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  1. 1. The Life of Khalida Akram- Lahore, Pakistan 1Running head: THE AGING PROCESS Old Person Profile Anam Shuaib 250348355 University of Western Ontario
  2. 2. The Life of Khalida Akram- Lahore, Pakistan 2 I love hearing about my grandmother’s adventures and her life before I knew her. Sheused to be very active, and led a very interesting life; at one point in time she was orphaned andlived on a street until one day her uncle took her in. A lot has changed since then, she is 90+years old now, and she is physically dependent on other people and needs help with activities ofdaily living (ADL) such as bathing, eating and other basics of life. Though gerontologists oftende-homogenize seniors by categorizing them as young-old between the ages of 65-75, as middle-old between the ages 75-84, old-old between the ages 85-89 and frail-old if 90+; these genericcategorizations fail to account for individual variations for example my grandmother was frail-old at 85 years of age while my landlord lady is young-old at 85 years of age. For this essay Iwill be following a sequential trajectory of life courses and changes from my grandmothersyoung-old days to her present state.Young-old (55-64) My grandmother was highly conscientious, impossible to please, stubborn andindependent. During her young-old days, she lived in a census family, she was a very wealthylandlord, her husband, my grandfather was a computer engineer and her newly-wed son and hisfamily lived with my grandmother in her three-story mansion. During this time my grandmother was very self-sufficient, she had a lot of friends whovisited her everyday. Despite being quite intimidating at times, she was actually a very charitableperson and was respected by everyone. Her neighbors referred to her as their big sister, she hadvery strong ties with her friends, relatives and family. my grandmother had a very strong sense of
  3. 3. The Life of Khalida Akram- Lahore, Pakistan 3control over her life and she was always needed, whether it’d be providing help raising her sonschildren or helping the needy in her neighborhood. She had a very good quality of life, and at this stage of her life she would have easilyfulfilled the five domains of quality end-of-life care identified by Canadians as: (1) receivingadequate pain and symptom management, (2) avoiding inappropriate prolongation of dying,(3)achieving a sense of control, (4) relieving burden and (5) strengthening relationships withloved ones (Chappell, McDonald & Stones, 2008).Middle-old (65-74) My grandmother always got what she wanted, for example my grandfather absolutelyadored dogs, and she couldn’t stand them. He was only allowed one-third of the backyard inwhich to train them, they werent allowed in the house and when he wasn’t around to check in onthem, she’d give them spoiled food. But when he passed away, about a month later, she went onher own and got herself a puppy without telling anyone, and took care of it herself and had it inthe house like how my grandfather wanted, it was her way of coping with his death because shefelt really lonely and devastated. This coping strategy can be explained by continuity theory which states that as peopleage, they try to preserve and maintain continuity of their life style by adapting strategies that areconnected to their past experiences to deal with changes that occur as a part of normal aging(Chappell, McDonald & Stones, 2008). A few years after my grandfathers death, my grandmother needed multiple kneecapsurgeries so we asked her to move in with us for a while, during her five year long stay in
  4. 4. The Life of Khalida Akram- Lahore, Pakistan 4Canada, she quickly adjusted to her life here because her relatives from pakistan lived in ourbuilding. She started baby sitting our relatives son, these were her golden days; she was happy, shefelt young and needed again; she kept us siblings in check, we listened to her out of fear andrespect. She thought us about our culture, language and she passed down her knowledge andskills to us. She did not speak much english but that did not stop her from getting involved in thecommunity. She was satisfied with her life because the pace of changes in her life was in linewith her personal preference and the new experiences were enriching and exciting (Chappell,McDonald & Stones, 2008). Soon after her baby-sitting days, she started volunteering at a center for seniors with apredominantly urdu-speaking population. According to the empirical research on activity theory,individuals who engage in informal social activates are more satisfied than those who do not, andthat involvement in formal activities may or may not enhance life satisfaction (Chappell,McDonald & Stones, 2008). It is true that the type of activity does have an impact on the senseof well-being. My grandmother was much happier when she used to babysit, as opposed to whenshe started volunteering at the senior’s center where she had to put up with many rude patients;one of them being a womanizer with Alzheimers disease. During this time her health began to rapidly decline, like many elderly person’s, she wassuffering through many chronic health conditions such as diabetes, chronic pain and arthritis. Shebecame addicted to her painkiller; oxycodone which is a prodrug for morphine and has a veryhigh potential for addiction when abused. My grandmother had a habit for taking this pillwhenever she felt the need, she refused to follow the prescribed dosage and ignored the warnings
  5. 5. The Life of Khalida Akram- Lahore, Pakistan 5about the harmful effects of oxycodone abused. A lot of doctors are coming under strict scrutinyfor prescribing narcotics like oxycodone freely; its easy availability has made it a commonlyabused drug amongst the elderly in Canada. Recently there has been talks about reforming thelegislation to regulate oxycodone use. Even so, many patients will still be able to score moredrugs by “doctor shopping”, a move towards creating an online medical history will definitelyput a stop to this kind of abuse.Old-Old (75-84) A major turning point in my grandmothers wellbeing came when she went back toPakistan and became immobile as a result of her hip injury. Her injury caused her to becomecompletely dependent on others and so she had to move in with her son who had moved to adifferent city. She became really bitter because all of a sudden she had lost her independency andfelt isolated from her friends, her close nit neighborhood and the small town she had grown upin. She also probably felt very intimidated and overwhelmed by the outside world because sheseemed to have no interest in venturing out of the house. You could sometimes just sense that shehated being in the new city, having being born and raised in a small town. She would alwaysfondly recollect her days of youth. This unfortunate phenomenon of mutually withdrawing fromthe society is inline with the disengagement theory which states that “individual adjustment inold age is accomplished by withdrawing from social life”, while at the same time the societywithdraws from the individual (Chappell, McDonald & Stones, 2008). I, however, am against thedisengagement theory, not only because there is no empirical evidence to prove it but alsobecause the theory doesn’t account for individual differences.
  6. 6. The Life of Khalida Akram- Lahore, Pakistan 6 During this time my grandmother also suffered from a lack of emotional and socialsupport from her son’s family, as she was left all alone in her room all day. This lack of socialsupport further exacerbated her already stressful state, as a result she became so upset aboutlosing her independency that every issue turned into a fight, for example she could no longer goto the bathroom on her own but she refused to wear adult diapers because she felt that it was astab at her dignity, instead she would wet her bed and insist on lying in it as her own punishmentfor losing her independence.Frail-Old (85-90)“Preparing for death can include a desire to bring meaning to ones life. Because of theprolongation of the dying process due to chronic illness in old age, there has been increasedinterest in spirituality and meaning of life towards the end” (Chappell, McDonald & Stones,2008). After my grandmother turned 85 she was constantly preparing for death, she had all herfuneral arrangements done, and well before she died, in anticipation of her death, she gave herchildren all her savings, but then she lived for quite a while longer, and this gave her issuesbecause it further increased her dependency on others, like her son and decreased her socialstanding. One of the major issues I remember is that she started to get incontinence. Though it’scommon for elderly to gradually develop incontinence , she developed it very suddenly. Thedoctors cleared her of any biological causes and referred her to a psychiatrist; the psychiatristinformed us that the only thing she speaks of is how everything, even money which she has had
  7. 7. The Life of Khalida Akram- Lahore, Pakistan 7comfortably all her life is being swept away from her and she feels like she is losing control andtherefore, her continence is probably as a result of her feeling like she is losing all control. In the last year that my grandmother was alive, she was a very difficult person to please,she refused to eat, sleep, go to the washroom etc., but to be fair she was also very sick anddepressed at the time, she would just lie down in her bed all day, barely speaking, barely moving,and if she ever said anything, we all had to tell ourselves to grow thick skins because we knew itwould be something really rude, or bitter. That same year we found out that my mom had a tumor in her brain and that she had tohave a brain surgery to have it removed. We were dreading about telling my grandma about itbecause we weren’t sure how she would take it, would she get more depressed!? more bitter!?etc.,. We all sat together while my mom told her, and she cried the entire first night, she didntmove, didn’t pray, just cried. But the next morning she actually got out of bed, called her priest,found a prayer that had to be recited over and over a million times- it seemed at that moment, asif she had found her “purpose”, and though it was something small, just praying-it gave her asense of direction. She went to specific relative houses to distribute the prayers and asked themto pray with her, she would come home and pray in the garden. She kept a little notebook to keeptrack of the number of times she had recited the prayer. She became more open to conversation-conversation about the prayer. If I asked her what the prayer meant, or even if I got philosophicaland asked her why she believed in it, she would actually converse. And even though my parentsare not religious, they did not question or challenge her because it made her feel like a motheragain, being able to think that she had to do something for her daughter, it gave her some zeal inher life again.
  8. 8. The Life of Khalida Akram- Lahore, Pakistan 8 In order to write this paper, I interviewed four people on their grandmothers, this paper is acompilation of their stories. What I found disturbing is that none of my interviewees had apositive view of old persons. This proves that ageism is very real and prominent in ourwesternized society, as the socio-economic status of the elderly declines, they become victims ofneglect and negative attitudes. In order to alleviate the problems faced by the elderly, we mustrecognize how society shapes the experience of aging in both positive and negative ways, Sincethe society doesnt work in interest of marginalized individuals, its not fair to say that theindividuals must adapt, there needs to be a fundamental social change to promote human agency(Chappell, McDonald & Stones, 2008).
  9. 9. The Life of Khalida Akram- Lahore, Pakistan 9Reference:Chappell, Neena, Lynn McDonald, and Michael Stones. 2008. Aging in ContemporaryCanada, 2nd ed. Toronto: Pearson/Prentice-Hall.