Gerontology and planning

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Gerontology can be described as the multidisciplinary study of the process of aging as well as  individuals as they grow from middle age into later life. Gerontology encompasses study of mental, social and physical transformations in individuals as they age, the research on the transformations in society due to aging population as well as the application of this knowledge to programs and policies. This paper seeks to explain why the study of gerontology is important to the planning and development of Seniors City.

Demographic changes due to the aging baby boomers is overwhelmingly affecting North American society. The proposal basically explores why the study of aging on cities is important and more specifically how these implications become the responsibility of cities and communities. Just like the other parts of the world, the population of aged people in the US has been on the rise, with the number of older people projected to grow by 135 percent between 2000 and 2050. Furthermore the number of people aged above 85 (the group that most definitely will be in need of health as well as long-term care services) is anticipated to grow by 350 percent. Over this time span, the proportion of the population that above 65 will rise from 12.7 percent in 2000 to 20.3 percent in 2050. From these projections, a considerable proportion of the US is elderly and needs specialized planning and care. First and foremost there will be big implications for organizations as well as healthcare delivery. Studying gerontology will reveal that there is a likely shift from acute to chronic illnesses and a possible acute scarcity of health care practitioners particularly paraprofessionals and nurses. Thus, the ageing population will need a close focus on such chronic diseases as osteoporosis, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease rather than acute sicknesses (McDaniel & Zimmer, 2013).

Moreover, there will be a big shift in the style of medicine from single intervention aimed at correction of just one problem to the continuous management of several disability and diseases. There will be need for doctors and patients to maintain a continuous relationship aimed at helping patients deal with illnesses instead of curing them. Thus our city needs to be aware that chronic sickness comes with disability, implying that long-term care services like nursing homes, adult dare care, congregate housing and personal care will become critical in the provision of quality care to the aged (Dobrof, 2012).

Gerontology studies will also assist with the coming up with the most appropriate public programmes for the aged. Thus, the city’s planning committee should come up with a public programme meant for the aged that offer health care, income support and long-term care. Whereas this will account for vast bulk of the city’s expenditure for the senior citizens, there exists other several smaller public programmes that offer social services, housing, transportation as well as extra cash assistance (Dobrof, 2012).

Thus the aged citizens lower degree of economic activity implies that they have additional time to dedicate to other aspects of their lives. This reduction in work activity permits additional time for leisure pursuits and the city’s planning department should come up with more theme parks, leisure joints to cater for its aged population. This is especially important since retirees have 30 percent more ‘free time’ available to them in comparison to all other adults put together. The city should also come with appropriate infrastructure especially as far as transportation is concerned  especially since the aged can no longer drive themselves. Since the aged people become generally weak and frail and thus cannot do most of the activities they used to. The city should their convenience by for instance planning for other transportation modes like taxis, efficient public transport infrastructure and other issues linked to bus shelters, accessible buses, modified bus schedules and routes as well as assisted transit which become more widespread and might need changes in current procedures and practices (McDaniel & Zimmer, 2013).

The Senior city should also develop mechanisms to deal with increased dependency ratio especially if the retirement age stays fixed, and there is an increase in the life expectancy. Thus, there will be considerably more individuals claiming pension benefits  being supported with less individuals going to work and paying income taxes. This may lead to increased tax rates on the city’s current diminishing workforce (McMurray & Clendon, 2011).

The theory that best resonates and is relevant to my decision is disengagement theory that claims that aging is an unavoidable, mutual disengagement or withdrawal, leading to reduced interaction between the aging individual and others within the social systems s/he belongs to. Disengagement theory states that it is acceptable and natural for aged adults to withdraw from society. The theory postulates that everyone anticipates death, and someone’s abilities will certainly depreciate over time. Secondly since an individual starts to disengage, they are more and more released from social norms which help in interaction. Thus losing touch with societal norms fuels and reinforces the disengagement process. Moreover, complete disengagement occurs when both the society and the person are ready for this to happen with disengaged people adopting new social roles to avoid suffering a crisis identity or becoming demoralized (Miller, 2009).

Age comes with a myriad of changes -ranging from cognitive, biological to physiological. Some of these transformations could be better while others could not. Some of the biological changes that occur include changes in appearance, with the hair turning gray, hairlines receding, wrinkles setting in, lean body mass is replaced by fat, loss of bone and muscle, weigh gain as well as overall decline in the number of cells one has. Cognitive and physiological changes also take place with decline in learning and memory after individuals reach seventy. Aged people may also be depressed and affected by other emotional and mental disorders that normally set in with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia also setting in (Holstein et al., 2011).

The old people can be taken care by the city’s administration through raising their participation rate by making it easier for individuals over 65 to keep contributing their services to the community. The administration can also raise the age of retiring to 70 which could automatically be connected to life expectancy. This strategy can keep the old people engaged and busy and can help in avoiding depression and keeping other mental problems at bay (Lumsden & Sherron, 2013).

In conclusion planners can adopt such planning techniques as New Urbanism, Smart Growth, Healthy Communities and Sustainable Development which all point to a renewed interest in the use of land and urban form aimed at making life more comfortable and easy for the aged. According to research, combining theory as well as practice in planning coupled with that in gerontology also can assist in efficient societal aging. Thus, planners and gerontologists can learn from each other and work together to move beyond their usual boundaries. Thus, gerontologists should move beyond the confines of micro-environment to applying their knowledge to the realm of neighborhoods and streets. Likewise planners should learn from gerontologists by assimilating as well as melding their empirical and theoretical knowledge so that planning and developing age-friendly communities will deliver society from the present status quo. Both disciplines therefore should join forces in  new kind of gerontological social planning, developing from their individual silos to operate together in guiding the way in developing engagement communities versus disengagement communities like the modern day suburbs and or unique function, gated senior’s development.

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  1. Dobrof, R. (2012). Gerontological Social Work in Home Health Care. New York: Routledge.
  2. Holstein, M. B., Parks, J. A., & Waymack, M. H. (2011). Ethics, aging, and society: The critical turn. New York: Springer.
  3. McDaniel, S. A., & Zimmer, Z. (2013). Global ageing in the twenty-first century: Challenges, opportunities and implications. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate.
  4. McMurray, A., & Clendon, J. (2011). Community health and wellness: Primary health care in practice. Chatswood, N.S.W: Elsevier Australia.
  5. Miller, C. A. (2009). Nursing for wellness in older adults. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  6. Ronald Sherron, B. L. (2013). Introduction to Educational Gerontology. New York: Taylor & Francis.
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