Our guest writer today is a senior in psychology, Sydnie Weiler. This post details some of the things she learned about while taking Gender Issues in Later Life (PSY 354/GER 320) during the spring semester.
There are many topics surrounding gender in today’s world, and everyone has something they need to say about it. Through classroom education, social media, and even our 2017 presidential election, gender issues have risen to be something undeniable. So instead of denying the fact that we do have gender issues, why don’t we educate those who may not understand?
I was given the opportunity to take a gender issues class at Missouri State University this spring, and I have been educated immensely throughout the course. It has opened my eyes towards issues that I did not even realize existed. Gender issues goes further than pay gaps or the glass ceiling. It goes into the physical, emotional, and psychological well-being of many people throughout many different age ranges.
Specifically in our gender issues course we were taught about gender issues and aging. The wide range of issues that go along with aging that most of society is uneducated about is fascinating. From sexuality, organizational issues, and caregiving… aging is a serious topic that needs, and deserves, to be understood. Our society has become more diverse and open-minded in the last decade and those aging have been able to exercise their freedom more thoroughly in careers or their own sexuality. Those aging adults who have dealt with hiding their sexuality most of their lives have had a huge toll taken on them. Some self-medicate from fear of the stigma with drugs and alcohol and have had their health affected as well. This is something that goes unnoticed by most of society due to lack of care and effort on our part.
Gerontology has also been an eye opener for me in the aspect of mental health. I have been a psychology major for a couple of years now and mostly studied the way in which abnormal behavior affects individuals in their development. I had a whole new world open up to me when I was educated about the way that mental health is affected through aging as well. There are many mental health issues that those in aging adulthood face that go unrecognized due to the fact that most of society just treats it as them “being old and crazy”. Aging adults may face depression due to loneliness, death of a partner, diagnoses of chronic illness, etc. There are many triggers for aging adults to fall into a depression and our physicians and psychiatrists are not properly trained to diagnose and treat aging adults. Due to being uneducated about symptoms, physicians tend to misdiagnose aging patients, which can eventually lead to misusing and abusing of prescription drugs, or they tend to not diagnose aging adults at all, assuming they are being “dramatic” or “senile” about the pain that they are in. Mental health is a massive issue within the gerontology community and I encourage psychology majors, or even minors, to open up their minds and take a gerontology class that can expand their knowledge about mental health across the lifespan.
Another aspect that spoke deeply to me throughout the course was body image and vocabulary. This course spoke deeply to me because I had never grasped the fact that “grandpa” may not necessarily like to be called grandpa. Through aging the human body goes through drastic changes. From menopause, health decline, aging skin, etc. men and women fall into body dissatisfaction rather quickly. Specifically with women, this causes them to spend enormous amounts of money on the “ideal body” that women are supposed to have. Throughout the lifespan, women suffer with body dissatisfaction due to what society considers the “perfect body”, and with age, it becomes even harder to have the body that society expects women to have. Women suffer throughout their whole lives and as they age, the expectations only begin to get worse. On the other hand, with men, they pride themselves on being a “man of power”, knowledgeable, and self-controlling and those traits only increase with age.
The many aspects of gerontology that I had the wonderful opportunity of learning throughout this semester have broadened my horizons in more ways than I could have possibly imagined. Along with the topics I just spoke of there were many others that we discussed throughout the semester as well including domestic violence, organizational issues with gender, rape statistics with aging adults, caregiving and care receiving, and gender and the family. I encourage anyone who may be uneducated on these aspects to take a course in gerontology to learn about these topics across the lifespan and to take into their own hands the serious issues that aging adults face within society. We can continue to educate others whether it is in a big way through community talks, or even in a small way with encouraging others to use better vocabulary. This gender issues course has opened my eyes in many ways and I believe that it can continue to educate others in the same ways as well.