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Life Span Development Late Adulthood : Psychosocial Development – Ch. 25. July 27, 2004 Class #14. Theories of Late Adulthood. Three Types of Theories self theories stratification theories dynamic theories.

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life span development late adulthood psychosocial development ch 25

Life Span DevelopmentLate Adulthood: Psychosocial Development – Ch. 25

July 27, 2004

Class #14

theories of late adulthood
Theories of Late Adulthood

Three Types of Theories

self theories

stratification theories

dynamic theories

self theories
Based on premise that adults make choices, confront problems, and interpret reality to be themselves as fully as possible

people begin to self-actualize, as Maslow described it

each person ultimately depends on himself or herself

Self Theories
integrity vs despair
Integrity vs. Despair
  • Individuals experience this during late adulthood
    • In the later years of life, we look back and evaluate what we have done with our lives
    • Through many different routes, the older person may have developed a positive outlook in most of all of the previous stages of development
    • If so, the retrospective glances will reveal a picture of a life well spent, and the person will feel a sense of satisfaction (integrity will be achieved)
    • If the older adult resolved many of the earlier stages negatively, the retrospective glances likely will yield doubt or gloom (despair)
identity theory
Identity Theory

Identity Challenged in Late Adulthood

as health, appearance, employment, crumble

Two Extremes of Coping

identity assimilation—new experiences incorporated into stable sense of identity

distortion of reality and denial anything major changed

identity accommodation—altering self-concept to adapt to new experiences

viewed as an over-adjustment

selective optimization
Selective Optimization

Older person chooses to cope with physical and cognitive losses

Older person makes selective changes to cope with losses

This readiness to make changes is a measure of strength of the self

support from behavioral genetics
Support From Behavioral Genetics

Behavioral genetics support self theories

twin studies: some inherited traits more apparent in later adulthood

Power of genetics extends beyond the environments we seek

even self-concept, including assessment of abilities, partly genetic

but environment always plays major role

stratification theories
Stratification Theories

Social forces limit individual choice and direct life at every stage, especially late adulthood

stratification by age
Stratification By Age

Disengagement Theory vs. Activity Theory

Disengagement theory—aging increasingly narrows one’s social sphere, resulting in role relinquishment, withdrawal, passivity

Activity theory—elderly people need to remain active in a variety of social spheres—with relatives, friends, and community groups. If elderly withdraw, they do so unwillingly due to ageism

dominant view now supports activity theory

stratification by gender and ethnicity
Stratification by Gender and Ethnicity

Sexual Discrimination

Feminist theory draws attention to gender divisions

demographics make aging women’s issue

because most social structures and economic policies have been established by men, women’s perspectives and needs not always given a high priority, or even recognized

stratification by gender and ethnicity11
Stratification by Gender and Ethnicity
  • Many older women impoverished because of male-centered economic policies
    • pension plans based on continuous employment; more unlikely to be situation for women with children
    • medical insurance pays more for acute illness (more common in men) and less for chronic disease (more common in women)
    • women more likely to be caregivers for frail relatives, often sacrificing their independence and well-being
stratification by gender and ethnicity12
Stratification by Gender and Ethnicity
  • Critical race theory views ethnicity and race as social constructs whose usefulness is determined by one’s society or social system
  • Ethnic discrimination and racism cause stratification, shaping experiences of both minorities and majorities
    • minority elderly more likely to be poor and frail
    • less access to senior-citizen centers, clinics, etc.
better female non european and old
Better Female, Non-European, and Old?

Positive Effects of Non-European American’s Strong Familism:

fewer elderly in nursing homes

elderly feel more respected

elderly feel more appreciated by families

in one study, minority women outlived majority women who were economically better off but had less family support

better female non european and old14
Better Female, Non-European, and Old?
  • Current stratification effects may not apply to cohort shift happening now
    • more women are working
    • younger African-Americans less strongly tied to church and family and have fewer children
  • To better understand stratification theory, we need to take a multicultural perspective
dynamic theories
Dynamic Theories

Dynamic theories—emphasize change and readjustment rather than either the ongoing self or legacy of stratification

Continuity theory—each person experiences changes of late adulthood and behaves towards others in much the same way as he or she did earlier in life

adaptive change

dynamic response

keeping active
Keeping Active

Reality of older people’s lives does not correspond exactly with either disengagement or activity theories

chosen activities
Chosen Activities

Employment has many advantages, but it is not typically something person has a choice about doing

One positive aspect of retirement: allows freedom to be one’s own person—to choose one’s main activities

e.g., in areas of education, helping others, religion, politics

continuing education
Continuing Education

Elderhostel—program in which people aged 55 and older live on college campuses and take special classes

Usually during college vacation periods

Life-Long Learners here at Three Rivers

Around the world, thousands of learning programs filled with retirees

Many elderly hesitate to take classes with mostly younger students

if they overcome this fear, typically find they earn excellent grades

volunteer work
Volunteer Work

Higher percent of elderly adults have strong commitment to their community and believe they should be of service

older adults especially likely to volunteer to assist the young, very old, or sick

40 percent of the elderly are involved in structured volunteering

many of the other 60 percent volunteer informally

elderly benefit, but not if forced to volunteer

religious involvement
Religious faith increases with age

increase in prayer and religious practice

Research shows religious institutions are particularly important to older Americans who may feel alienated from overall society

Religious Involvement
political activism
Political Activism

Elderly more so than any other age group

Know more about national and local issues

Political participation translates into power

ARRP—major organization representing elderly, is largest U.S. special interest group

Most elderly are interested in wider social concerns—e.g., war, peace, the environment

home sweet home
Home, Sweet Home

Many busy maintaining home and yard

Some move, but most want to age in place, even if adult children have moved far away

naturally occurring retirement community (NORC) created when they stay in neighborhood they moved into with young children

One result of aging in place is that many elderly live alone

the social convoy
The Social Convoy

Collectively, the family members, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers who move through life with an individual

We travel our life in the company of others

Special bonds formed over lifetime help in good times and bad

People who were part of a person’s past help him or her to maintain sense of identity

long term marriages
Long-Term Marriages

Spouse buffers many problems of old age

Married elders generally are




long term marriages25
Long-Term Marriages

Nature of long-lasting relationships

tends to get better over time

sharing of accumulated experiences

affectionate acceptance of each other’s frailties with feelings of affection

passionate love still exists

losing a spouse
Divorce is rare in late adulthood

Widowhood is common

Death of a spouse eventually occurs for half of all older married people

Adjustment to loss varies depending on sex of surviving partner

Many older widows come to enjoy their independence

Losing a Spouse
4 x as many widows as widowers

Because women take better care of their health, they live longer than men

Husband’s death is never easy

Death can mean loss of close friend, social circle, income, and status

Widows do not usually seek another husband

Living without a spouse is more difficult for men

Widowers often lack social support

Historical gender differences make adjustment more difficult

have restrictive notions of masculine behavior

  • Over course of marriage, tend to become increasingly dependent on wives for social support of all kinds
  • After death of spouse, more likely to be physically ill than widows or married people of their age
  • Many widowers prefer not to remarry, but with favorable gender ratio and loneliness, often find themselves more likely to remarry than widows
differences in loneliness
Men are lonelier than women

Those without partners are lonelier than those with partners

Divorced or widowed are lonelier

Recent losses heighten loneliness

The more partners lost, the lonelier one is

Differences in Loneliness

4 percent of people over 65 have never married

most married cohort in U.S. history

Never marrieds quite content

contentment is linked more to friends than family

Older women do more befriending

Even oldest adjust to changes in social convoy

Many elderly keep themselves from being socially isolated

the frail elderly
The Frail Elderly

Defined as—over 65, physically infirm, very ill, or cognitively impaired

Activities of daily life (ADLs)

bathing, walking, toileting, dressing, and eating

inability to perform these tasks sign of frailty

the frail elderly33
The Frail Elderly

Instrumental activities of daily life (IADLs)

vary from culture to culture

require some intellectual competence

in developed countries: phone calls, paying bills, taking medication, shopping for groceries

in rural areas of other nations: feeding chickens, cultivating the garden, getting water from the well

elder abuse
When caregiver has feelings of resentment and social isolation, he or she

typically experiences stress, depression, and poor health

may be more likely to be abusive if he or she suffers from emotional problems or substance abuse that predate the caregiving

other risk factors: victim’s social isolation, household members’ lack of education and/or poverty

Elder Abuse
elder abuse35
Elder Abuse
  • Maltreatment usually begins benignly but can range from direct physical attack to ongoing emotional neglect
  • Frail elderly particularly vulnerable to abuse
  • Most abuse is perpetrated by family member(s)
  • Simplest form is financial—a relative or stranger gets elderly to sign over life savings, deed to house, or other assets
nursing homes
Nursing Homes

Most elderly want to avoid them at all costs

believe they are horrible places

In U.S., the worst tend to be those run for-profit, where patients are mostly on Medicare and Medicaid

But, overall, abuse has been reduced

In the United States and Europe, good nursing-home care available for those who can afford it