The review of literature begins with the concept and phenomenon of aging, concept of healthy old age, myths related to aging and new interpretation of aging from research. It also covers topics like correlates of subjective health, the needs of the aged and aging and institutionalization. Then it moves on to the explanation of subjective wellbeing, the aged and subjective well-being, the constructs, theories, and models of SWB, defining and measuring SWB, cultural influence on well-being, national and cultural patterns of SWB, the empirical studies done on SWB, and the correlates of subjective well-being.
The literature review considers other dimensions pertaining to the subjective well-being of the aged such as counseling the aged and the counselors’ role, counseling and spirituality, different kinds of psychotherapy for the aged. The review ends with suggested wellness programs to enhance the well-being of the aged. The Concept of Aging Aging, besides being a biological and social phenomenon, is first a human fact. It is characterized by a series of somatic and psychic changes, which appear inexorably with the passage of time and deeply affect a person’s life (Augudo, 1985).
Does personality continue to develop in positive ways, as people age? Do people keep growing psychologically throughout their lives? These are questions raised by different theorists. Some theorists have answered in the negative, emphasizing the shrinking perspective of the elderly. There are other theorists who hold a positive view on aging. According to Erickson (1963) and Liang-che (2001), from the stand point of developmental psychology, humanity passes through different stages stretching from birth to death.
For example, a new sense of completion and ego during the final part of life (Erickson, 1963), increased wisdom and decreased use of immature defenses, a feeling of acceptance and contentment perhaps due to a positive life review (Butler, 1973), ego transcendence (Peck, 1997), or increasing spirituality, or an integrated self (Jung, 1969). The Book of Wisdom observes that old age is the final stage of human maturity and a sign of God’s blessing (Wink & Dillon, 2003).
Simmons (1945, in Atchley, 1997) in his extensive review of aging in seventy-one cultures, found that in some cultures an attitude of gerontophilia existed. It means that the society loved and revered their aged and held their status high in the society. This attitude of gerontophilia prevailed even in Colonial America (Doress-Worters & Siegal, 1994). Aging is not commonly viewed in a positive light in the youth-embracing western society. Aging is a reality often forgotten and a certain negative attitude toward aging and the aged, or what Dr.
Robert N. Butler described as a culture of “ageism,” is being developed especially in the western world (1975). Dr. Butler defines ageism as “a process of systematic stereotyping and discrimination against people because they are old. ” In the west where the concept of life cycle is different from that of east, to be a self (person) one must be alive, in control, and aware of what is happening. Therefore, old age and death is viewed as outrageous and unwelcome. Death particularly is considered as outside of human experience (Butler et al. , 1998).
Many people find the image of age unpalatable and maintain an attitude of gerontophobia. It is an attitude of aversion and fear towards aging and the aged. Accordingly, the older people are seen as incompetent, inflexible, wedded to the past, desexed, uncreative, poor, sick and slow (Doress- Worters & Siegal,1994), and consider old age is considered as a time of inevitable mental and physical decline, dependence and inactivity. However the reality is different. In fact, most people are quite able to adapt as they grow older and remain independent well into very old age.
In developed countries, older persons continue to work in paid and unpaid work. Aging does not mean inevitable physical and mental decline. Physical decline is a slow, gradual, life-long process. The rate of physical aging among humans varies widely, dependent upon a complex interaction of genetics, physical, social, and environmental factors. Disabilities, sensory loss, and chronic diseases increase with age but are not inevitable aging condition (IYOP, 1999).
The deputy of the National Institute of Aging (U. S) observed that aging which is a natural phenomena and the consequent changes particular to aging are now thought to be due to illness (Kolata, 1991). This has resulted in the biomedicalization of aging (Ponzo, 1992), that is, the social construction of aging as a medical problem. This formulation encourages society to think of aging as pathological and abnormal, and for elderly persons to see themselves this way and suffer a loss of selfesteem (Ponzo, 1992; Sue & Sue, 1999).