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Chapter 15. Physical & Cognitive development in Middle Adulthood . Middle adulthood Ages 40-65- arbitrary age range Satisfaction Relationships with family and friends Work leisure Leisure Finances Physical/mental health Religious/spiritual lives. Physical changes

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Chapter 15

Physical & Cognitive development in Middle Adulthood

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Middle adulthood

  • Ages 40-65- arbitrary age range

  • Satisfaction

  • Relationships with family and friends

  • Work leisure

  • Leisure

  • Finances

  • Physical/mental health

  • Religious/spiritual lives

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Physical changes

  • Sensory and psychomotor functioning

  • Eyesight changes- especially for reading (near vision/prebyopia/distance vision-nearsightedness- mypoia)

  • Dynamic vision (reading moving signs)

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Visual search

  • Speed of processing information

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Physical changes

  • Sensitivity to taste and smell declines

  • Women loose sweet tooth/men things not sour enough

  • Decrease sensitivity to touch (after age 45)

  • Decrease sensitivity to pain (50)

  • Strength and coordination decline by age 45; 10-15% by age 60- due to loss of muscle fiber

  • Endurance holds up

  • Metabolism slows after age 40

  • Tasks involving choice of response and complex motor skills decline

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Structural changes

  • Skinless taught sand smooth/ less sweat

  • Loss of calcium

  • Smoking, alcohol, poor diet speed bone loss

  • Vitamins and exercise can reduce loss

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  • Fertility declines though sexual enjoyment remains

  • Menopause

  • mid 30’s/40’s, less estrogen

  • hot flashes may occur as metabolism slows

  • vaginal dryness, urinary infections, urinary dysfunction may occur

  • sexual desire usually remains

  • sometimes psychological problems

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  • no menopause equivalent

  • erections slow, orgasms less frequent, longer to ejaculate and longer refractory

  • erectile dysfuntion may/may not occur

  • hypertension (chronically high blood pressure) is common

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Sexual Dysfunction

  • A persistent disturbance in sexual desire or sexual response

  • Forms of dysfunction:

    • Lack of interest

    • Painful intercourse

    • Difficulty in arousal

    • Premature ejaculation

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Behavioral influences on Health

  • Nutrition, smoking, alcohol abuse, physical activity impact health


  • Poorer tend to have more problems, poorer health, lower life expectancy

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Female Health

  • Bone loss or osteoporosis (porous bones)

  • Breast cancer- increase with age, overweight, excessive alcohol use, early menarche or late menopause, genetics, had children late or had fewer children

  • Hysterectomy- often overused

  • Hormone replacement therapy- may help reduce negative effects

  • Psychosocial influences may include emotional or physical problems.

  • Stress usually less an issue for the middle-aged

  • Occupational stress and burnout can occur; unemployment stress

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Cognitive development

  • In their prime!

  • No significant reductions in most abilities until 60’s.

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Fluid and crystallized intelligence (Horn & Cattell)

Fluid intelligence- ability to solve problems requiring little or no previous knowledge decline with age

Crystallized intelligence- ability to remember and use information acquired over lifetime- less impact

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Increased sense of competence in solving problems

With experience, information processing and fluid intelligence become encapsulated (dedicated) to specific types of knowledge. Processing time may slow, but competence remains.

Engaging in activities requiring thought and strategy and recall retain memory and skills longer

Creativity remains intact!

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Creative achievers

Biology, personal, social and cultural forces

  • Becoming expert in one area may hamper creativity and versatility