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Self-esteem is simply a belief in one’s own worth. This refers to the ability of one to respect and value oneself. Everyone needs a feel of self-worth and a healthy self-esteem in order to live a happy and fulfilling life. Several theoretical reasons have been forwarded to show that self-esteem might show systematic developmental changes from young adulthood to old age though it is unlikely to show normative changes over time, change in ones esteem can occur in response to important transitions or major life events therefore altering behavior, affect, cognition or context (Wylie, 1979).
The transition from midlife to old age is sometimes characterized by high levels of instability due to changes in roles for example retirement, decline in both mental and physical ability which may adversely affect one’s self esteem, compared to mid-life’s stability in work, family ties, romantic relationships, control over self and the environment, ability to acquire power and status which promote self-esteem. This therefore leads to predictions that self-esteem levels will drop in old age though other theories defy this saying that older individuals may maintain their self-esteem and wellbeing because they are buffered against the adverse effects of various life transitions by a host of coping processes (Twenge, & Campbell, 2002).
Self-esteem in aging adults is affected by demographic variables like gender differences, racial aspects, prominent in adolescents and young adults, socio- economic factors, ethnicity, relationship variables, life events among others. Faced by these determinants of self-esteem its paramount for aging adults to develop their self-esteem and cope with changes over time as discussed below.
Friendships in adulthood should be cultivated as they are important in forming ones self-perception and promoting self-esteem. Among aging adults friendships are more defined and solid and when one has such bonds, it promotes self-esteem. According to (Phillip, 1998) friendships in adulthood are formed on developmental perspectives which are viewed as having identifiable stages that is acquaintanceship, buildup, continuation deterioration and ending. Solid friendships are characterized by affection for one another, dependability, sociability and compatibility and this promote self-esteem. Acquisition of such friendships promote self-esteem while the end of such friendships for example through death, can be traumatizing and have adverse effects on self-esteem (Phillip, 1998).
Ensuring economic stability of aging individuals promotes self-esteem. Young adults should have secured enough means of survival so as to reduce dependency which can be detrimental to ones self-esteem. Twenge & Campbel, (2002) says that less well up people have substantially shorter life expectances and are prone to stress as compared to well off people. Poor health and poverty causes low self-esteem as they feel as having wasted the prime years of their lives that would have ensured the welfare of their old age. Therefore economically stable aging adults are more confident as compared to the less stable. Optimum self-esteem is said to be achieved at midlife ages and decline in productivity as one gets old could affect their esteem therefore coping measures should be undertaken (McMullin & Cairney, 2004).
Improved personal perception of old age is also a means of aging adults developing their self-esteem. Old age should not be viewed as a burden but as an unavoidable transition in life. Trying to fight aging puts at stake ones self-esteem, life’s zest, daily joy and the satisfaction of living. (Phillip, 1998) points out that that self-esteem rises steadily as people age but starts declining around the time of retirement. This transition comes up with a tendency to feel unproductive hence less useful which can be improved by one involving in social work or pursuing leisure to achieve persons fulfillment so as not to loose self-esteem. This may not have been necessary in the earlier years of life but it is important among aging adults who have so much time on their hands and unless they keep themselves occupied, they may tend to feel useless (Liebert, 1990).
Ensuring proper health and wealth are key factors in raising self-esteem among aging adults. Being in good physical condition and earning higher incomes creates high esteem as one ages. Although chronic diseases may be difficult to avoid at old age such as hypertension, diabetes, heart problems among others, hence taking control of one’s physical condition gives them a sense of control increasing their confidence and security while creating a sense of independence and significance which are key factors in forming positive personal opinions. Although health status of aging individuals may depreciate with time ensuring proper health and taking control when one suffers from these chronic diseases and accumulation of wealth to secure oneself upkeep welfare helps aging individuals maintain self-esteem over time.
Proper planning, commitment and Taking positive actions while aging also promotes self-esteem .Positive actions should be taken so as to be able to embrace old age. Families and care givers can make the later years of the aging not only positive and happy but also fulfilling and enhance a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Also the younger people are encouraged to show respect the elderly and using them as mentors as this reinforces their feeling of self-worth and general importance to the society thus boosting their self-esteem which may have been at the risk of erosion due to the pressures of transition in aging (Twenge, & Campbell, 2002).
Creating social interactions or support groups, where ones gets to get together with other aging people and get to share their experiences could also be a means through which aging adults develop self-esteem .This transitional stage can be easier when these aging adults are exposed to places with people going through the same stages of life where they can talk freely about their challenges to graceful aging, which definitely boost their self-esteem. While these support may not have been necessary in the earlier years to boost one self-esteem, aging adults may find them supportive and ensuring of their personal worth thus important to them.
Physical exercise and keeping fit are also can also help develop ones esteem as one gets to improve on their health as they undertake it to improve their bodies physical fitness, which helps them appreciate themselves the more and thus promoting positive self-image. Seeking therapy for example fighting memory loss, preventing diseases as well as providing disease coping mechanisms among aging adults age can also boot their self-esteem. Aging adults should be in control of their physical and mental health and be able to master their own progress. This gives them a sense of control and self-worth. Ones acknowledgment and acceptance that one cannot evade the changes that time brings but can rather modify lifestyle and activity as one ages to maintain the efficiency of your healing system as well as maintain ones esteem is paramount to maintaining self-esteem of aging adults.( Liebert, 1990)
Several factors play a role in how self-esteem affect aging adults, for instance the state of their health, socio- economic factors, socio- economic factors ,Ethnicity education income levels, relationship satisfaction, marital status, health, social support, the possibility of having encountered stressful life events among others. All these being determinant of self-esteem of the aging adults, satisfying and supportive relationships tend to create high self-esteem. Self-esteem varies little as a function of physical activity. It is of paramount importance that aging adults have more favorable domain specific perceptions for example those pertaining to their health, physical conditions among others that can motivate physical activity, behavior irrespective of global self-esteem (Wylie, 1979).
In light of the above the transition from young adulthood to aging adults can be considered traumatizing by many as it’s a period characterized by denial of oneself due to physical and mental decline, which puts a strain on individuals who consequentially feel less use full due to their reduced productivity levels. Despite these challenges graceful aging can still be realized by the aging adults by creating supportive relationships and asserting their self-worth by developing their esteem through the above discussed ways.