The boundary between middle age and old age cannot be defined exactly because it does not have the same meaning in all societies. People can be considered old because of certain changes in their activities or social roles. For example, people may be considered old when they become grandparents, or when they begin to do less or different work (retirement). Traditionally, the age of 60 was generally seen as the beginning of old age. Most developed world countries have accepted the chronological age of 65 years as a definition of an "elderly" or older person.
According to Erik Erikson's "Eight Stages of Life" theory, the human personality is developed in a series of eight stages that take place from the time of birth and continue on throughout an individual's complete life. He characterizes old age as a period of "Integrity vs. Despair," during which a person focuses on reflecting back on their life. Those who are unsuccessful during this phase will feel that their life has been wasted and will experience many regrets. The individual will be left with feelings of bitterness and despair. Those who feel proud of their accomplishments will feel a sense of integrity. Successfully completing this phase means looking back with few regrets and a general feeling of satisfaction. These individuals will attain wisdom, even when confronting death.
Age discrimination is a prevalent social problem facing the elderly. While discrimination toward the young is primarily visible through behavioral restrictions, discrimination toward the elderly ranges from behavioral restrictions to physical abuse. Abuse of the elderly is a serious problem in the U.S. There are nearly two million cases of elder abuse and self-neglect in the U.S. every year. Abuse refers to psychological/emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and caregiver neglect or financial exploitation, while self-neglect refers to behaviors that threaten the person's own health and safety.