There are certain physical characteristics, which mark an individual as old e.g. balding, loss of teeth, lameness, gray hair, deafness, and hunched back. There has been a change in how the society thinks about old age, and as several contradictory messages about how age and ageing are viewed in the society.
According to Williams (1984: p.111), the determining biological foundation of old age faces a lot of challenges due to lack of a simple relationship between chronological age and physical fitness, as well as the variability with which physical ageing articulates itself. However, according to the structured biological theory, most of the factors people associate with ageing result from social practices rather than physical ageing. Hence, as much as old age can be determined biologically, Hockey and James (2003: p.54) argue that its precise commencement varies historically and culturally; thus, it can be defined as a socially constructed phenomenon, rather than a biological stage. Therefore, this paper will critically analyze old age as social construct.
The images of aging are said to exist in two levels; personal or one’s own point of view, and societal, which involves the perception of many people in the society. Job (1981: p.22) argues that for us to understand aging, it is imperious to understand that self-image is influenced by the aging, and the social image. This self-image refers to image of age that includes a person’s chronological age and subjective age. Subjective age refers to how old an individual feels and which age group they feel they belong. Discussion Old age is defined differently in different societies in which several factors are used to define the transition to old age such as retirement, ill health, chronological age, death of spouse, and mental and physical deterioration among others. According to various studies done, changes in physical health and social role such as retirement, grandparenthood and widowhood, lead the definition of old age identity (Victor, 1987: p.90). Moreover, studies have also revealed that some old people separate disability or illness from aging, although they believe that their age deteriorates due to old age, but their personality remains the same. Therefore, self-image remains unchanged while the subjective image of age remains unaltered. According to Victor (1987: p.94), the society may consider old age to be sixty to sixty five, but people of this age may feel they are not as old as others of the same age, which shows the difference between the self-image of the old people and the social image. The aged also view their selves depending on how the society perceives them, called the social image. This perception depends on the attitudes of the society towards the old people that are 4that are highly influenced by stereotypes. These attitudes can be unfavorable or favorable according to the stereotypes of the old people, which are reflected in the way they are treated by the social groups (Vincent, 2003: p.58). Hence, self-image is armored by interaction with other people in the social environment. Sociologists believe that the stages of life are socially constructed for two main reasons. These are how people experience childhood or other stages of life, which depend on several factors such as race, class, gender and ethnicity, and the stages of life that differ among the societies. In addition, Hockey and James (2003: p.61) argue that the personal or second hand view of old age by an individual is highly influenced by gender, family status, class or health. People who share the same cultural and economic tendencies