Diamond (not her real name), a 70 years old female, is my neighbor. Similar to most seniors, she loves to tell stories and freely answered the interview questions. The goal of the interview was to gain insight into aging and the oppression that rises from being a minority group. I interviewed her on the weekend, and she was surprised to be the focus of the interview in which her life experiences and thoughts on old age would be recorded.
Negative characteristics include stereotype-dominated aging for Diamond. While she was 50 years, Diamond was diagnosed with diabetes. She cannot perform some chores such as climbing many stairs and walking in several numbers of blocks. While Diamond is spirited, active, and bright, she has restrained herself and often uses a walker. With age, she feels the culture of older adults is negative as later life has been considered less imperative and signified by ill health, loneliness, dependency, poor physical and mental health. Her mid-life was characterized by an alternative lifestyle, socializing, and meeting new friends. Diamond says she noticed people treated her differently with less respect and more discrimination as she grew older, particularly five years ago after her husband’s death. The prejudice, discrimination, and deprivation led her to low self-esteem. Her sons regularly visit, and she communicates with her three grandchildren. However, she feels lonely and undervalued.
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At her old age, Diamond does not take anything for granted. She states that accepting the challenges and living the best of her life is all she can do. Diamond believes one should live in peace and love and even accept the possibility of death. Nonetheless, she feels having children, being loved, and having others think highly of her is outstanding. Rather than stay home and self-pity, she has joined various social groups. She is a church member and keeps in touch with her cousins, children, and friends. She mentions she enjoys salsa dance. When faced with a difficult challenge, she keeps it to herself without complaining or shares with close confidants and has the nature to turn traumatic situations into growth opportunities.
Diamond is financially relatively stable. She lives in a spacious two-bedroom and can maintain her home. Nonetheless, she believes less has been done to help the elderly, particularly those with similar diabetic conditions. While she has medical insurance, Diamond believes it is costly and worries she will fail to pay for the high amount. In addition, Diamond believes the media’s misrepresentation of ‘successful aging’ as one with health, maturity, personal growth, and happiness has worsened the situation. To her, aging successfully was not the absence of age-associated characteristics rather being at peace with the worsening features.
Before undertaking the interview, I thought it would be a boring experience. However, to my surprise, Diamond’s perspective about elderly age was so engaging. She was so optimistic about the likelihood of finding contentment in old. Although Diamond was concerned about stereotypes that the elderly faced and was reasonably stressed, she had minimal regard to the age perpetrators and believed the best way for the elderly is to be grateful, loving, and peaceful with their age. Ageism can vary in severity. Social work must comprehend old age is not a disease, and these individuals must be treated with respect and dignity. In addition, social workers are the first social structure for the old and must volunteer to support the old through activities, develop social connections, and act as activists to lower the high cost of old-age healthcare.