Lifespan Development – Chapter 18

Definition: Activity Theory
A social theory of aging that states that declining rates of interaction in late adulthood reflect social barriers to engagement, not the desire of elders. Older people will try to preserve life satisfaction by finding roles that allow them to remain about as active and busy as they were in the middle age. Distinguished from disengagement theory, continuity theory, and socioemotional selectivity theory.
Definition: Affect of Optimization
The ability to maximize positive emotion and dampen negative emotion. An emotional strength of late adulthood.
Definition: Aging in Place
In late adulthood, remaining in a familiar setting where one has control over one’s every day life.
Definition: Congregate Housing
Housing for the elderly that provides a vierty of support services, including meals in a common dining toom, along with watchful oversight of elders with physical and mental disabilities.
Definition: Continuity Theory
A social theory of aging that states that most aging adults in their choice of everyday activities and social relationships, strive to maintain a personal system – an identity and a set of personality dispositions, interests, roles and skills – that promotes life satisfaction by ensuring consistency between their past and anticipated future. Distinguished from disengagement theory, activity theory, and socioemotional selectivity theory.
Definition: Dependency Support Script
A typical pattern of interaction in which caregivers attend to elders’ dependent behaviors immediately, thereby reinforcing those behaviors. Distinguished from independence-ignore script
Definition: Disengagement Theory
A social theory of aging that states that declines in social interaction in late adulthood are due to mutual withdrawal between elders and society in anticipation of death. Distinguished from activity theory, continuity theory, and socioemotional theory
Definition: Ego Integrity vs Despair
In Erikson’s theory, the psychological conflict of late adulthood, which is resolved positively when elders come to terms with their lives and feel whole, complete, and satisfied with their achievements, recognizing that the paths the followed, abandoned, or never selected were necessary for fashioning a meaningful life course.
Definition: Gerotranscendence
According to Joan Erikson, a psychosocial stage characterizing the very old and representing development beyond ego integrity. Involves a cosmic, transcendent perspective directed forward and outward.
Definition: Independence-ignore script
A typical pattern of interaction in which elders’ independent behaviors are mostly ignored and as a result, occur less often. Distinguished from dependency-support script.
Definition: Life-care communities
Housing for the elderly that offers a range of alternatives, from independent to congregate housing to full nursing home care, guaranteeing that elders’ needs will be met within the same facility as they age.
Definition: Optimal Aging
Aging in which gains are maximized ans losses minimized
Definition: Reminiscence
The process of telling stories about people and events from the past and reporting associated thoughts and feelings
Definition: Secondary Friends
People who are not intimates but with whom an individual spends time occasionally, such as a group that meets for lunch, bridge, or museum tours.
Definition: Social Convoy
A model of age-related change in social networks, which views the individual as moving through life within a cluster of relationships. Close ties are in the inner circle, less close ties on the outside. With age, people change places in the convoy, new ties are added and some are lost entirely.
Definition: Socioemotional Selectivity Theory
A social theory of aging that state that social interaction in late adulthood extend lifelong selection processes. According to this view, physical and psychological aspects of aging lead to an increased emphasis on the emotion-regulating function of social interaction. Consequently, older adults prefer familiar social partners with whom they have developed pleasurable relationships. Distinguished from disengagement theory, activity,theory, and continuity theory.
Definition: Third Age
A new phase of late adulthood extending from ages 65 to 79 or longer, resulting from added years of longevity plus good health and financial stability, in which older adults pursue personally enriching interests and goals.
Erikson’s Theory: Ego Integrity versus Despair
1. Ego Integrity
-feel whole, complete, satisfied with achievements
-serenity and contentment
-associated with psychosocial maturity
2. Despair
-feel many decisions were wrong, but now time is too -short
-bitter and unaccepting of coming death
-expressed as anger, contempt for others
Peck: Three Tasks of Ego Integrity
1. Ego differentiation versus work-role preoccupation
2. Body transcendence versus body preoccupation
3. Ego transcendence versus ego preoccupation
Beyond ego integrity
Cosmic, transcendent perspective
Directed beyond self: forward and outward
Heightened inner calm
Quiet reflection
Emotional Expertise
-Cognitive-affective complexity
declines for many
-Affect optimization improves
maximize positive emotions, dampen negative ones
-More vivid emotional perceptions
make sure of own emotions
use emotion-centered coping
-telling stories about people, events, thoughts, and feelings from past
self-focused: can deepen despair
other-focused: solidifies relationships
knowledge-based: helps solve problems
Life Review
considers the meaning of past experiences
a form of reminiscence
for greater self-understanding
can help adjustment
Personality in Late Adulthood
1. Secure, multifaceted self-concept
-Allows self-confidence
-Continue to pursue possible selves
2. Shifts in some characteristics
-More agreeable
-Less sociable
-Greater acceptance of change
Resilience promotes adaptive functioning
The New Old Age
1. Third Age
-ages 65 to 79 and beyond
-marked by personal fulfillment, self-realization
-high life satisfaction
-need more opportunities
U.S. Serve America Act
2. Fourth Age
-physical decline
-need for care
Spirituality and Religion in Late Adulthood
-About three-fourths of U.S. elders say religion is “very important.”
-Over half attend services weekly.
-Many become more religious/spiritual with age.
not all: about one-fourth get less religious
cultural, SES, gender differences
-Physical, psychological benefits
social engagement
spiritual beliefs themselves
Factors in Psychological Well-Being
-Control versus dependency
poor health, depression linked
suicide risk
-Negative life changes
-Social support, interaction
Control and Dependency in Late Adulthood
-Dependency-support script
attend immediately to dependent behaviors
-Independence-ignore script
ignore independent behaviors
-Scripts work together
both reinforce dependency
make social contact less pleasant
Depression and Suicide
-Physical illness, disability strong risk factors
perceived negative physical health
higher SES has stronger impairment-depression relationship
-Mental and physical health challenges related
mental health often more debilitating
-Suicide rate highest over age 75
caregivers must provide autonomy when possible
need for increase in mental health-care options
Life Changes and Social Support
-Elders: high risk for negative life changes
multiple life changes test coping skills
women more at risk
-Positive social support increases physical and mental well-being.
informal (family, friends)
formal (paid workers, agencies)
elders must select domains of control
best type affirms self-worth, belonging
Social Theories of Aging
-Disengagement theory: mutual withdrawal of elders and society
-Activity theory: social barriers cause declining interaction
-Continuity theory: strive to maintain consistency between past and future
-Socioemotional selectivity theory: social networks become more selective with age; extends lifelong process; emphasize emotion-regulating functions of social contact
Age-Related Changes in Number of Social Partners
In interviews with over 500 elders ranging in age from 69 to 104, the number of “not close” and “less close” partners fell off steeply with age, whereas the number of “close and “very close” partners declined minimally
Social Contexts of Aging
majority live in suburbs – higher income
minorities in cities – better transportation, social services
few small town, rural – far from children; interact with neighbors, friends
prefer other seniors
prefer aging in place
Housing Arrangements in Late Adulthood
-Ordinary homes
own home – preferred and most control
with family
number living alone increasing
-Residential communities
congregate housing
life-care communities
-Nursing homes
restricts autonomy, social integration
Green House model better
Marriage in Late Adulthood
-Satisfaction peaks in late adulthood.
fewer stressful responsibilities
fairness in household tasks
joint leisure
emotional understanding, regulation
-If dissatisfied, harder for women
Long-Term Gay and Lesbian Partnerships
-Most happy, highly fulfilling
healthier, happier than singles
-Coping with oppression may strengthen skill at coping with physical aging
-Face legal, health-care issues
Divorce, Remarriage, Cohabitation
1. Divorce – few divorces in late adulthood, but increasing
hard to recover, especially women
2. Remarriage – rates low; decline with age
higher for divorced than widowed
late remarriage stable
3. Cohabitation – growing trend
financial and family reasons
relationships stable
-Most stressful event of life for many
one-third of elderly
significantly more women than men
-Few remarry; most live alone
must cope with loneliness
-Reorganizing life harder for men
more likely to remarry
Possible Sources of Support for the Widowed
Senior centers
Support groups
Religious activities
Volunteer activities
Never-Married, Childless Older Adults
-About 5% of Americans
-Develop alternative meaningful relationships
-Men more likely to be lonely
Changes in Aid Among Siblings
In a large, nationally representative American survey, adults reported a rise in sibling aid in early adulthood, a decline during middle adulthood, and then a rise after age 70 for siblings living near one another (within 25 miles). In late life, siblings seem to be an important “insurance policy” when help is not available from a spouse or child.
Friendships in Late Adulthood
-Friends provide:
link to community
help with loss
-Feel closest to a few nearby friends
-Choose friends similar to self
-Sex differences continue
Relationships with Adult Children
1. Quality of relationship affects elders’ physical, mental health
2. Assist each other
-Direction changes toward children helping as parents age.
-Closeness affects willingness to help.
-Emotional support most often: Parents try to avoid dependency.
3. Sex differences
-Mother-daughter ties often closest
Elder Maltreatment
Physical abuse
Physical neglect
Emotional abuse
Sexual abuse
Financial abuse
Risk Factors for Elder Maltreatment
Dependent victim
Dependent perpetrator (emotionally or financially)
Psychological disturbance, stress of perpetrator
History of family violence
Low-quality nursing homes
Deciding to Retire
adequate retirement benefits
compelling leisure interests
low work commitment
declining health
spouse retiring
routine, boring job
Deciding to keep working
limited or no benefits
few leisure interests
high work commitment
good health
spouse working
flexible work schedule
pleasant, stimulating work
Adjusting to Retirement
-Most people adapt well.
Up to 30% report some adjustment difficulties.
-Factors in adjustment
financial worries
workplace factors
spouse influence
sense of personal control
social support
Leisure Activities
-Interests continue from earlier in life.
choose personally gratifying pursuits
frequency and variety drop with age
-Involvement in rewarding leisure linked to better health, reduced mortality
new achievements
helping others
social interactions
Optimal Aging
“Minimize losses, maximize gains”
-Focus less on outcomes, more on processes and reaching personal goals
-Some factors controllable, others not
-Social policies can help