Psychological Competence has a bearing on well-being of older persons and it has positive association with life satisfaction of the elderly. An attempt has been made in this paper to discuss the significance of psychological competence with reference to coping strategies adopted by the elderly and its implication for their life satisfaction and well-being.
KeyWords: Psychological Competence, Coping Strategies, Life Satisfaction, Psychological Distress, Gerontological Social Work
Psychological competence of the individuals is measured in terms of coping strategies and adjustment patterns adopted (Dhillon, 1992). Human aging is a pattern of change in the structure and functioning of the body and adjustment of the person. In order to survive and flourish, one must deal effectively with a variety of physical and social demands. Human beings seem to react in certain way to problem situations in a given environment. When a person is confronted with a problem or a stressful situation he tries to cope up. Different persons follow different ways of coping (Ramamurti and Jamuna, 2003).
Psychological Competence in Old Age: A Review
The psychological competence has a bearing on the life satisfaction of the elderly. It is to be noted that the psychological problem for the aged is caused by a number of factors. It is related to their familial background, support of the family members and kinsmen, economic well being, state of health, ability to participate in economic and familial activities, etc (Sonar, 2010; and Jaiprakash, 2000; and Jane, 2011).
As older people become aware of their reduced competencies, they begin to revise their ideas about themselves. They start coping with reduced income, changes in status, loss of friends and spouse and eventually, their own deteriorating physical health. Psychological changes accompany the passing of years, marked by slowness of thinking, impairment of memory, decrease in enthusiasm, an increasingly cautious approach to life, and alterations in sleeping patterns. Social pressure and inadequate resources create many dysfunctional elements in old age.
Women report lower life satisfaction and higher psychological distress. Depression is the most common symptom reported in women (Jaiprakash, 2000). Kariguda (2001) reveals that the problems 'Of older women were not due to the ageing process. They were the products of the subordinate status of women through their life cycle. In order to get a better deal for the elderly women, both the increasing sexism and ageism need to be countered in the system of family, religion, market and the State.
Singh (1999) reveals that the aged males have got more liberty, power and privilege than females in tribal community. The socialization of female aged was tied up with their traditional bondages. Hence, the aged women get isolated and such kind of isolation leads to psychological stressors. Thus, the gender variable has a bearing on psychological health of the aged women in a tribal community.
Patil (2000) finds that the age had a significant positive relationship with psychological distress and significant negative relationship with attitude towards physical changes. Subsequently, a positive relationship was observed between per capita income and social relationship. Further, she also noticed a positive relationship between leisure time utilization and social security.
Jaiprakash (2000) reveals that the psychiatric illnesses are generally observed among elderly people. Psychological illness associated with physical illness and disability or handicap. Mental health of older persons not only depends on ageing changes in the body and brain, but also by socio-economic and psychological factors (Jamuna, 1998).
Cavan (1946) has explored that old age brings a reduction in memory and subjects the aged to varied kinds of mental illness. The old age comes with worry over finance, anxiety over health, feeling of being unwanted, isolated and lonely, feeling of guilt, irritation, untidiness, uncleanliness, inability to adjust to changed conditions and decreased social contacts and participation.
The non-institutionalized older people tend to be better adjusted than institutionalized and geriatric patients. A younger generation, as well as elderly themselves, view institutionalization of the elderly unfavorably, partly due to the deep rooted tradition that it was the duty of the children and family to care of the elderly. Some of the factors found to influence the adjustment of the elderly include rigidity, opportunities for involvement, attitudes to the future and death, and the state of physical and mental health (Ramamurti and Jamuna, 1993).
Most of the aged people in the country are neglected a lot and leading a "bitter life". In urban areas they have virtually been isolated while this process has started in the rural areas too (Hussain, 1997). Chaudhary (2002) has pointed out that elderly begin to feel isolated when the children do not look upon them with that degree of respect, which they used to get some years earlier. The elderly also feel neglected" and humiliated. This may lead to the development of psychology of shunning the company of others. Loneliness in turn may give rise to depression and may eventually lead to worsening of sickness.
There are many emotions generally observed in the human beings. Few emotions are negatively toned and some are positively toned. The positive or negative toned emotions of the human beings, in general, and aged in particular, have a bearing on the life satisfaction, happiness, coping and adjustment and successful aging. According to Lazarus (1999) the account of the emotions begins with the nasty emotions such as, anger, hostility, envy and jealousy (Jane, 2011).
The existential emotions are reactions to threats to an identity as persons in societies in which one lives; they concern who helshe is, what he/she stands for. They are, of course, stress emotions. The most obvious existential emotions are the anxiety-fright, guilt and shame. The emotions provoked by unfavorable life conditions are the relief, hope and sadness-depression.
The empathic emotions include gratitude and compassion, both of which require the capacity for empathy, which means to place himlher emotionally within a suffering person (Arati, 2009). This capacity is often assumed to be universal in human beings. The emotions provoked by the favourable life conditions are the happiness-joy, pride, and love. These emotions are considered to be positively toned because much of the times the conditions that arouse them make one feel good.
'Coping refers broadly to the efforts to manage environmental and internal demands and conflicts among demands' (Reddy, 1988:57). Coping is to "face, encounter or overcome problems and difficulties" (Reddy, 1990:153). A human being throughout his/her life desires self respect, respect from others, to be useful, to be able to enjoy new pleasures, accept new challenges, be a part of the present and future, to free oneself from over-powering physical needs, excessive stress and anxiety and to function up to one's potential and capacity (Dhillon and Chhabra, 1992).
Elderly try to manage and cope up with socio-cultural, psychological, economic, occupational, physical and health problems in their own way. How they manage and make the situation balanced depends upon the individual inherent capabilities and their different backgrounds. If one could have better adjustment, it may enable them to avoid emotionally disturbing situations or strategies that help them better in coping with stressful situations.
Generally, five coping mechanisms are adopted by every human being, viz., constructive, defensive, dependency, hostility and self-hate. Constructive approach is adopted by the elderly who is economically independent, have social support and emotional stability and confident to deal with a stressful situation. Defensive approach is adopted by the elderly who is either economically independent or have social support but emotionally stable and confident to deal with a stressful situation. Dependency approach is adopted by the elderly who is economically independent or dependent and have presence or absence of social support but posses emotional stability and confident to deal with a stressful situation by seeking help from others.
Hostility approach is adopted by the elderly who is economically sound but lack social support and emotional instability and not confident to deal with a stressful situation. They blame others for their helpless situation. Self-hate approach adopted by the elderly who are either economically sound or have social support and emotionally instable and not confident to deal with stressful situation. They blame themselves for the helpless situation.
The psychological competence of elderly can be empowered through social work intervention in collaboration with Government and Non-Governmental Organization. Elderly should be made aware of their rights and available services. Community based awareness campaigns should be undertaken by social workers, to educate the school children and the community members about the elderly so that they can change their attitude. The school curriculum may include the issues of cultural values, ethics, and morality and importance of elderly generation. The counselling centre and help line for the aged need to be started for timely advice and help. Integrated sustainable programmes shall be devised to provide psycho-social competence to the elderly in order to make them resourceful, knowledgeable, skilled, educated, healthy and active. Gerontological social work need to emerge as a specialized area to address specific needs of )he elderly. Integrated practice of social work methods shall be indigenized for a meaningful intervention to work with the elderly by professional social workers. Health, mental health, social security and social capital shall be the core areas of intervention for social workers.
Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work, Rani Channamma University, P.G.Centre, "Vachanasangama", Torvi, Bijapur
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