Old Age

To make my initial categorizations I defined health and illness as it was described in the lecture. Health is defined as a state of physical, social and psychological well-being with in a given context. Illness is defined as a human experience and perceptions of alternations in health as informed by broader social and cultural contexts.

Old age was a topic that was difficult for me to decide on whether or not it was an illness or not. I ultimately decided that old age could not be described as an illness for these reasons. Old age is caused by the increased breakdown of the body which can be seen as gray hair, shortened stature, and wrinkled skin. However, these aren’t really symptoms of illness rather a current description of the individual’s physical appearance. Diseases and serious conditions such as heart failure can result because of the increased aged of the body. Therefore I viewed old age as more of a catalyst for illness as it weakens the body rather than an illness itself. When I was trying to rationalize my reasoning I immediately thought about my grandparents and the various ailments in which have increased as they approach eighty years of age. For instance my grandmother recently had a chest infection and it took her four weeks to rid the infection with medication when in prior years it may have only taken a week and a half to improve.

Spiritual possession was another topic I struggled to categorize. I concluded that this could be considered an illness. I relied heavily on my definitions for health and illness to come to this conclusion. In some cultures this is their explanatory model for disease and patients might describe what they are feelings in terms of spiritual means. It may be a symptom of mental or physical sickness but a physician’s understanding of the culture is crucial in detecting what is being described to them. I thought of my epidemiology class I took last semester to rationalize my thoughts. A guest speaker spoke about deity’s in medicinal practices and discussed that just because that isn’t our Western explanatory model doesn’t mean the patient isn’t sick this is just the only way they know how to describe what is happening in their body.

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  1. Melissa Brown says:

    Hello Phill, I was reading over your blog post and I found it to be very interesting. I feel that you have made a lot of strong points to help support both of your arguments. I also struggled with deciding whether or not old age was an illness. After combining my definition of illness which is “ how or what a person feels physically, psychologically, and mentally,” with the correct definition, I decided that it can indeed be considered an illness. Every culture has there give and take about what an illness can possibly be. There are several cultures that despise old age. It basically depends on the culture and their beliefs and perceptions of health and illness. As I stated in my blog post, an illness is based on how an individual perceives it and how others around them perceive the problem. So in the American culture old age is not an illness, but as you stated illness can act as an accessory to old age. Older individuals are more prone to illnesses because there bodies are slowly breaking down. This is a very tough argument and honestly, I believe that either answer is correct depending on the beliefs and perceptions of the individual answering the question.

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