Old Age

My personal definition of Health: Health is a state that varies among individuals based on a variety of factors including and individuals fitness, lack of disease, genetic disposition, and other illness and disease preventing factors.

My personal definition of  Illness: Illness is a state which can be determined both physically and mentally by an individual and outside factors. Illness is controlled by both the environment and society as well as conditions which affect an individuals health.

These definitions have come to me from a variety of sources, the first and foremost of which is most likely my work environment (a radiology clinic) which hosts patients who vary in how healthy they are and how they handle disease. I have seen firsthand that many factors influence the extent of illness and the health of patients. Another factor that influences my perception of disease would be my lifestyle, I have grown up distance running and as an adult have been very active in general. I have seen first hand the affects of fitness and positive lifestyles have not only on general health but also in the prevention of illness and disease.

I would not consider old age to be an illness. If anything  I would consider old age to be a manifestation of other diseases. Old age in a lot of ways is just a state of mind. I suppose I would say this under the condition that I don’t “perceive” old age to be an illness. Your body does slow down and lose function, but it is a general loss of function and the losses relative to your peers can be controlled by controlling your health to a great extent. High fitness and medical maintenance can prevent many so called symptoms of old age.  What  can not be prevented are other actual diseases and illnesses which may come about at an older age (Cancer, Alzheimer’s, etc).

I would most certainly consider Influenza to be an illness and a disease. Influenza symptoms are controlled both by the extent of the virus infection as well as how you perceive the symptoms and how society handles the virus. It is guaranteed to change how you are perceived by society while you are under the affects and it is a difficult illness to shake off.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Nick Flaga says:

    Old age was difficult for me to decide if it was an illness or not. Overall, I decided that old age is not an illness in our culture. I agree with your comment that fitness and proper medical attention as you age can prevent many illnesses common with old age. As a society, we have collectively decided to assist our elders in sustaining a certain quality of life through social security and Medicare. That is not to say elder Americans do not experience challenges as they continue to age, but their quality of life and chance to receive adequate health care to prevent common those illnesses common with old age is much improved from other countries like Nigeria. Nigeria does not support their elders through an organized system. They are often dependent on their family members or ability to continue working as they age (Ajala). Perhaps old age would be perceived more as an illness in Nigeria than in the United States due to their lack of programs to assist elders and ability to maintain fitness and adequate medical attention: “At present, aging in the Yoruba society is perceived as retirement to a crises ridden stage of living.”

    Ajala, Aderemi S. “The Changing Perception of Ageing in Yoruba Culture and Its Implications on the Health of the Elderly.” Anthropologist 8, no. 3 (2006): 181-88

  2. Josh Williams says:

    In many cultures old age has been seen as a decline of health and overall as an illness. However, in the Native American culture old age is something that is looked at with respect and they pass down the knowledge that they have gained to the next generations. Generally, in many tribal communities the elderly are looked upon with high regard for their wisdom and accumulated life experiences. The elderly are often looked to for advice and and pass down their learnings and teachings to the rest of the community. All members of the tribe care for the elderly as a group and they accept death as a natural part of theirs lives and try not to face death with fear. They believe the soul is immortal and aging to be a pathway to a “changing of worlds” or death. These communities also keep the elderly relatives of branches of the family in their care as well because the families do not solely depend on strictly their nuclear family. The Native American culture does not try to treat old age as an illness but instead they embrace it as an accumulation of wisdom and experiences to be passed down to the next generations.

    National Resource Center on Native American Aging. “Native American Elderly.” . http://cas.umkc.edu/casww/natamers.htm (accessed July 3, 2014).

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