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The following program is produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant of aid from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. The challenge of a.g. Today's program emotional health and aging. A program from the series human behavior social and medical research produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service with special assistance from the National Health Council and the National Health Forum. The people you will hear today are Dr. Jack Weinberg of the University of Illinois Dr. Matthew Ross who is the medical director of the American Psychiatric Association. And Dr. Louis de Cohen of Duke University. And my name is Glenn Philips. My first question was addressed to Dr. Weinberg. Are the problems of emotional help any different for old age persons than those of the younger group.
He answered. Problems for the older person. Those that are similar to the younger group however we view aging as one of the developmental phases in the lifespan of the human bloom in the sense developmental in the sense that it is not a static phase but a continued attempt at adaptation. And as any developmental phase it has stresses which are germ main to that period and that period per se research is indicated. And yet the research in human behavior is of necessity and the enormously difficult task in that it must deal with the human organism and in deed there is the rub for the complexity and variability of findings as numerous as there are human beings and the very
nuances of the human experience. Furthermore human experience is never the sum total of his sensory perceptions. Yet that is precisely what he is most usually being tested and recorded. The most the most invariable factor in behavior is its variability. Despite in memos gross similarities. The passion and enthusiasm with which researchers approach and attack their project is always thinned by the haunting knowledge that it is difficult for one human being to be investigated as a control for his fellow man. Except for the moon macroscopic findings one man can seldom be a scientific control for the other. Indeed to my mind man even if the deuce to the common denominator of an adept thing machine is in a constant state of flux where every half hour of existence brings about
some changes which make it statistically impossible for him to be a scientific control even for himself. Recognizing all of these difficulties we must nevertheless strive for an evaluation and assessment of the process attendant to lead a life if not in their entirety at least some aspects of it. Now I know that Dr Cone from Duke. Is well acquainted with the research going on in the field and I would like to ask Dr. Cohen this too to acquaint us with the research going on with the promises in that research. Thank you Dr. Weinberg. I was apprehensive when you began your remarks that you would rule out the possibility of our being able to deal with any research in the area of behavior because of its complexity. But please that you did suggest that we'd have to begin in our measurements in our study of behavior at some
point where we were able to at least begin to understand part of the total complexity of behavior. And this is pretty much the task that has been attempted throughout all behavioral research or research particularly in relation to eating. There are some special problems that Mr. Phillips. Alluded to in his question about differences between older and younger people in the area of mental health. The special problem for the older person is the inevitable downward course of certain of his abilities which create complexities in the way in which the older person. Meets. His daily life and deals with the problems of adaptation that you Dr. Weinberg just mentioned
the problems of adaptation for many older people become quite complex because he had in. Numerous cases has less to work with as he begins to tackle the problem of his every day life. I would like to report on some of the findings that we have. Already been able to demonstrate about the course this change and some of the hopeful aspects of this change. But perhaps it might be a good time now to ask Dr Ross if he would like to comment about the question that Mr Phillips raised and we can discuss this further later. But I think there are a good many things that that are going on that indicate. Much that is applicable to the younger age person is also
applicable in approaching the problems as we see them as you know as physicians in relation to the elderly people. There are differences but there are similarities. There are many exciting things going on and I wonder if perhaps you didn't touch on something already. Dr. Cohen When you mentioned that you were interested in a part of the total behavior because you already recognize you can only get at a part. And I think we too in medicine and particularly in psychiatry are concerned as we are to a great degree with the alleviation of illness and suffering. Also can only deal with a park and it's that illness part that we focus a good deal of our attention on. With an eye perhaps to research and trying to correlate our findings with some of yours and maybe as we get to hear some of your specifics we can tie these together in some way. But it's certainly to my mind at least that once the question is
asked how this specific trauma specific aspects to the problem in the aged that we must tease out not necessarily the similarities but it differences between the young. And the old. And here I mean I oppose this statement. But after all one out of one ages and everyone must come up in a certain period in life with specific trauma which I consider to be specific for that period in my life and those out to to my mind first is the feeling and fear that the other person has of losing mastery over his own self mastery over his physiological self which may be. Emotional elements which he has held under control. As you have stated before not there was the voice of the intellect is soft.
The aged person is afraid that his intellect is going to give way and his emotions are going to come to the surface. So fear of loss of mastery or control is one of the elements that's particularly germane to this age group. Since deficits in the brain do occur. And the second element is that of isolation the gradual nomos that overtakes the. Age an organism and the reasons for that are numerous and to. Tumors to get into at this moment. But those are specific elements which I think cause difficulties and probably show up in your research studies though they are not the cause. Well no in regard to the first point of the deficit's which accompanied. Age I think we have some evidence that has been accumulated through the years which suggests that indeed older people are not as quick in their responses and do not perceive or do not
understand the signals coming into them as well as they did earlier but I think one has been. Of greatest interest to us recently in our studies is the fact that these changes in perception these changes the speed of response these changes in intellectual functioning if you will. Are changes which vary from person to person and the speed with which the deficit or inability occurs in older people varies enormously so that many older people are almost as able as they ever were and others are very much much more deteriorated. Some of our recent studies may be of special interest here in that we have been able to find a fairly clear tendency for the very right to maintain their level of proficiency their level of shooting.
Their level of functioning at a high level for a long time. And show a very slow rate of decline in abilities as they grow older. However those with more modest intellectual assets at the earlier part of their lives seem to deteriorate much more rapidly so that our assumption could very well be that the bright can maintain their level of functioning for a longer period of time without any deficit. No. This is one finding I think that we are quite happy. Here bringing out an individualized element here not a regiment of individuals. Well this I think is the point that Dr Weinberg was also implying at the very beginning of of his discussion and that is need to appreciate the fact that.
While the problems of adaptations are general for all of us particular perhaps for. Some are particularly difficult for some of our older people that many as individuals can escape any of this specially traumatic difficulty in their later life because for them there is a considerable high level of functioning and. Maintenance of all their capacities until very late in life there are some course outstanding examples in our world history. I think Winston Churchill was able to function with super efficiency for many many years at a point where at least in our current society most people are retired. Konrad Adenauer. At 84 is functioning in a significant way in the political life of our world and so on.
This is indeed as you point out not the Ross a very individual affair. I meant rest of the people constantly point out all of these world figures to underscore the fact that there are people who can emulate life function. The truth of the matter is that there are enormous There's an enormous group of people functioning on all phases in life in society who are very old and nobody speaks of the Plumber who may be 72 and functioning in the same high level as Mr. Churchill did at his age. I think this may be due Dr. Weinberg to perhaps the stereotype that we have that older people are. Apt to deteriorate and I am so delighted that you highlighted the generality of the notion that the older people are not necessarily the older people are functioning
well not necessarily the world figures in some studies that we've been doing we've been taking people in our own community and who are older and studying them. And this is where our information and data have come to help us reach the conclusion that the brighter people are able to function much more efficiently for a longer period of time. These data have not come from the study of world figures. I should imagine in your community you have a good many people that would be retired university professors perhaps and also some business people and some housewives and. John Q. Public strike straight across the board in a rather typical university town in the United States should be very interesting to hear what they're like. That's very true of Dr. Ross. Our community is. I suspect fairly typical of most of the American communities the communities we have been studying an older group of people who have been asked to volunteer and
to come into our study for a two day period and they come. To the hospital and are. Helpful in participating in a wide number of different tasks and this information has been derived from. Our study that we made in conjunction with the University of Chicago at Michael Reese Hospital a group of people who are preparing for retirement and they were taken from all walks of life. They were volunteers and volunteers are always suspect in terms of their motivations but nevertheless we were amazed to find how many of these people. Psychologically. Showed up to be sick people yet function pretty well on the outside and I was reminded of the statement made by Schopenhauer who was a sick man himself. The true measure
of health is the ability of the individual to transcend his illness and indeed psychologically this is quite true. Isn't that true also. Dr. Lawson I'd like to ask of you particularly since you have written on this subject as to the what are the chances of an older person. To respond psycho therapeutically one spinless that's it. I think in general the chances are very good provided this person can come to the attention of a therapist. I thinking particularly about the people I know the best psychiatrist who has an appreciation of the fact that there is much he can do. For persons. Who come to his attention who come to him for help. If he has the mistaken notion. That aged people elderly people people. Who have
grown past this arbitrary age of 65 are no longer amenable to his techniques. Then I think the chances are very poor if he is a forward looking physician and is aware of the research and the work of his colleagues. He will know that he can do a great deal. And we have many many examples of this now accumulating throughout the United States as well as from abroad but particularly life from it in which some of the things that are going on in the United States. And they cover quite a wide range both geographically and in terms of techniques and pretty much now we have at least one experience of it reported from one or another person in the country that practically every technique that a psychiatrist can use in a younger age person has had some beneficial effect on an older person. I think you have some illusion to some of the work that I have done and may I say that I have indicated that psychiatry's have
gone a long way from the days where incantation and prayer the man had tried to placate and drive out the evil spirits. We have attempted brain surgery shark long term psychotherapy short term therapy individual psychotherapy group therapy various drugs heat and cold fire a nice music socio drama water jazz really played total push total regression. All have been tried and to all have been ascribed healing powers by those who promulgated their favored means. The confusion resulting from all of the claims becomes no confusion however when we realize that all of the above therapies have a common denominator and the common denominator is of course the therapist and the patient and that which goes on between them. This of course implies that one human
being working with another human being is able to supply to the other person some particular need and it further implies that certain people can help certain other individuals and that the same person may not be able to help all people. I am always intrigued in the discussions of therapy with the additional concern that medicine and those of us in the social sciences are. Apt to pay a lot of attention to and that is the prevention of illness and the. Aspect of. Problems for all the people which might respond to some. Preventive intervention seems to me to be one of especial interest. We've been studying this question. I do particularly as we look at men who have retired and who are about to retire. To
see whether we can determine what factors are particularly stressful to the older men and women what factors require or lead them to require psychiatric assistance. And if we can perhaps we can if we can identify these factors perhaps we can eliminate the need for such highly skilled and sometimes very. Scarce psychiatric assistance that may be required. One of the points that I think has come out and which is terribly impressive in consequence of our studies is the need for older people to maintain their level of functioning and their sense of usefulness and importance in their daily lives to the level that was appropriate for them and theirs when they were younger. In this regard I think the work setting the work
situation is often very helpful in maintaining a sense of belonging a sense of usefulness and a sense of well-being that can maintain the mental health and the emotional vigor of older people. I'm sure this is. This area prevention is an area that you have been. As equally concerned with. As As a side and perhaps you'd like to say something about this. Well there's no question that as a medical man our function is in society to talk ourselves out of a job as rapidly as possible. Our function is not necessarily to build huge cheer and larger institutions but rather to create a situation where institutions are not needed. This is quite a new top concept. However certainly prevention is
Amen gurl and this is determined by a number of things not only by the individual himself who brings into legal life the scouring of his previous life experiences and that he must bring to it some willingness and desire to go on functioning and some drive to continue to function. But conversely the medical profession itself cannot offer help. Certain changes must take place within our society and our culture in our economy which must in some way give to the ageing organism a sense of belonging and worthwhile as a culture. Unfortunately. Its values are inimical to the interests of the ageing organism and the ageing person who has taken in those values early in life applies those values to himself and looks upon himself as a depreciated unwanted person.
And since he'd be heaves in that fashion that he certainly treated in that fashion too. So in the larger sense he suffers many insults those imposed upon him from the outside and those that he himself imposes upon himself because he's embracing the value system in which he lives. What you think that your family would be a pretty important aspect of this Dr Weinberg that maybe we need to pay some attention to how the family aids and abets in the larger sense what culture is as you just described as to the individual. If we can somehow reach a families on a more universal level to somehow make the proper place for the grandmothers and grandfathers that the lever towns of America don't provide physical space for them. Not only the 11 time zones. I'm amused we have a telephone near Chicago
that has the young marrieds and the young people there don't get to see all the people and the children don't get to see people who age gracefully in the community and therefore view the other person only as a sick person. I'm interested in the converse of this I was visiting in Denmark a few years ago and went to one of the old age homes. There they have a number of independent apartments for older people and the feeling of the older people is that they were isolated from younger people and they preferred to get close to the young people and people who are really the managers of the institution were saying that it was helpful both ways that the older people were able to be babysitters and to shark considerable amount of affection on the youngsters and vice versa. As you've already suggested I certainly feel that the older person should have the privilege of hearing children laugh or cry and see a smooth brow and hair that
isn't as great as yours Dr. Cole. May I indicate also Dr. Ross that you touched on a very important point and terms of the family structure of the family in the United States Dollars and has changed enormously for various reasons which we can go into at the moment. But it is the function of the family one of its functions to transmit to its offspring's the culture in which it lives. And this it does often only too well to the detriment of the aging person. So a good educational program plus an attempt at altering a system of living to bring the young and old together so they would know that they are not problems and that indeed problems are all a great deal of experiences that can be shared that can be happy and useful to one another. I would think by implication here from your comments that we probably ought to get some architects and some social planners in here so that in these mass community projects we have they don't
set up the art officiality you know elderly or no young ones it seems them of the problems of aging in many ways transcend the. General concerns of physicians and social scientists but. The need to bring in economist and business people the whole warp and woof of our society becomes involved in the methods in which we treat methods in which we honor the methods in which we relate to the older people and that if preventive work is to be done that has to be done across a broad front recognising the abilities as well as the alleged limitations of the older person. I'm going to heat her up in a minute and a half and wind up with a question. If you expect any major breakthroughs in the research. Or scene. Here Well I'm going to
paste it in and say no. This is a slow careful sometimes Tejas process by which research data are accumulated and evaluated. In fact. Much of our work has the very disconcerting factor of disproving some of our earlier impressions. As we become more careful in our analysis as we become more complete in the data that we've collected. I see no major breakthrough but. I think what is happening is that hundreds of people are now in the research effort across the entire range of activities from the microscopic to the macroscopic. And I believe that the accumulated effort of all of these people. Item by item put together. Will perhaps constitute what might appear to be a breakthrough. Isn't that really what a breakthrough read since it's a point in time when all of the
collective efforts of people are suddenly brought to a head and the meal is ready to take care of it. Dr. Cohen typically careful researcher makes his statement and will make his point well. Our thanks to Dr. Jack Weinberg Dr. Matthew Ross and Dr. Louis Cohen for their participation on this program. Emotional health and aging. Next week you will hear Mrs. Mary Cleverley Norman P. Mason George Beecham and William C. fish as they discuss living arrangements for the aged. On the next programme from the series human behavior social and medical research. We extend our special thanks to the National Health Council and the National Health Forum for their assistance. Glenn Phillips speaking asking that you join us next week and thanking you for being with us at this time.
The challenge of aging
Emotional health and aging
Producing Organization
University of Michigan
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program features interviews with Jack Weinberg, MD, University of Illinois, Chicago; Matthew Ross, MD, American Psychiatric Association, Washington D.C.; and Louis Cohen, MD, Duke University Medical Center.
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Part of a WUOM series on human behavior, this series seeks to explore the challenges facing the aged.
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Social Issues
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Host: Hentoff, Nat
Interviewee: Weinberg, Jack
Interviewee: Ross, Matthew
Interviewee: Cohen, Louis David, 1912-
Producer: Phillips, Glen
Producing Organization: University of Michigan
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-28-6 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:25
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Chicago: “The challenge of aging; Emotional health and aging,” 1961-05-02, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 23, 2021,
MLA: “The challenge of aging; Emotional health and aging.” 1961-05-02. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 23, 2021. <>.
APA: The challenge of aging; Emotional health and aging. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from