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Chapter 13
Later Life: Cognitive and Socioemotional Development

Janet Belskys
Experiencing the
Lifespan

Predicted median age of the population,


selected countries, in 2015 and 2030

Reason

for increase in number:


Baby boomers entering later life
Longevity
Declining fertility rates

Life Expectancy in Individual Countries


Life

Expectancy in the developed


world:
Women: 74 - 86 years
Men: 66 81 years

Although

life expectancy has


increased in the US over the
past 20 years, we still lag behind
the the 10 longest-living nations

Differences in Life
Expectancy for Men and
Women (1987, 2007)
1987

2007

Women 78

81

Men

76

71

World Map: http://chartsbin.com/view/1356

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3
EehFM3psqg

Link:
http://abcnews.go.com/Health/life-expectancy-men-outpacing-women-study/story?id=13850055

Life Expectancy in the United States

US life expectancy is 3 years behind


the top 10 longest living nations

Women are not faring as well as men


in increasing their life expectancy over
time

Life expectancy differs between various


counties in the US

Fairfax Co. (VA): 81 years Men

Holmes Co. (MS): 65 years - Men

Key Dividers may include:

tobacco

obesity epidemic

High levels of blood pressure

Poverty and access to health care

Exploring Two Elderly Stages

Young-Old (60s
Typically

and 70s)

healthy

Old-Old (80 and older)


More

likely to be physically unwell, & frail

Stereotypes About Old Age

Contradictory

views about old age

Old

age viewed as rare miracle in ancient times


Then and today distinctions made between healthy and frail
older people (i.e., young-old vs. old-old)
Health

differences between the young-old and the old-old


may explain these contradictory views

+ Stereotypes About Old Age: What Does


the Research Say?

Stereotypes:
Young people in the US associate being
old with:
Looking unattractive
Trouble with everyday tasks
Learning new things

Cognitive Development:
In every culture, however, people also agree with the positive
research findings that in later life, wisdom is at its peak

Life Satisfaction:
Ambivalent stance: happy vs. demoralized depressed

Memory

+ Memory and Older Adults: The Facts


Research

indicates that memory abilities do worsen in older adults

Recalling information

Remembering details/specific content

Recalling where objects are located

As

a memory task gets more difficult,


the more the performance gap expands

Ex: Do you recognize this person?


--VS
What is her name?

Working Memory

Older

adults do especially poor on divided attention tasks situations in which they need to memorize material or perform an
activity while monitoring something else (i.e., multi-tasking)

How

Time pressure increases difficulties


with memory.
Time pressure when learning something
totally new (fluid tasks) is particularly
problematic.

do they differ for different ages?

Divided attention tasks impair memory


performance at any age
Virtually impossible to do in old age

+ Working Memory (WM)

Limited capacity

Includes an executive layer that controls our attention and transforms the contents
of this temporary storage facility into material we can recall later on

As we travel through late adulthood,


WM worsens

_frontal lobe deterioration, erosion of myelin, synaptic loss

Difficulties with selective attention

Age is an issue of mind over matter.


If you dont mind, it doesnt matter.

+ Frontal lobe activation in young (left) and


older adults (right) in a memory study.

+ Long-term Memory

Long-term memory is generally divided into 3 types:

1)

Procedural Information remembered automatically


Physical skills or complex motor activity

2)

Semantic ability to recall basic facts and knowledge


Elderly can perform just as well on this type of memory as young

3)

Episodic the ongoing events of daily life


Recalling isolated events
Highly fragile in everyone; especially for older adults

***Where real differences are seen between


young and old

+ Long-term Memory

Diseases Related to Cognitive Decline

Dementia (major neurocognitive disorder) decline in mental ability that is


severe enough to interfere with daily life

Can occur in younger people if they experience a brain injury or illness (e.g., AIDS)

Occurs more often in the old-old stage

Can be difficult to diagnose symptoms occur gradually

The Progression of Dementia


Initial Symptoms of
Dementia

Symptoms as Dementia
Progresses

Final Stages of Dementia

Basic semantic information Abstract reasoning; ability to


think-through options

Inability to speak/move

Executive functions

Language abilities

Forgetting basic life-skills

Personality changes

Object recognition

May become bedridden

Judgment-related difficulties

Complications such as infections


often occur & lead to death

Dementias Two Main Causes

vascular dementia
Impairments in the vascular (blood) system, or network
of arteries feeding the brain
Cognitive problems are caused by a series of small strokes

Alzheimers disease
Directly attacks the neurons (our
structure of human consciousness)
Neurons literally decay or whither away

Risk & Protective Factors


for Alzheimers

Chamberlin (2011) article

Risk Factors
Genetic component
Diabetes

Protective Factors

Obesity

Higher education

Cardiovascular disease

Leisure activities (reading, cultural


activities)

Chronic stress
High cholesterol
Depression

Light or regular exercise


Jobs that involve complex work with
people (persuasion, mentoring,
instruction, supervision)

Interventions & Lifestyle Changes:


What can you do?

+ What Works to Protect Cognition?


Novotney (2010) article

Exercise
Light, regular exercise
Healthy diet

Stress Reduction
Meditation/relaxation training for relaxation
Decrease stress

Mental Stimulation
Immerse themselves in complex & novel environments
Work
Social Activities
Leisure Activities / Hobbies

Kivipelto Study:
http://time.com/2982908/to-prevent-alzheimers-diet-and-exercise-ar
e-effective-large-study-shows/
Video Games: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F76WbtMtPI4

Interventions: Keeping memory fine-tuned (at any age)

Use Selective Optimization with


Compensation

Use mnemonic techniques_- strategies to


make things emotionally vivid

Basic principle: if its vivid emotionally we


remember it (try to get a visual image)

Enhance memory self efficacy

With extra effort, memory can be good

Older people who are conscientious can


improve memory

Personal Priorities and Well-Being

+ Personal Priorities & Well-Being


Contradictory

views about
older peoples emotional lives

Although

happiness reaches its


peak in our early 60s, individuals
can experience a great deal of
happiness in late adulthood

+ Carstensens Socio-emotional Selectivity Theory


(1995)
Socioemotional

selectivity theory
the idea that our place on the lifespan changes
our life agendas (time left to live affects priorities
and social relationships)

Young people focus on future

Engage in unpleasant activities because of obligations


(I need to do this to become X, Y, or Z)

Older adults realize the future is limited, thus refocus their


priorities

focus on making the most of their present life

Social priorities shift to being with closest attachment figures

+ Reprioritizing our lives in later life


According to

socio-emotional selectivity theory, in later life we are


less interested in where we will be going
Paring down social contacts
Not wasting time on unpleasant people
Maximizing positive experiences
Stay away from anxietyprovoking situations
Spending more time with those
closest to us
Carefully choosing social
obligations

Old Age as the Best Time of Life


Paradox

of well-being despite physical and mental decline,


elderly report being just as happy or happier than younger
people.

Older people prioritize positive emotional states


Based

on the positivity effect _ the tendency of older


people to focus on positive experiences and screen out
negative events.

Older people live less stressful lives


Report

fewer stresses (e.g., raising children, work


pressures) than young people

Old Age as the Worst Time of Life

Economic
cutbacks in elderly
entitlements can
impair the quality
of life

Becoming isolated
and disabled; can
occur when
person realizes
that death is
inevitable

+ Eriksons psychosocial stage in later life


Integrity

vs. Despair-

Reaching integrity means reviewing ones life


and making peace with it
Having a sense of usefulness and meaning in ones present life
Having a sense of self efficacy;
feeling in control of ones life

The ultimate question: How will people view my life successes and
accomplishments? Did I have anything to offer the world?

+ Interventions: Using The Research to


Help Older Adults

Provide ample time and appropriate setting free of distractions


to learn material
Avoid elderly bad memory stereotype
Encourage personal passions
Do not expect automatic willingness to make new friends
Avoid the unhappy elderly stereotype
But be alert to depression in someone who is physically frail and
socially isolated

Being generative, feeling closely attached and having a sense of


meaning in life can help ward off depression