Historical Perspectives in Clinical Geropsychology
Throughout much of history, it was rare for persons to reach the age of 55 because of inadequate medical treatment, starvation, neglect, disease, and poor hygiene. Indeed, as recently as the 17th century the average human being could expect to live only about 35 years. Presently, however, the average life-span is approximately 75 years, largely as a result of advancements in medicine and health care. The human life-span continues to expand and will inevitably contribute to a number of problems, including the role and adjustment of senior citizens in society. Indeed, the world’s population for persons over 60 years of age is expected to burgeon beyond 1 billion within 35 years (Shuman, 1987), and approximately 30% of the general population will consist of senior citizens by the year 2030 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1987–1988). The increased proportion of elderly citizens has already brought about new social problems that have yet to be addressed. For example, there is a serious shortage of mental health professionals with adequate geriatric training. There are few training programs in university and medical settings for geropsychology (clinical psychology of older adults), and those extant are relatively underfunded. This is particularly distressing given that at least 12% of older adults in the community are estimated to have a diagnosed mental disorder (Regier et al., 1988). Further, it has been estimated that 40% to 50% of older adult medical inpatients have a concurrent psychiatric disorder (Rapp, Parisi, & Walsh, 1988).
KeywordsBehavioral Research Older Adult Senior Citizen Poor Hygiene Gerontological Research
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