Middle adulthood physical and cognitive development
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Chapter 15. MIDDLE ADULTHOOD: Physical and cognitive development. Defining (or Defying) Middle Age. Middle Age: Life expectancy: 76 Mid-life: 38. Sensory and Physical Changes. Vision

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Middle adulthood physical and cognitive development

Chapter 15


Physical and cognitive development

Defining or defying middle age

Defining (or Defying) Middle Age

  • Middle Age:

    • Life expectancy: 76 Mid-life: 38

Sensory and physical changes

Sensory and Physical Changes

  • Vision

  • Presbyopia: normal condition in which the lens of the eye starts to harden, losing its ability to accommodate as quickly as it did in youth



  • Glaucoma: increased pressure caused by fluid buildup in the eye, can damage the optic nerve and lead to blindness if untreated

  • Cataracts: clouding of the lens, typically occur in 30-50% of people over 65

  • Floaters: Annoying floating spots; particles suspended in the gel-like fluid that fills the eyeball and generally do not impair vision



  • Dry eye: stemming from diminished tear production can be uncomfortable and can be eased with drops

  • Macular degeneration: first signs are faded, distorted or blurred central vision



  • Decline in prebycusis: the ability to hear high-pitched sounds such as speech

  • Cochlear damage due to prolonged exposure to loud noises: hearing loss

Taste and smell

Taste and Smell

  • Reduction of taste buds

  • Decline in sense of smell after 50



  • Periodontal disease: loss of teeth

  • Skin becomes dryer thinner and less elastic

  • Carcinomas

  • Double-standard of aging: Men more “sophisticated”: women, less kind expressions

  • Cosmetics, cosmetic surgery

  • Hair color, loss of hair

Body composition

Body Composition

  • Muscles begin to atrophy

  • Weight

  • Exercise and nutrition

  • Osteoporosis: a disorder of thinning bone mass and microarchitectural deterioration of bone tissue

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • An inflammatory disease that causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function of the joints



  • Human Growth Hormone: powerful hormone used to treat children afflicted by dwarfism has become a trendy anti-aging potion

Menopause and female midlife change

Menopause and Female Midlife Change

  • Menopause: a process culminating in the cessation of menstrual activity

  • Perimenopause: The time period preceding menopause

  • Climacteric: Changes in the ovaries and hormonal processes

Menopause and female midlife change1

Menopause and Female Midlife Change

  • 45-55; average 51

  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy: a regimen often recommended to menopausal women by physicians to maintain cardiovascular fitness, low bone loss and slow memory loss

  • May increase incidence of breast cancer

Menopause and female midlife change2

Menopause and Female Midlife Change

  • Reproduction After Menopause

    • Medical procedure makes it possible

Male midlife change

Male Midlife Change

  • Prostate gland: enlargement of this gland located at the base of the urethra.

  • 10% of men over 40

  • Universal in men at 60

  • Cancer of the prostate: Most common malignant cancer in North America

    • Impotence: the inability to have or sustain an erection

Health changes

Health Changes

  • Sleep

    • Certain drugs interfere with sleep patterns

  • Cardiovascular Fitness

    • Blood Pressure: 1in 4 American adults has high blood pressure

    • Can lead to arteriosclerosis, heart attack, enlarged heart, kidney damage or stroke

Health changes1

Health Changes

  • Who is at Risk?

    • African Americans, middle aged adult men, post-menopausal women

Lifestyle changes to reduce risks

Lifestyle changes to reduce risks

  • Healthy weight

  • Eat food high in starch and fiber

  • Increase activity level

  • Choose foods lower in salt

  • Drink alcohol in moderation

  • Learn stress management skills



  • A waxy fat that occurs naturally in the body and is used to build the cell walls and make certain hormones

  • How to reduce:

    • Reduce fats in diet

    • Increase activity level

    • Stop smoking



  • 80% of all cancers are caused by environmental factors

  • Smoking is the number one controllable cause of cancer

The brain

The Brain

  • Stroke: or “brain attack” occurs when blood circulation to the brain fails

  • Parkinson’s disease: motor system disorder

Alzheimer s disease

Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Alzheimer’s disease: develops in middle adulthood but shows up after age 65

  • Alcohol consumption: slows down brain activity, alertness, judgment, coordination and reaction time; increased risk of accident

Hiv aids


  • Number of cases in midlife has been increasing

  • Risk factors:

    • Childhood sexual abuse

    • Adolescent or adult sexual assault

    • Female-to-Male transmission of HIV/AIDS

    • Women higher risk to become infected

Hiv aids1


  • Female-to-Female Transmission of HIV/AIDS

    • Of 85,500 women with HIV/AIDS, 1,648 were infected by other women

  • Prevention: condoms

Stress and depression

Stress and Depression

  • 2.2% of midlife adults experience major depression

  • Associated with increased mortality and suicide

Sexual functioning

Sexual Functioning

  • Stereotype: erotic interest by older adults: unnatural and undignified

  • Age does not eliminate sexual desire

  • Changes:

    • Longer to achieve erection for men

    • Frequency of sexual activity declines

    • Same level of sexual activity from 20s

Laumann survey

Laumann Survey

  • Findings in Laumann survey:

    • Marrieds had most sex

    • 2.7% of men and 1.3% of women had homosexual sex in past year

    • 20% of men and 31% of women had only 1 sex partner since age 18

    • Extramarital sex is the exception, not the rule. 75% of men and 85% of women say never unfaithful

Cognitive functioning

Cognitive Functioning

  • Research Findings: A Methodological Problem

    • IQ reaches peak in 20’s, remains stable for 20 years, then drops

  • The Varied Courses of Cognitive Abilities

    • No decline in verbal abilities

    • Decline in performance abilities

Cognitive functioning1

Cognitive Functioning

  • Fluid versus Crystallized Intelligence

    • Fluid intelligence: the ability to make original adaptations in novel situations

    • Crystallized intelligence: the ability to reuse earlier adaptations on later occasions

    • Fluid intelligence declines, but crystallized intelligence increases (Gilinsky & Judd)

Cognitive functioning2

Cognitive Functioning

  • Maximizing Cognitive Abilities

    • Maintaining Expert Performance

    • Length of time and duration committed to practicing their skill

    • The Role of Deliberate Practice

    • Ability to retain superior performance in sports: maintaining practice during adulthood

Cognition and dialectical thinking

Cognition and Dialectical Thinking

  • Dialectical thinking: organized approach to analyzing and making sense of the world one experiences that differs fundamentally from formal analysis

  • Convergent thinking: the application of logic and reasoning to arrive at a single correct answer to a problem.

Dialectical thinking

Dialectical Thinking

  • More open-ended, multiple solutions are sought, examined and probed, thereby leading to what are deemed creative responses on measures of creativity

Moral commitments

Moral Commitments

  • Moral exemplars

    • Moral ideals that respect humanity

    • Consistency between ideals and actions

    • Willingness to risk self interest for sake of moral values

    • Being inspirational force for others

    • Humility; unconcerned with ego

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