Custom «"Continuity of Change: The Dynamic of Beliefs, Values, and the Aging Experience" Article Review» Essay Paper Sample

The article entitled “Continuity of Change: The Dynamic of Beliefs, Values, and the Aging Experience” is related to the late-life development. It is dedicated to the phenomenon of evolution in the perception of outer and inner world at the elder age. Although most of the modern studies in the field of gerontology basically focus on the deteriorative processes in human mind, the purpose of this study was to prove that aging does not have an exclusively degrading nature. In fact, it is followed by reinterpretation of personal values and beliefs and the acquisition of life wisdom. The research, described by Aasha Hoogland, defines the changes that take place in the general outlook at the elder age.

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The issue of “worldview” and the factors that form it were primarily the objects of philosophy. The study of this phenomenon dates back to the times of Kant. The way people perceive the world, in general, and themselves, in particular, depends on numerous factors of both endogenous and exogenous nature. A number of theories, including Selective Optimization with Compensation, Socioemotional Selectivity Theory and late-life transcendence, provide positive evaluation of a late-life development; however, their evaluation basically refers to the people who belong to elder adults, rather than people of senior age. “More recent literature has highlighted the heterogenous nature of the aging experience (e.g., Ferraro), but, arguably, current theoretical models of change in old age struggle to account for the dynamism of each individual life trajectory” – states the author (Hoogland 33). This study attempts to shed some light on the comprehension of changes in the system of beliefs and values under the influence of accumulation of experiences and memories. This process is associated with the acquisition of life wisdom and the phenomenon of transcendence. The research examines various definitions of these concepts and states that, at elder age, the first one manifests itself as self-transcendence. Numerous scholars, including Erikson, Tornstam, Brown and Lowis elaborated different theories on these concepts, however, “neither goes so far as to explain how one's worldview, or set of core beliefs, shifts with age” (Hoogland 33). Hence, this research aimed at clarification of the process and context of late-time development.

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The research engaged 18 participants, between 62 and 85 that were divided into 3 focus groups. They were to answer the questions concerning their beliefs and values, as well as provide the insight to the factors that actually influenced their current worldview and how it could change over time. The participants considered their beliefs to be the thoughts that helped them in making decisions and guided them in everyday life. People commonly associated this phenomenon with ‘honesty’, ‘integrity’, ‘loyalty’, ‘self-sufficiency’, ‘love and kindness’, ‘trustworthiness’, ‘respecting’ and providing ‘stability’ for others (Hoogland 35). The primary factors that influenced the system of beliefs included ‘life experience’ and ‘parenting’. Some participants denied the changes in their beliefs over the last 20 years. They explained their position, claiming that core beliefs are universal; they comprise the core of human’s personality and remain stable. However, these arguments concerned some general convictions and principles, like those laid by religion.

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All participants acknowledged the changes in some specific attitudes, including the increase of appreciation of life, the shift of the focus from oneself to caring more about others. All three groups admitted becoming more easy-going, disposed to acceptance and equanimity. Aging process resulted in the increase of awareness of the limitedness of time and reduction of future perspectives. The results showed that people became more likely to focus on living every moment happily. The focus on the welfare of others presupposed not the care about family members, but the fate of people, in general. Participants were engaged in intensive discussions about some global issues of social nature. The change in attitude towards people included the feeling of becoming more open-minded and less judgmental. Surprising changes occurred in the attitude towards death. The research showed that elder people become less afraid of it. The reaction on the last question that aimed at identification of people’s reaction on the terminal diagnosis (of cancer) was quite pragmatic. The majority preferred a good quality of life, rather than artificial sustain of their lives. Nevertheless, the article’s author stated that “age differences emerged when discussing the process of coping with a terminal diagnosis” (Hoogland, 36). The youngest group were more pensive and concerned with this issue, group aged around 70 showed more acceptance, and the eldest group denied any negative influence of suchlike scenario on their attitude towards life and themselves.

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In general, all the previously indicated questions provided quite a considerable investigation of the aging changes and showed that some beliefs and convictions remain static, while others may change under the influence of life experience. However, there are some weak points that should be mentioned. The author herself acknowledges that “the study used a cross-sectional design that did not allow for a comparison of beliefs and perspectives over time” (Hoogland 37). It also was quite limited in the variety of participants. There were only 18 people who were English-speaking, healthy and possessed parenting experience. Thus, the results do not provide the explicit picture of the changes in beliefs and values and may not be applied to a general population. The lack of trustworthiness is present in the answers on the last question concerning the cancer diagnosis. The participants answers were merely conjecturing and cannot respond to the real reactions on the threatening disease.

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In order to improve the study and make the results more reliable and universal, it is necessary to expand the number and variety of participants. Moreover, it is possible to include the element of comparing and contrasting the changes within the groups and establishing the connection between the changes and lifestyles of people. The study would become more valuable if it focused on the relationships between these changes and some external factors, shaping personal background. These may include economical status, gender, race or culture.

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