Chapter 13
Physical and Cognitive Development in Middle Adulthood
Changing Midlife
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Today, many 50-year-olds are in better shape,
more alert, and more productive than 40year-olds a generation or two ago
Middle age is starting later and lasting longer
Jung -- “Midlife is the afternoon of life”
Increasing percentage of population is made
up of middle-aged and older adults
Best-educated and most affluent cohort
Defining Middle Adulthood
 Middle
adulthood -- developmental
period beginning about 40 and extending
to 60–65 years
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period of declining physical skills and
increasing responsibility
shrinking time left in life
reach and maintain satisfaction in career
individuals make choices
Gains and Losses
 Late
midlife may be characterized by the
loss of a parent, the last child leaving the
home, becoming a grandparent,
preparation for retirement, and actual
retirement
 Overall, gains and losses may balance
each other in midlife
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losses may begin to dominate gains for many
individuals in late midlife
 Midlife
is characterized by individual
variations
Physical Changes
 Some
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of the visible signs
Skin begins to wrinkle and sag
Areas of pigmentation in skin produce age
spots
Thinning and graying hair
 Interest
in plastic surgery, Botox, weight
control, and vitamins may reflect the
desire to take control of the aging process
Height and Weight
 Individuals
lose height in middle age
 Many gain weight
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body fat makes up 20 percent or more of
weight in midlife as compared to 10
percent in adolescence
almost 1/3 of adults 40–59 years are
classified as obese
obesity increases probability of other health
issues
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2006)
Vision and Hearing
 Accommodation
of the eye -- ability to
focus and maintain image on the retina
declines between 40 and 59 years
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more need for glasses and/or bifocals
 Hearing
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also declines after age 40
sensitivity to pitches decreases
men lose sensitivity earlier than women
 resulting
from exposure to occupational noise
Cardiovascular System
 High
blood pressure and cholesterol issues
become problematic
 Women’s blood pressure rises at
menopause and typically remains higher
than men’s
 Exercise, weight control, proper dietary
patterns can help decrease problems
 Metabolic syndrome is an increasing
problem
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Characterized by hypertension, obesity, and
insulin resistance
Lungs
 Little
change in lung capacity through
most of middle adulthood
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In late 50s, proteins in lung tissue become
less elastic, decreasing lung capacity
 Smokers
experience most significant
changes
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lung capacity improves with quitting
smoking
Sleep
 Beginning
in 40s, more wakeful periods
are more frequent, and there is less of the
deepest sleep
 More time lying awake results in feeling
less rested
 Sleep problems are more common for
those who use a higher number of
prescription and nonprescription
medications, are obese, are depressed,
or have cardiovascular disease
Health habits through the
years
 What
are health habits that can
contribute to lower vitality? How is it
lowering vitality?
 Think
of a bad health habit that you or
someone you know exhibits and think of
ways to change or manage the habit to
become healthier.
Health and Disease
 Frequency
of accidents declines
 Individuals are less susceptible to colds
and allergies
 Stress is found to be a factor in disease
Chronic Disorders
 Chronic
disorders are rare in early
adulthood
 Chronic disorders -- slow onset and long
duration
 Stress is found to be a factor in disease
 Culture affects cardiovascular disease
(Hertz, Unger, & Ferrano, 2006)
Mortality Rates
 In
middle age, many deaths are caused by a
single, readily identifiable cause
 Leading causes
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heart disease
cancer
cardiovascular disease
 Men
have higher mortality rates than women for all
of the leading causes of death
(National Center for Health Statistics, 2008)
Sexuality
 Climacteric
-- midlife transition in which
fertility declines
 Osteoporosis
 Menopause
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women’s menstrual periods completely
cease
side effects of menopause vary
cross-cultural studies reveal wide variations
Treating Effects of Menopause
 Hormone
replacement therapy (HRT) -augments declining levels of reproductive
hormone production by the ovaries
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usually estrogen and progestin
negative side effects for HRT
 increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular
disease
 Decreased
use of HRT has shown a
related decline in the incidence of breast
cancer
Hormonal Changes in MiddleAged Men
 Most
men do not lose capacity to
father children
 Modest decline in sexual hormone
level and activity
 “Male menopause” probably has less
to do with hormonal change than with
psychological adjustment to overall
decline
 Testosterone levels decline and can
reduce sexual drive
 Most erectile dysfunctions stem from
physiological problems
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treatment has focused on drug therapy
Fluid and Crystallized
Intelligence
 Crystallized
intelligence -- individual’s
accumulated information and verbal skills
 Fluid intelligence -- ability to reason
abstractly; begins to decline in middle
adulthood
 When studying intelligence, whether data
is collected cross-sectionally or
longitudinally makes a difference in results
Speed of Information
Processing
Perceptual
speed begins
declining in early adulthood
and continues declining in
middle age
Memory
 Controversy
about whether memory
declines in the middle years -- most experts
agree there is some decline, at least in late
middle age
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More time is needed to learn new information
The slowdown has been linked to working memory -the mental “workbench” where individuals manipulate
and assemble information when making decisions,
solving problems, and comprehending written and
spoken language
Memory decline is more likely to occur when
individuals do not use effective memory strategies
Expertise
 Expertise
shows up more in middle
adulthood
 Expertise involves having extensive, highly
organized knowledge and understanding
of a particular domain
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result of many years of experience,
learning, and effort
Work in Midlife
 Central
during the middle years
 Reach peak of position and earnings
 Middle-aged adults may experience age
discrimination
 May have multiple financial burdens
 Time of evaluation, assessment,
rebalance, and reflection
Career Challenges and
Changes
 Globalization
of work
 Developments in information technologies
 Downsizing of organizations
 Early retirement
 Concerns about pensions and health
care
 Some career changes are self-motivated;
others are the result of job loss
Leisure
 Leisure
-- pleasant times after work when
individuals are free to pursue activities
and interests of their own choosing

midlife changes may produce more time
for leisure
 Adults
in midlife need to begin preparing
for retirement
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leisure can be a part of this preparation
Religion and Adult Lives
 Majority
of middle-aged adults profess religious
beliefs and consider spirituality a major part of their
lives
 For some, religion is a major influence to some
adults but may play little or no role in others’ lives
 Females show stronger interest and participate
more
Religion and Health
 Researchers
have found that religious
attendance is linked to
 a reduction of blood pressure and
hypertension
 increased longevity
 Religion promotes health
 lifestyle issues
 social networks
 coping with stress
Meaning in Life
 Frankl
said that the three most distinct
human qualities are:
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Spirituality
Freedom
Responsibility
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