Sie sind auf Seite 1von 28


Chapter 13
Later Life: Cognitive and Socioemotional Development

Janet Belskys
Experiencing the

Predicted median age of the population,

selected countries, in 2015 and 2030


for increase in number:

Baby boomers entering later life
Declining fertility rates

Life Expectancy in Individual Countries


Expectancy in the developed

Women: 74 - 86 years
Men: 66 81 years


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)


Women 78





World Map:


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

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:


obesity epidemic

High levels of blood pressure

Poverty and access to health care

Exploring Two Elderly Stages

Young-Old (60s

and 70s)


Old-Old (80 and older)


likely to be physically unwell, & frail

Stereotypes About Old Age


views about old age


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)

differences between the young-old and the old-old

may explain these contradictory views

+ Stereotypes About Old Age: What Does

the Research Say?

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 and Older Adults: The Facts


indicates that memory abilities do worsen in older adults

Recalling information

Remembering details/specific content

Recalling where objects are located


a memory task gets more difficult,

the more the performance gap expands

Ex: Do you recognize this person?

What is her name?

Working Memory


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)


Time pressure increases difficulties

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

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:


Procedural Information remembered automatically

Physical skills or complex motor activity


Semantic ability to recall basic facts and knowledge

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


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

Symptoms as Dementia

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

Protective Factors


Higher education

Cardiovascular disease

Leisure activities (reading, cultural


Chronic stress
High cholesterol

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

Light, regular exercise
Healthy diet

Stress Reduction
Meditation/relaxation training for relaxation
Decrease stress

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

Kivipelto Study:
Video Games:

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

Use Selective Optimization with


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


views about
older peoples emotional lives


happiness reaches its

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

+ Carstensens Socio-emotional Selectivity Theory


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


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

Old Age as the Best Time of Life


of well-being despite physical and mental decline,

elderly report being just as happy or happier than younger

Older people prioritize positive emotional states


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


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

pressures) than young people

Old Age as the Worst Time of Life

cutbacks in elderly
entitlements can
impair the quality
of life

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

+ Eriksons psychosocial stage in later life


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