Old Age

I would describe health as a homeostasis of the body, every aspect (physical, mental, internal, external, etc.) is working normally and properly.  Therefore, illness being the opposite, would be the event in which some aspect is abnormal, and can effect or interrupt normal daily routines.  Illness could range from a disease or chronic health issue such as cancer, heart disease, or epilepsy, to something minor like the flu or strept, to things like anxiety, depression, or ADHD. Although these things are pretty obvious and straight forward, there are as always some complications. For example, just because one is diagnosed with a medical condition doesn’t mean it effects their normal day to day life in anyway.  A person can be epileptic & be seizure free, or maybe someone has become so accustomed to something, it doesn’t effect them anymore or theyve simply learned to deal with it – are they still considered ill if its not interupting normal routines? I believe that although there is often an obvious distinction between health and illness (not always so obvious, others often had no idea i had epilepsy growing up), that it is also all relative.  I may be epileptic, and will always be, but I no longer have seizures & am off most of my medication (and off more all the time), and compared to most in similar circumstances, I am perfectly healthy.

For me, alot of whats healthy or not has come from personal experiences.  I’ve spent more time than most in hospitals & with the health system, either with my own medical issues or those of family members.  I also have almost always worked in the medical field, doing anything, so I’ve become pretty familiar with it all.  As stated though, my family has played a pretty big part as well, whether with their own health issues or supporting me through mine (or overprotecting, etc.). I do believe however that society/culture, and therefore media as its tool, are the biggest culprits of where these ideas come from.  They decide what is viewed as normal or abnormal, healthy or unhealthy, and in doing so dictate what we think and believe.  This is such a big deal, because these views can vary so greatly between cultures.

Cancer: most definitely an illness, or more specificcly a disease.  Its debilitating and often fatal.

Infertility: is an illness, can be treated medically, is often seen as something more/other than an illness in other cultures however

Old Age: i don’t really see this as an illness so much as a natural progression in life, it was hard to categorize though b/c it could be placed there & b/c scietist are working on ways to cure it

Shyness: although this can be treated, i didn’t classify this is an illness, its a characteristic (often of introverts) and the so called treatment is really just learning, or even forcing oneself, to be more outgoing

7 thoughts on “Old Age

  1. Old age was another one for me that I did not know where to put as well because I think I wasn’t really expecting that to come up and have never thought of old age in those terms. Like you I think that it is a part of life and is natural. I think that it is actually lucky to die of old age then a terrible disease.
    As I was doing some research into how other cultures feel about aging I found Brazil avoids the term “age” they do more focusing to keep up with ways on to not appear old. It seems that most cultures try so hard to stay young and reverse the effects of aging. The first anti aging remedy was recored by the ancient Egyptians by developing potions from natural cures. In Buddhism they believe of life as a cycle and aren’t as concerned about aging because they believe reincarnation will happen next.
    Today especially in Western societies age is being prolonged and even some scientists believe that old age is a disease because there are ways to cure it and it is about acting how you feel and if you take care of your self it prolongs your life. Scientific research is being done on elderly genes to try and stop the diseases like dementia that come with old age.

  2. Old age was not one of the conditions I originally chose from the list to elaborate on, but I also had a hard time categorizing it as an illness or not. However, after looking into it more I agree with you that old age shouldn’t be considered an illness. Like you said, many cultures view old age as a natural progression of life that cannot be avoided. Just because someone grows old does not necessarily mean that they grow unhealthy or sick, even if there are physical manifestations of old age such as wrinkles or gray hair. I found one article that described how illness and death of the elderly in many cultures is accepted as a natural course of life (1).
    Another article I found interesting explained how in American culture, the elderly often become emotionally and physically dependent on their loved ones as they grow older often causing strain and discomfort, but in different countries such as Turkey, this sort of mutual dependence is encouraged in families where a large family core structure is present (2).
    In countries such as China, old age is not seen as an illness at all. The eldest of the family receives the most power, respect and honor. People take care of the elder to show their respect for them, not because they pity them. Sending your elder parents to a nursing home instead of caring for them yourself is considered betrayal in Chinese culture (3).
    1. http://annonc.oxfordjournals.org/content/18/4/633.full
    2. http://www.ispub.com/journal/the-internet-journal-of-geriatrics-and-gerontology/volume-2-number-1/old-age-and-its-related-problems-considered-from-an-elderly-perspective-in-a-group-of-turkish-elderly.html
    3. http://www.culture-4-travel.com/chinese-cultures.html

  3. Infertility is a problem for many couples in the United Stated but, as you said, it has little the social impacts as it does in many other countries. In the United States many women are pushing back their plans to have children until they have established their careers. This has made many mothers wait until they are in their forties before starting a family.

    In many developing countries women have no careers and the only thing they can be identified socially is being a wife and mother. In these countries many infertile women are often seen as less than human or evil for not being able to have children. In the Hindu religion people are taught to go out and populate the earth and an infertile woman in not following the teachings of that religion. Also, if a woman does not have a son then they may have no ability to reach heaven at all because only a son can perform death rituals.

    There are also economic problems as well. Pensions and social security are not offered in many parts of the world. People rely on their children to take care of them in their old age. In these countries infertility can be a sentence of poverty for elderly people and in many cases an early death.

    The people of these cultures who weigh such importance on fertility often do not have the money to spend on western medicine to treat infertility. These societies are beginning to place a higher emphasis on preventing infertility rather than treating it. By preventing infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea the rate of infertility can be reduced. The problem lies in the use of condoms in cultures where contraception is often viewed taboo.

    Karen Springen, “What it Means to Be a Woman,” Newsweek, September 14, 2008, accessed 7-7-12, http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2008/09/14/what-it-means-to-be-a-woman.html.

  4. I completely agree that infertility is an illness. It is something that deeply effects individuals both physically and psychologically. One of the main purposes of life is to reproduce and raise children, so the inability to such a vital life function can be crushing to a person. Even in the United States, where infertility is fairly treatable, it can still have a pretty bold effect on a person. Like I said infertility is pretty treatable in the United States, with injections, drugs, and even adoption, but it is much less treatable around the world and has many different consequences. Men for the most part, don’t feel the consequences of being infertile, largely because they just might not know, but this means that they also don’t have to feel any of the blame for not having a child. Women on the other hand are expected to birth and raise the child, so the inability to do so is terrifying. Women are usually blamed when a couple is unable to have a child, even if in reality it is the man’s fault. This inability to have children could be reacted to in many ways, but most are negative. The women could be exiled, shunned, or just treated as rejects. They could even be treated with violence. So yes, I would definitely agree that infertility is an illness.


  5. I noticed you said that you didn’t think shyness was an illness and from what you explained I can understand why you may believe that. However, I did find that acute shyness is regarded as an illness. In an article I found, they stated that it, one of the most under-recognized and under-treated mental health problems of the modern age.” I can see where the line needs to be drawn. It is not just is shyness an illness, but at what stage does shyness become an illness. I think that as the article continues to describe situations where shyness is an illness it becomes more believable. Not every shy person has a mental illness, but those that are avoiding situations so furiously to escape the anxiety that they feel within a social setting surely are people that are suffering from an illness. This is coming from an article in published in BBC which leads me to conclude it is the viewpoint that has been a result of British culture. This may or may not be true of a majority of those that live in the area in which it was written, but it is clear that there is strong enough evidence that can support this claim and that the people that wrote this article believed that the community that would read this article may be interested in this subject enough to publish it.

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