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Critical Analysis of Research Papers in Gerontology

Critical Analysis of Research Papers in Gerontology

Scholars refer to the study of gerontology as the study of the social, biological and psychological aspects of aging. Aging is feared by most adults, since they come to understanding the approaching of the dusk of their lives. Recently there has been an increasing interest in gerontology as it encompasses the aspects that are paramount for finding the theories that explain the behavior of elderly adults while aging. The purpose of this paper is to analyze two articles in the light of other researches related to gerontology. The critical evaluation of two articles by Ayalon (2011) “Examining satisfaction with live-in foreign home care in Israel from the perspectives of care recipients, their family members, and their foreign home care workers”, and Ayalon et al. (2012) “No place like home? Potential pathways to loneliness in older adults under the care of a live-in foreign home care worker”. Although these articles have particular obvious limitations, each reflects a particular notion of gerontology that relates to the affect of caregiving provided to older people at home and homecare centers. The articles also illuminate the hypotheses supported by empirical evidence on the theories aging that are discussed in this paper.

Aging is a difficult and painful process for many adults. Especially aging brings discomfort for those who fear growing old for various reasons: wear and tear, general imbalance, disengagement, continuity theory, etc. Many are unable to accept this natural process that everybody has to eventually go through, and therefore suffer through their retirement. Home care centers for elderly have been created as a way to restore the balance in psycho-emotional, biological and environmental states of the aging and increase the satisfaction of life at this period. Nevertheless, the latest research in the area of gerontology had shown that this is not always the case. Gerontology is a study that reflects a research based upon family caregiving, intergenerational issues, ethnicity, residential care, etc. In one of the articles related to aspects of gerontology, Goldsmith (2012) discusses the genetic issues of aging and suggests that the human lifespan depends on the programmed and non-programed theories. In turn, Coles (2013) enlarges on the advances of contemporary gerontology and puts an emphasis on the importance of creating a positive aging vision. An interesting research was conducted by Kerbler (2012), who states that “the concept of ageing at home can be implemented with the help of information and communication technologies” (p. 166). Thus, gerontology aims at explaining the theories of aging and finding the solutions to make this process as smooth and comfortable as possible for the elderly. According to the previous findings, the aging is affected by three main factors, such as biological, social and environmental. The research articles by Ayalon (2011) and Ayalon et al. (2012), describe the situations that touch social and environmental factors that affect the outcome of aging.

Let us walk through the analysis of social aspects and aging theories described in the studies of the writers. First, the articles by Ayalon (2011), and Ayalon et al. (2012) are focused on the effect of care performed in home settings by foreign workers who take care of older people in their natural Israel. The writers argue the concern of speculating the correlation between the aspect of caregiving and loneliness. According to the social theory of aging, growing old is a co-dependent interactive process that in a vicious circle affects the environment and the elderly. The article by Ayalon (2011) describes the need for the elderly to have someone to watch over. True that according to the activity theory, engaging active social interactions with younger adults positively affect on the satisfaction and well-being of the recipient. Nevertheless, this approach may have negative effects on the elderly in case of disability or other reasons that stop the recipient from maintaining middle-aged lifestyle and meaningful participation in active interfacing.

Second, growing old the individuals experience mutual separation from society. Due to this fact, the home care centers are being created in order to oppress the ego-centric and self-absorved features that are being developed in the individuals and get back on track to societal lifestyle. It is widely acknowledged that older people in settings that are distant from their home tend to feel lack of attention and loneliness due to the absence of their family members. However, Ayalon’s (2011) article refutes this particular idea and examines the effects of foreign workers on the social, psychological, and biological aspects of older people that tend to bring positive results, and even satisfaction. The scholars determine what makes foreign people become human services workers. Among the reasons are “dramatic demographic changes” and “availability of informal care” (Ayalon, 2011, p. 376). The researchers shed light on live-in home care for elderly that engage them in close communication with at least another person, who helps them to be predisposed for self-reflection and be free from social roles, yet still be attached to social interactions.

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Third, continuity and life course theory is a problematic aspect for perception of an aging person. The individual is used to develop attachments while being in life as everything is forever. Nevrtheless, when the dangerous age comes there is a need to overcome and accept the concept of inevitable change and decline. The researchers (2011, and 2012) explore the irreplaceable need to walk the elderly through this journey at the end of its cycle. The notion of live-in home care has reached the level of extreme popularity and Ayalon’s article (2011) reflects upon the positive sides of such an experience. It is fair to conjecture that the article’s hypothesis may be supported by the scholar’s idea to engage various stakeholders into the research. It means that older people, their family and foreign workers contributed to the study.

Let us walk through the analysis of environmental aspects and aging theories described in the studies of the writers. Environmental gerontology studies the aspects that optimize, modify and ameliorate the state of the aging person from environmental perspective. The studies describe how do live-in home foreign social workers affect the environment of the elderly that they take care of, as well as the level of satisfaction from this experience. While the studies of social theories of aging have more or less clear overview and the cause and effect results, the behavioral environmental gerontology is at the cradle of the research. The researchers conclude that the environmental theories have dual effect on the elderly.

First, Ayalon (2011) sticks to particular theories, arguing that foreign live-in workers affect old people positively. The article provides a clear-cut literature review that performs the function of informing potential readers or the target audience about the challenges of the research, concerning the aspects of home care. It is evident from the literature review that a great gap exists failing to give a proper definition of satisfaction within the context of home care. The author of the study makes a striking conclusion that a home worker has a positive influence on older impaired people. The research did not show that cognitive status somehow affected the satisfaction levels. The older adults who actually spend the majority of their time with their foreign home care workers were more likely to view the workers as family members. Their family members, on the other hand, were more hesitant to do so, because to some degree, by allowing another person into their families, they may relinquish their own place and status. (Ayalon, 2011, p. 381).

In addition to the above-mentioned results, the article sheds light on a finding that family members` satisfaction depends on the level of impairment of the older recipients of care. Although the study is not related to any theory of gerontology, it is worth conjecturing that it made a tremendous contribution to the field because Ayalon (2011) managed to show the importance of a live-in worker in caregiving practices.

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Suffice to say, as any other article based on a qualitative study, this particular one includes the implications of further research for gerontological policy and practices. As Ayalon’s (2011) article has evident limitations, it is worth mentioning that the article was narrowed to a specific variable of satisfaction. Thus, it is not possible to generalize the results of the article to the entire population of social care workers. Undoubtedly, another research should focus on generalization as well as other possible variables apart from satisfaction. Regarding policy matters, the authorities may provide special merit pays for social workers to encourage them to work better, as it increases satisfaction levels of all the stakeholders.

On the contrary, there can be no doubt in the assumption that Ayalon et al.’s (2012) article supplements the previous one and refutes its positions to some extent. The value of the article relates to the emphasis put by authors on the influence of a live-in worker on the levels of loneliness in older people: “[…] we argue that this arrangement may, at times, predispose the older care recipient to intense feelings of loneliness” (Ayalon et al., 2012, p. 190). Nevertheless, the study fails to shed light on the origins and consequences of loneliness. It is worth mentioning that Ayalon et al.’s (2012) article proves the expectations of many researchers due to the reason that some older people tend to feel lonely as they come to realize that their family members cannot take care of them.

The article contributes to gerontology in a way that it sheds light on the global phenomenon of home care in the light of the recipients’ loneliness. The authors synthesize literature, thus creating a theoretical framework for their research. This particular theoretical framework constitutes the speculations over the subjective nature of loneliness in general, and differentiates between emotional and social types of loneliness (Ayalon et al., 2012, p. 192) that is peculiar to older people. The loneliness is explained through the prism of cognitive and physical disabilities.

Ayalon at al.’s (2012) article can be marked with the appropriateness of the theoretical background presented by a synthesis of suitable literature. The key findings that the article provides consist in the assumption that cognitive and physiological disabilities are the main triggers for loneliness. It is explained by the deteriorated senses that manifest themselves in different communication problems that result in association with social loneliness. In addition, a person may feel lonely due to the loss of independence in walking, eating, etc. It is essential to realize that every individual has his/her own peculiarities of aging (Cline, 2014). The matter is that older adults are more susceptible to the influence of different age stereotypes. This article may be tied to other gerontological issues. Seemingly, the results proved that older adults attach negative attributes to their age that become salient (Weiss & Lang, 2012). A large number of researchers venture into the matter of the influence that age exerts on the mental side. According to Weiss, Sussenberg and Freund (2013), “Negative age stereotypes are pervasive and threaten older adults’ self-esteem” (p. 1140). The studies suggest that older adults are marked with the occurrence of “prejudicial attitudes” to their age that constitute the background of serious stereotypes (Stewart, Chipperfield, Perry, & Weiner, 2012). Prevention of the negative consequences of age-related stereotypes should be viewed through the prism of positive intergenerational contact due to the reason that it “can reduce vulnerability to stereotype threat among older people” (Abrams et al., 2006, p. 691). Apart from the stereotypes, “another potential mechanism responsible for loneliness in this group of older adults is the fact that their personal care is provided by a paid worker” (Ayalon et al., 2012, p. 195).

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Ayalon et al.’s (2012) article has a variety of implications for health care professionals and gerontological researchers. The matter is that caregivers should allow the family members to get involved socially and emotionally in the arrangements made by health professionals. The latter should also address the problem of cultural awareness that may result in older people’s underestimated self-scoring. Health professionals should meet older adults` needs in order to prevent them from feeling lonely. Although the article discusses several pathways to loneliness, still there are implications for further qualitative research, which should provide an in-depth evaluation of the nature of loneliness, its causes and consequences to the generation of older people due to their vulnerability. According to Ayalon et al. (2012), there is a need to continue to explore factors that are related to loneliness in older adults in general as well as more specific factors related to loneliness in older adults under a live-in foreign home care worker. (p. 196)

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To sum up, the studies by Ayalon (2011) and Ayalon et al. (2012) relate to the research on the theories of gerontology that shed light on the aspects of home care services. The authors of the two articles enlarge upon the importance and consequences of home care services, respectively delineating the concepts of satisfaction and loneliness in the context of care that is provided by live-in foreign workers. The articles have implications for further researchers, gerontological policy and health professionals. They use theoretical frameworks presented by different scholars thus narrowing the topic in order to suggest the hypotheses and key findings that influence the study of aging in particular. The topicality of the articles consists in the conjecture that they treat a controversial matter in gerontology attaching importance to the essence of caregiving.