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The following program is produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant he made from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. The challenge of aging. Today's program a psychologist looks at 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. You were here today Dr. Irving Borys of the Teachers College of Columbia University in New York City. And my name is Glenn Philips. Dr. LORD said aging is a problem because too many people have a negative attitude about aging and the elderly. My first question of doctor lawyers was if he would explain his research studies which he
had conducted regarding the attitudes of people toward aging He answered this way. Well. Basically Waite tried to collect a series of statements that represent some of the misconceptions that people have. About. The old in the elderly in our population. Dr. Tuchman and I have collected about 200 of these statements. Some of them like they need less sleep than younger people or they hide their money or they spoil their grandchildren or they are kind of people who feel the future is hopeless so I prefer to live alone. Things of that kind. I we've given this schedule of questions to children in the elementary school. And to college students and to graduate students. And to people in living in our old age
homes and to people who have been retired and who are not working but who go to a recreation center. And one instance we were very lucky we were able to give it to college students. And then mothers and fathers. And in every instance we found out that all of these people believed at least half of the stereotypes that we found but these stereotypes were already believed. By children at the age of 10. Apparently they because of their experiences perhaps partly because of the fairy tales they read and which go together. Are old and decrepit go together and they have this generalized attitude that aging and the elderly people who are on the scrap heap. In your study you have brought in many other countries have you not. Well yes we've had this schedule reduced a little bit we have 100 items and we've had to translate into the Japanese into Swedish into
German into Spanish. And we're beginning to get returns from various countries of the world through the cooperation of psychologists or sociologists interested in the same problem. This is thought of this question to right now to ask of you but. Is this problem of aging one that requires world action as opposed to the national or local action. Well I would think it's an international problem in the sense that. But the improvement in methods of taking care rob people physically with the improvement in housing and in nutrition. But when I went over the road. Where young people are being kept alive that is the Infant and child death rates are being reduced. But I think I'm going to end up the
the number of people dying at the or their ages is being reduced. Now there may come a time when there's a level of low. But in our own country for instance we know that the death rate about the age of 65 houses is not the same now as it was in 1930 it's low. So that this is true in Australia in New Zealand it's true and even in Japan and in China. Where ever Western civilization has been able to have an impact so that I think that this is an international situation and if this is true we can we're going to have the octopus the population explosion being represented not only with the increased Fratello day and children but also more people are going to survive for longer and longer periods of time it's going to be quite different from what it was let's say in
1900 the world over. So what is the estimation of the United States there are 15 million people beyond the age of 65 they expect. What was it 25 million of that 10 years was that we have. Well I don't know I mean all these estimates are estimates but I would guess that. Certainly by 1960 will have something like 17 and a half to 18 millions. And what it will be and 75 is a good guess but certainly will be more than there is now. I would think that we're moving very close to a 10 percent of the population will be 65 years old. And this means by the way that it will be 65 beyond 100. There's we are having now significant numbers of people who are living beyond 100. Perhaps thousands beyond a hundred years of age. That's right. I almost did something there that I have been taught never to do and that was wishful. Well don't get me I was a little amazed at matter of fact one of them and he
has said that it is being alleged that the longevity will be increased to one hundred twenty five and over what span of time within the next decade. This is what he's saying now. How are certain wait till we have the unusual £120 people though have been reported to be a hundred forty in a hundred fifty years of age and in some instances there's enough verification for us to say this is possible but I think that these will be unusual people I don't think they'll be too many of them but the number of people who are living into the 90s and 100s is increasing proportionately not only numerically. Open so many kinds of questions that it's difficult even know where to begin. But suppose we save that for a decade later she Alright well let's meet again and tell her.
As a practitioner I should have said earlier too that as a teacher we connect with the Teachers College of Columbia University. You are a psychologist. This is perhaps as more important really than saying you are connected with a teachers college. So as a psychologist what about the productive years beyond 65. Are there still years of productivity left in these people. Well first of all let me dodge the question and in this way we dont think of childhood being made up a group of people all of whom are alike. We dont think of you with being made up of a group of people all of whom are alike. People vary. Now if you ask me are I that productive years left after 65. The answer is undoubtedly yes. And the history of the last 30 or 40 years in this country does suggest that people who
have reached so-called retirement ages. Let's say 65 in a college or let's say 30 or 35 years of service and civil service or in the military. These people have tremendous years ahead of them. And they are using it productively. One can always cite the unusual when you can talk about Schweitzer. You don't have to be told that he's no longer a young man but that he is productive. Goes without saying. I know people who have been retired from Columbia University Michigan University from Massachusetts Institute of Technology from Harvard who after 65 suddenly began to find out that they were much more successful now than I couple of water in a college classroom. Because now they can endure the kinds of things they can use their knowledge and wisdom in a genuine way. Now
by the same token there are some people at 40 who are no good. I think that if we could only get out one point of view that people are not alike. But just because they happen to be 65 or 70 or 75. I you can tick them off you're going to thank God Who are the political leaders. We have ad now is here in this country we have many gorier. No one would assert that these are you. We can fuck up all the outstanding musicians and Pablo Casals comes to mind and would still not move him into the younger group of 84 I believe and I don't quite know what is in the way beyond the seventies so that that these people who are showing that they are productive creator are a demonstration that it is quite possible. But what happens is that somebody else I now look here is a person who's 65
he's Did Jerry about it. He's no good anymore and then generalize to the rest of the population and this is what I think is happening. Who are the people that are seen by. Possessions property age 65 they are the sick old. Social workers see the indigent old the nurses see the difficult cases in the hospital and what they say is that gross which of the lower third now. Sure we have sick people among the all of them that the older you get the greater the likelihood that this is going to be. But when you remember that we have had a number of surveys. That's a classic survey that was made by Sheldon in England at rather happen it was a study that was made in Sheffield
by Hopsin in Pemberton. It was a survey that was made in Groningen in Holland by Fun son of feld and his students it was a study it was made in the United States by McCain in Connecticut. All of the health of the people and they found out that two thirds of the people 65 years or older can take care of themselves completely physically psychologically socially and economically. Now this is the reality. But what happens is that it's the physicians who are seeing the sick old sight. This is what I like the social workers who have to deal with the needy a lot and sought out. This is what they are like the nurses who are working that stay in homes for the old see the difficult one the ones that do not respond easily and then they then say this is what the way they
are now there is no doubt that in that lower third are people who can't take care of themselves. There are some people who were given a chance but very much better. But when the doctor says to himself These are old. Therefore they can't work they can't do the best they can't do that he may come up with a generalization. What's the use. Or do you assume I can get this guy off my hand. Maybe we'll get him into a state hospital. And what has happened is they a lot of people have been pushed into mental hospitals. Because somebody didn't want to be around because there was no other way to take care of them and of course once they are repudiated by society or by anybody and they are they're out on the outside they lose contact and if you lose contact you get more and more like what you are what the originally alleged that they were.
So I think that in some instances it is possible that we're suffering from the stereotype we're making the kind of people we think they are. Yes somebody told me that just last night I think it was that here we have the stereotype and nobody fits into it. And that's right. Well I'm sure that we can find a person who sounds like the stereotype but we don't know whether we've helped to create the stereotype that person. This is what I think is the challenge to the practitioner. I feel about the practitioner has to face the realities of the situation. He has to realize that he is dealing with a marginal hand he cannot generalize to the upper two thirds on the basis of it. I think the challenge is this. If two thirds of the people are able to take care of themselves why can't three quarters or four fifths or some other number. I'm sure it
will ever be 100 percent because there are some people can't take care of themselves at two years of age or five years of age or 15 years of age we have them. We've had them all our lives. But. These people I think of there as somebody who even has Cullen gone so far as to assert that those who are the most maladjusted among the older people the maladjusted those middle aged people as well as young adults and even as yes I don't think we know all the facts. It's an hypothesis for which I would like to wait for some some evidence but I don't know that there are people who never made a genuine contribution and these very frequently you'll find in the city hospitals have the indigent sick difficult old people but they've been that way for a long time they've been they've been on assistance programs before this this isn't the first time. Now how is it that some people this is the critical question how is that that some
people can be Schweitzer's. And some people have vegetables in a mental institution. This of course is one of the basic research questions. Well this is the biggest question of all life isn't it. You have indicated that or said that. Well I think this is it yes. More specifically perhaps. What about intelligence in the older years do they lose intelligence. Well I doubt there's very much the evidence that we have obtained since the 30s strongly suggests that intelligence is maintained into the 50s and 60s. If you mean by intelligence how do they perform on an intelligence test. Now I knew I knew that there were a number of people who are right after World War 1 and gave the Army Alpha. And found out that the higher scores were made by 20 year olds and then from there on each successive got Kaid group. Did last well I know of the
data. I know that the data has we have data like that in California but they think that they did not ever take into consideration is that in the United States the people who are in the Freddy's 50s and 60s had significantly less educational opportunity than those that were in the 20s in the 30s. But as happened in the United States as we've done a lot of things we've improved schooling. We've improved schooling in in ways like that we've been lengthened the school day. We've lengthened the school year. We've improved the qualifications of the teacher so she's no longer let's say a person who's one year beyond elementary school. You know that used to be characteristic. She's no longer a high school graduate just she's a person with four years of college training normal. We've improved the curriculum we've improved textbooks and I think that we've extended education to all of the people. You know what there used to be a
time when if a kid couldn't get along in school he was left back and if he was left back enough times he would. He managed to get out. Now what we're trying to do not all the ways to success split up was don't try is to get all of the children an opportunity to profit. Now this opportunity certainly have had an effect. I can remember in the last war I was in the Adjutant General's office. When I suggest that somebody repeat the current draft of the army out of World War 1. While the current draft in 1942 43. That's significantly better. Than the draft of 1917 18 19. Well Vera is so much better that they were just as different as day and night. But the difference was also evident in the difference in the amount of schooling
there are in the first world war. They managed to almost get both great. Here they had almost 11. And. Half of the accomplishment on these intelligence tests is a function of schooling. Now when you have a test which is responsive to educational advantages you can say to me very bad is this intelligence. The answers in a re yes because that's what the person is able to get from his environment the environment that however is impoverished but he gets less than he might. So that I have a feeling that they are gaining tremendously. In terms of their accomplishments as a function of the opportunities afforded. Maybe you would like to hear this other one this story that is sort of confirms my own speculations in this area. A chap by the name of Owen was found in his college. The examination papers the entrance
examination papers for the freshman class of 1919. Among them he found out that every freshman had taken the army alpha so he went after these people and he found all of those who were still alive and gave the same form of the same intelligence task to these people when they were about 30 years later. This was about age 50. And he found that in every one of the stop tests except our thematic reasoning that was a significant gain in our medical reasoning there was no loss but no gain. And of course over the time that was a tremendous gain. Now we can't tell whether or not these freshman increased but up to the age of 30 or 35 and from there on started going down and out of the bag and but basically it would seem to me that they were up battle and they rob when they were 19 years of age and we have other evidence for mentally retarded youngsters who were followed up 20 years later when they ask girls
about when they were when they were first asked. The evidence is hard to come by but it's in the general direction that intelligence doesn't decline. And Nancy barely. But Professor Jones of California has now definitely come out with a possession that intelligence does not decline until well beyond the 50s. But what about aspects of learning. You know older age and you learn as well as you could when you were younger. I think that a person that 50 or 60 or 70 can learn anything he could have learned today aged 20. His greatest deafer called a well-baby first a willingness to try it. And the second of course is to remember that he is not as fast as he once. Ross he's not. He's somewhat slower up partly physiologically and partly by adaptation and has to take his time. He's learned how to take his time. His sensory acuity is not the same as his because no question he doesn't see as well
or doesn't hear as well. But if he gives himself a little bit more opportunity in terms of time. There is nothing of age 50 or 60 or 70 that you need deny himself in terms of learning. They wouldn't of been able to do it 20. Now usually what he will suffer from is some feelings about himself. He may believe these stereotypes about aging but I wonder you can't teach an old dog new tricks you can teach an old dog new tricks. And you can certainly teach 50 errors and 60 year olds and 70 year old a lot of things that they need to learn in order to adjust and you look around and you'll see that they have learned they are making adaptations. They don't have to go to a former school to learn some of the things they do have to make adjustments but over time and I think this is really the critical thing I think that the hardest part in our culture is the kind of concepts that people
get of the bout themselves. They just feel that they can't know. Once. I had a WPA project in which we were decided when they were to learn Russian. So I announced it and they came up and I said I'm too old to learn Russian. I never was any good at languages and why can't I learn something else. And I'm essentially a permissive person I said you gotta. And I arranged I know no Russian I arranged with the teachers to make certain that every last and they learnt something. That. Group of 207 people learned as much Russian. In two months as they would have learned at Columbia University in two years. When I closed out the experiment I had the same people complaining that I couldn't do it to them. And so we continued. For those that wanted to own and I'm very happy to say that at least five of these people have been able to use it subsequently either vocationally that is on the job or up professionally. One of them even translated a book from the Russian.
Is that right. Yeah it is interesting. If we are. I'm going to. Have to live if society is going to make use of the. Older person productively. Are there going to be jobs available for them. And this indicates the job of education perhaps of the population to make jobs available. Course this is one of the big questions currently society. Is organized now with a sort of a. Concept that 65 is the age for retirement. Employers of course. Were pushed into the 65 year. Limit. By the unions in the last depression. Now. If they lived another type device that is what keep people
on. If they're capable. But not if they're not. Then they're going to be in a difficulty because how will you decide who is capable and who is not. When when the Linnaean take the position you're being arbitrary. They a lot of employers like the compulsory 65 because it says this is arbitrary. But I don't have to make a choice between A and B. And as a matter of fact the whole Social Security system is oriented to the 65 deadline although. You know that most people the average age at which people take Social Security is not 65 but around 68 or 69 so that there are people who continue to work because work is a rite of life. And the more they professionalized cracked like the occupation in which the man is the greater the likelihood that he'll find work for himself because there is always a
need for that type of competence. The people who are just privilege. Where people will be people who are doing the manual jobs the semi-skilled. I will get it in such areas as mine as for instance who will be looking forward to the day they don't have to work anymore. I was going to make excuse me I was going to make some comment about that in reading a few studies on the plane the other day. I came across one study which said that. When people were given the opportunity to continue working. 55 percent of the retired anyway. And then within six months to a year something like another 30 percent retired. And it was a very minimal amount of people who stayed on the job beyond 66 and 66 and a half. It depends on what kind of work to get dealing with Mr. Phillips you would see. If you take professionals you take positions for instance that we have in the comp a conference to
find physicians do not retire at 65. They keep on and on. If you take engineers. They keep on and on and on. So that I doubt very much that you could ever take the position that this is the generalization. There are there are two kinds of jobs in which what you said is probably true. But I don't I don't think it's necessarily true for all of the people. I think that to a large degree too many people are being denied an opportunity for using their competencies. And as a consequence when they're out. They're lost because we work as a way of life. And for many people it was the her life has been organized around the job. The friendships on the job is not only the money. It's not only the craftsmanship the friendships the knowing what the boss is going to do you know that kind of thing. But there are many psychological advantages for the older person keeping their job as they are. I would think so because it could means that he had feels he's making a contribution.
He knows that his product is one that is appreciated. He knows that he's not going not going to be kept on if he's losing money for the firm. Then it does sort of builds up his own ego his own self concept. This I think is the critical thing. Our thanks to Dr. Irving Moore who is professor of education at the Teachers College at Columbia University in New York City for his participation in this program a psychologist looks at aging. Next week you will hear Dr. Jack Weinberg Dr. Matthew Ross and Dr. Louis de colon as they discuss emotional health in aging on the next program 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 plan Phillips speaking asking that you join us next week and thanking you all for being with us at this time.
The challenge of aging
A psychologist looks at aging
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University of Michigan
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program features an interview with Irving Lorge, Ph.D., Columbia University, New York City.
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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: Lorge, Irving, 1905-1961
Producer: Phillips, Glen
Producing Organization: University of Michigan
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-28-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:29
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APA: The challenge of aging; A psychologist looks at aging. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from