The major psychosocial needs of aging include:
Positive self-concept: The attitude one holds toward oneself is a key in the manner one relates to others. Those who believe they have self-worth treat themselves with dignity and respect, have a positive outlook on life, and thus become the fully functioning person they imagine themselves to be. It is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy in which one projects what one wishes to accomplish, and, through internalization of the goal, one works unconsciously toward its achievement. The aging person, because of changes bombarding him or her in an ever-changing environment, needs to continue to focus attention on the positive components of his or her internal self. If one, first of all, likes oneself, one will be liked by others and will enjoy dignity and respect.
Self-esteem: The aging person needs to view himself or herself as an individual capable of living, loving, feeling, touching, sensing, and communicating with others. One’s cultural background that particular pattern of behaviour based on concepts, habits, skills, art forms, lifestyle, beliefs, attitudes-are a part of oneself and contribute to one’s uniqueness, one’s individuality, one’s self¬ esteem mechanism, and must be recognized in a positive way.
Communication: To communicate one’s thoughts, to verbalize one’s feelings, beliefs, convictions, is extremely important to one’s sense of well-being and one’s health maintenance. Communication brings about a sense of belonging that is unsurpassable to the human family. This need is so great that the elderly individual longs primarily for communication with others and is delighted when someone will take the time to listen. The art of and capacity for communication must be pre¬ served for the sake of knowing and interacting with others and reducing alienation, which occurs easily because of lack of communication.
Belonging: This need is cited by Maslow (1970) in his hierarchy of the basic human needs. To know that we are wanted and needed for just ourselves is the greatest pleasure available. The older person, especially, needs to have a sense of belonging to continue functioning as a productive human being.Independence. To be self-sufficient and in control of one’s life gives a sense of accomplishment, independent thinking, and living. To have the freedom to set one’s own goals and to seek the means for achieving them is a psychological need high on the list of priorities to be achieved by the integrated, self- actualized person.
Privacy and territorial space maintenance: Privacy is important to all individuals, particularly the elderly, who need time to sort out the vast store of facts they have accumulated over time and to distinguish the stimuli bombarding their consciousness. Provision for meeting this need gives the aging person the opportunity to nourish the inner resources that aid in coping with the crises of life. Time to be alone is a healing process for many. It is essential if the spiritual being is to be fostered and allowed to grow.
Respect as a spiritual being: As one grows older, one begins to see that external elements are a lesser dimension of one’s life and that the spiritual inner-self becomes more prominent in one’s perception and organization of life and its events. Religion, whether institutionalized or informal, becomes a pervasive orientation that aids in coping with life’s events. To be respected as a spiritual being brings consolation and peace of mind to the elderly person, who may have few family members, friends, or associates still living.
Loving and touching: This combination is considered the ultimate component of the psychosocial needs of the aging person. The elderly often are deprived of the healing tone of touch by individuals who do not under¬ stand humanness in its fullest extent. Touching communicates a great deal in the sense of letting one know, nonverbally, that he or she is loved, found to be beautiful in the eyes or the one touching, cared for and about, and important to the other individual. Meeting this need can produce miracles in the life of an older person, and this must be captured in the educational process. Deprivation in this area is inexcusable; it must be corrected through whatever means are available to society.
Humanistic philosophy must take the fore¬ ground in the lives of individuals so that, once again, we become a caring society, not just a society bent on more and faster production of things and objects. Promotion of love in terms of sharing, caring, concern for others should promote a climate for growth and continuous learning for all persons, throughout their lives
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