Aging in Mexican/Mexican-American culture
The stereotyping and the tendency to discriminate people on the basis of their age is called ageism. It is usually demonstrated by ignoring or failing to involve the old people in making key decisions because of their age. This is usually exercised by the younger people usually in their middle ages. The aged people are usually labeled using humorous quotes through media. Such words like some body is over the hill or the use of provoking words like fuddy-duddy when referring to the old people implies that the old lack competence and full of impotence.
Several terms are used in reference to the old people. Since old age is used when a person’s age is just near or has surpassed the average human life expectancy and therefore towards the end of his or her life, terms like senior citizens are mostly used in the Mexican-American context. Others like the elderly or people at old age are commonly used by the young generation. Most people in Mexico are not comfortable with being referred to by their age especially when they are not too old. However, people who are just nearing the average lifespan are comfortable with being called old because most belief early stages of old age is associated with more responsibility. Most elderly people retain their status at old age by remaining responsible in the way they talk and behave (Richard, 2000,p.91).
Feminization of aging is a term used to refer to the tendency of most women being at the old age category of social groups. As in all parts of the world, the life expectancy of women living in Mexico or embacing the Mexican-American culture is longer than that of men. Specifically, it is the trend of women to outlive men by seven years on average. In Mexico, for every 1000 women who are above the age of 60, there are about 657 male counterparts above that age limit. Feminization of aging is more pronounced in the populations of developing countries wit about 893 men per every 1000 women at old age. This implies that the feminization of aging in mexico/ mexican american culture follows the trend in other western countries.
There are a number of special needs for the elderly that need to be fulfilled. These needs are unique to the mexican senior citizens. They include assisted living, day care for the elderly, long term care, home care among others. The elderly require assisted arrangement for proper medical services, good healthy practices and dental care because they are prone to age related complications (Thomas,2003,p.154). In centers for assisted living, residents or elderly who have been incapacitated by illness or recuperation from surgical operation remain in the residence or are allowed to go to a rehabilitation center where their special needs can be met. The aged may require wheelchairs and new buildings should be designed in such a way to accommodate the use of wheel chairs. Old age is usually associated with mental disabilities and therefore those affected need special attention. The bones of the elderly are very feeble, their bodies weak and wearing out and their health is at stake. The elderly need arrangements for special meals that meet their special energy requirements, meals with sufficient protein giving ingredients for repair of their ever wearing out bodies, meals with abundant vitamins for proper functioning of the body and healthy living and finally meals with plenty of mineral rich foods to supply Ca for strong bones and Mg for healthy blood. Abundant clean and safe drinking water should be supplied, for this helps in eliminating wastes and therefore healthier living. In mexico, aging people have been advised to avoid foodstuffs that are risky to their lives like meat with too much fat, alcohol, excess salt and excess sugar (Nicholas,2000,p.64).
Here, most people at old age spend what they had reserved during their working age and are basically non productive. To avoid stress due to lack of finances, arrangements should be done to ensure these people’s economic needs are catered for. They should be enrolled for the social welfare programs like the food stamps (Iglesias,2001,p.40).
The aged also have got their own activities of daily living which they normally do to ensure continuity of their long lives. These activities include those related to self care like preparing food and feeding themselves, bathing , proper dressing, grooming, normal work at home, home making and leisure activities. As they grow older, people find it difficult to walk around or carry things. For example, in order to take a bath, they need to go to the shop to purchase soap. Their sight has become poor, they lack money and the walking itself is a problem. This makes bathing a real problem unless they are assisted. Their activity is minimal and therefore they reduce the rate of taking bathe. As mexicans grow older, fashion loses meaning and dressing mode is very simple. At very old age, dressing may be difficult and may require assistance from their care taker. Another activity that is non static is food preparation and self feeding. This activity is left to care takers and this reduces the chances of the aged people cooking their favorite dishes. At very old age or when age related sicknesses strike, they are unable to feed themselves. Generally, the more they grow older, the more the people develop what can be considered as bad activities of daily living especially in dressing, eating, toileting, personal hygiene and ambutation or walking around. The instrumental activities of daily living such as being selective of your care givers, the use of communication gadgets, management of finances, ability to maintain and manage personal health, clean up, taking of safety precautions and responses to emergency usually diminish as a person’s age progresses. It has been observed that the directing of how their finances will be used is usually the last activity they stop doing.
To cope with old age, people with problems of walking have adjusted and now use wheel chairs. In women, the sign of old age is usually the onset of menopause which implies diminished sex drive. Most mexican women have found it difficult to come in terms with this condition. In turn, they have turned to the use of aphrodisiac to artificially regain their sex drives. Men, although at older age face similar challenge. However, most women at menopause , now off the competition from young sexually active ladies, have been observed to inhabit distinct new responsibilities in the society. Age wittles the strength of the male and their aggressiveness and with time, age ensures that the elderly cannot use force upon the young generation (Ahearne,2001,p.117). With good knowledge of this, adults in traditional mexican set up have for a long time allowed those who attain the advanced age to resign from restless search for power and prestige. When they can no longer fulfill the responsibilities of adulthood, they are allowed to lay aside their burdens and join the old age their mexican culture has prepared for them. Safe within the embrace of their culture, the elderly are free to transmit the fullness of the culture to the new up coming generation as they wait to die. To adapt to the challenges associated with old age, the older people also alter their gait to accommodate real change in strength, sensation, movement, endurance and quick response to environmental stimuli (Barrientos,2007,p.80). The shuffling standing and walking posture keeps the feet close to the ground and maintains maximum input from sensors of position. To improve balance, the stance is usually widened. They also reduce the number of steps/strides they make per minute so that there is change in endurance and an allowance for more reaction time.
No one gets out of the universe while alive except Jesus Christ for Christians, but as long as we live on earth, we may enjoy life irrespective of our age. This introduces the concept of aging well and its ingredients in the context of Mexico. To have a successful aging, you have to have friends to make your old moments happy (Sally, 2005,p.92). Mexicans at old age with their partners still alive or even their children or grand children or bridge partners or those whom they fellowship together in churchhave found all thaese classes of people very important for their social aspect of health in order to age well. Adventuring together with their wives at this old age or by sailing or any other activity that the old couple enjoy together lead to a very happy life even the last bit of it. Although this has been a major challenge to some senior citizens in mexico, most of them have attempted and successfully stopped the smoking habit for good. Smoking has led to lung cancers and eventually to a very painful aging period such that you may just wish that you die (Jenny, 2003,p.204). In mexico, keeping spiritual values and beliefs at old age is very good because that helps in checking your health spiritually. However, it has been observed that most mexican women at old age are too fat and this has posed a danger because of a possible risk of heart attack and excess weight exerted upon their weak legs (William,2004,p.182). This can cause fractures which are painful at old age.
According to Kluckholns, culture requires outlining the whole mechanisms series of both the symolic and material through which a given society uses to reproduce themselves. With respect to the human nature of the people, most were basically good at heart and were kind. It is not that they were born to be good but at old age, life has taught them to be good because most of them understand the costs of extending bad and undesirable behaviors from young age to old age. There were both good people and evil people. There was need to identify the category of a person as to whether he belonged to the bad or the good group (Boldy, 2005,p.117). At old age, it is possible to change bad people to good people through proper guidance. For the relationship with nature and supernatural powers, if it was the choice for people, no one would wish to be old and be branded with names that suggest the negative aspects of aging. But it is natural to grow old and the people cannot really change this natural order. People are actually subordinate to nature and life is determined by fate. A person at old age would wish to spend life with his or her partner but fate is to determine whether both will stay alive up to old age or one will die along the way or neither of them will experience what being a senior citizen is. Harmonizing human life with nature is very important. When environment has been disturbed, the worst effects are manifested to very young and the aged people. New diseases crop up and the old are very vulnerable. At old age, very few people are willing to continue conquering the nature and simply leave this for the younger generation. Concerning time sense, history has taught people that it is cultural to to give way when you have grown old. They should turn to passing cultural information to young generations to ensure infinite continuity of culture. It is not enough just to “be”. It is essential to be actively involved in activities and to be adventurous activities because this brings refreshment at old age and the rewards for this is improved physical health.
The family was empirical to the current trend of American demographic data turning ‘vertical’. This has been contributed mainly by by family planning techniques where by the new generation sizes are becoming lean with time. The senior citizens were two, middle age people were three and children were four. Given the other factors affecting survival of humanity, there are more risks to life and it is likely that most of these children may attain the senior citizenry, in fact just one out of the six may attain that age. This makes the population even more vertical with time as more risks to life emerge.
Mexican family member interactions which were identifiable in the maintenance of their relations included very respectful communication between the elderly and their siblings and children (Brodsky,2002,p.87). There was great corporation in executing activities and most older people were consulted before key works were executed. In cases where people had wronged others, people really apologized and felt very sorry. When some people were undergoing any suffering, for example the aged complaining of back aches, the community members pitied, sympathized and encouraged them. Despite their condition, the aged were not ignored during decision making. Every person of the community showed responsibility in taking care of the young children. The older people were not involved in heavy duties. People were very informed and responded very fast to illnesses. Once they observed any disease symptoms among any of themselves, they took relevant preventive medicines and were very vigilant in case of any complications related to that disease, they rush the patient to hospital. Most people were literate but were not very keen on spiritual matters, especially the men. Very few aged people liked watching TV.
Most aged people had a declining body weight, poor health status, rough skin for they no longer treasured on beauty, weak bones and could not walk fast because of back aches. Very many used the walking stick for supported movement. Their legs and hands appeared weak and emaciated. Most had problems in hearing and could not see far unless they were aided by contact lens. Their recent history revealed complications of major internal organs but kidney problem was the most common. A number of aged females were more forgetful and demonstrated possibility of low capacity to recall simple things. Most showed symptoms of age related disorders such as dementia.
Although there is a considerate food security in Mexico, most elderly people had a poor nutritional state. Due to their limited preference, they liked more of local foodstuffs and appeared to dislike the commercially produces foodstuffs except for a few cases. This was mainly attributed to the costs and tastes. Their nutritional requirements demands a variety of nutrients from a variety of foodstuffs but this variety was missing here.
There is no exact delineation of middle age and old age because of different perspectives by various world communities. One can be called old when he has grand children or he or she has retired or when become less and less active (Aboderin,2004,p.31). In Mexico and America at large, a person is considered to be old when he has attained the age of sixty five years, when he is also legally recognized to be a beneficiary of retirement packages. Anybody above this age is usually referred to as a senior citizen. Signs of old age include wrinkled and liver spotted skin, a change in the color of the air from to white or grey, reduced ability to hear, poor sight, reduced reaction time, poor memory and slowed ability to think and make decisions.
Enculturation refers to a process whereby a culture that has been established teaches a person, by repetition , its social norms and social values so that if the individual complies, he or she may become accepted to the society and finds his or her suitable role. It defines what should be done and what is not culturally accepted. To learn may take a person the way of life of his people or country. To learn may take the whole life period from childhood to adulthood. It is learnt through passing information as people communicate through speech, words or expressions. Unique images, experiences or sites of different cultures may be modes through which people can learn. At child hood, young Mexicans learn enculturation unconsciously but slowly until they grow to maturity. They embrace their culture but most of the current generation seem not to follow their culture set up by their ancestors. However, as one approaches the old age, he consciously learns what his culture has provided for the aged and he or she deliberately complies.
List of References
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Brodsky, J. (2002). Care of the elderly in developed countries. New York: Routledge.
Iglesias, A. (2001). Social Protection at old age. Washington: World Bank.
Jenny,H. (2003). Long-Term Care. Geneva: WHO.
Nicholas,B. (2000). Pensions myths and Truths. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.
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Sally, W. (2005). Age Misconceptions about Health. Buxton: Health and Safety Publication.
Thomas, G. (2003). Elder Abuse by Adult. Basel:B.I.S.
William, L. (2004). Living Longer. Illinois: Springfield