szinovácz, 1998)
The study of grandparenthood has changed over the decades to include various dimensions. The developmental gains for children due to the influence of grandparents and the major influence of grandparents on grandchildren’s socialisation as well as their vital role in family life has received a lot of attention in recent years. (Szinovácz, 1998) High levels of youth achievement are expected when there is an incidence of higher education among grandparents combined with high levels of youth-grandparent interaction (Karen Albright, 2004).

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