Chapter 14:
Later Adulthood
(60 – 75 Years)
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Chapter Objectives
– To explore the construct of life satisfaction in
later adulthood and factors associated with
subjective well-being
– To describe factors that promote intellectual
vigor with a focus on the memory, postformal
operational thought, crystallized and fluid
intelligence; and to consider the interaction of
heredity and environment on intelligence in
later life
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Chapter Objectives (cont.)
– To examine the process of redirecting energy
to new roles and activities with special focus
on role gain, such as grandparenthood; role
loss, such as widowhood; and new
opportunities for leisure
– To describe the development of a point of
view about death
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Chapter Objectives (cont.)
– To explain the psychosocial crisis of integrity
versus despair, the central process of
introspection, the prime adaptive ego quality
of wisdom, and the core pathology of disdain
– To apply theory and research to
understanding the process of adjustment to
retirement in later adulthood
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Case Study: Goal Adjustment in Later Adulthood
– Thought Questions
• How does this case reflect Brandstadter’s ideas
about assimilation and accommodation of goals in
later adulthood?
• In this case, Brim’s father drew on early life
experiences growing up on a farm some other
examples of how earlier life roles might be
integrated into a satisfying lifestyle in later
adulthood?
• What are some of the resources Brim’s father had
that allowed him to achieve new goals for
mastery?
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Case Study: Goal Adjustment in Later Adulthood
(cont.)
– Thought Questions (cont.)
• Based on Peck’s views about the challenges for
ego development in later adulthood, what might be
missing in Brim’s father’s approach to adaptation?
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Accepting One’s Life: Personality and WellBeing
– Five personality characteristics have been
linked with life satisfaction in later life
• Extroversion – sociability, vigor, sensation seeking,
and positive emotions
• Lack of neuroticism – anxiety, hostility, and
impulsiveness
• Usefulness/competence – well-being and high selfesteem
• Optimism – belief that one’s decisions will lead to
positive consequences and that uncertain
situations will turn out well
• Sense of control
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Accepting One’s Life: Illness and Health
– Ability to experience a sense of well-being
and acceptance of one’s life is associated with
physical health
– Relationship of health to life satisfaction is
likely to be mediated by personality,
resources, and personal goals
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Accepting One’s Life: The SOC Model
– Over the lifespan people confront the
challenges of balancing and matching a
variety of opportunities with fluctuations in
resources
– Life satisfaction and a sense of well-being are
linked to selecting specific goals as important
areas of functioning and then effectively
directing both internal and external resources
in order to maximize their level of functioning
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Accepting One’s Life: The SOC Model (cont.)
– Adaptation requires the integration of three
processes
• Selection – Identifying opportunities or domains of
activity that are of greatest value or importance
• Optimization – allocation and refining resources in
order to achieve higher levels of functioning in the
selected domains
• Compensation – under conditions of reduced
resources, identifying strategies to counteract loss
and minimize the negative impact on functioning in
the selected domains
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Promoting Intellectual Vigor: Problems in
Defining and Studying Intelligence in Later
Adulthood
– Memory, reasoning, information processing,
problem-solving abilities, and mental rigidity
or fluidity all influence an adults’ capacity to
introspect, select meaningful goals, manage
changing resources, and plan for the future
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Promoting Intellectual Vigor: Problems in
Defining and Studying Intelligence in Later
Adulthood (cont.)
– Four problems are raised in evaluating the
research on intelligence in later life
• One must differentiate between age differences
and age changes
• Definition of abilities
• Level of abstraction and the relevance of the tasks
used to measure adult cognitive functioning
• Factors associated with health are intertwined with
the functioning of older adults, although they are
often not directly measured
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Promoting Intellectual Vigor: Memory
– Several aspects of cognitive functioning
including reaction time, visual-motor flexibility,
and memory show evidence of decline with
age
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Promoting Intellectual Vigor: Memory (cont.)
– A common model of memory functions breaks
memory into three forms
• Sensory register – the neurological processing
activity that is required to take in visual, auditory,
tactile, and olfactory information
• Short-term memory – working capacity to encode
and retrieve five to nine bits of information in the
span of a minute or two
• Long-term memory – complex network of
information, concepts, and schemes related by
associations, knowledge, and use
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Promoting Intellectual Vigor: Post Formal
Operational Thinking
– Another direction of research on intellectual
functioning in later life has focused on the
ability of older adults to perform various
Piagetian tasks, such as classification,
conservation, and formal operational problem
solving
– Older adults perform classification and
problem-solving tasks in a more egocentric,
idiosyncratic way than younger adults
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Promoting Intellectual Vigor: Post Formal
Operational Thinking (cont.)
– Research based on the standard Piagetian
tasks has been criticized for its lack of
relevance and familiarity to older subjects
– Postformal thought – a qualitatively new form
of thinking that emerges after formal
operational thought, and which involves a
higher use of reflection and the integration of
contextual, relativistic, and subjective
knowledge
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Promoting Intellectual Vigor: The Interaction of
Heredity and Environment on Mental
Functioning
– Seven factors that are associated with
retaining a high level of cognitive functioning
in later adulthood
• Absence of cardiovascular and other chronic
diseases
• Favorable environment linked to high
socioeconomic status
• Involvement in a complex and intellectually
stimulations environment
• Flexible personality style at midlife
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Promoting Intellectual Vigor: The Interaction of
Heredity and Environment on Mental
Functioning (cont.)
– Seven factors that are associated with
retaining a high level of cognitive functioning
in later adulthood (cont.)
• High cognitive functioning of spouse
• Maintenance of a high level of perceptual
processing speed
• Rating one self as being satisfied with life
accomplishments in midlife
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Redirecting Energy to New Roles and Activities:
Grandparenthood
– Grandparenting Styles
• Formal, funseeker, surrogate parent, reservoir of
family wisdom, & distant figure
• Intergenerational Solidarity – closeness and
commitment within the parent-child and
grandparent-grandchild relationships
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Redirecting Energy to New Roles and Activities:
Grandparenthood (cont.)
– The Meaning of the Grandparent Role
• Grandchildren offer concrete evidence that some
thread of their lives will persist into the future,
giving a dimension of immortality to themselves
and to family ancestry
• Grandchildren stimulate older adults’ thoughts
about time, the changing of cultural norms across
generations, and the patterning of history
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Redirecting Energy to New Roles and Activities:
Grandparenthood (cont.)
– Grandparent Caregivers – 5.6 million children
live with grandparent and in about 1/3 those
households the grandparent is the sole
caregiver to child
– Loss of Grandparent-Grandchild Contact –
increased divorce rates have led
grandparents to legal action for continued
visitation
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Redirecting Energy to New Roles and Activities:
Widowhood
– Among those 65 years old and over, 14% of
men and 45% of women describe their marital
status as widowed
– The psychosocial consequences of
widowhood include intense emotional grief,
loss of social and emotional support, and loss
of material and instrumental support
– Widows must learn to function socially and in
their own households without the presence of
a marriage partner
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Redirecting Energy to New Roles and Activities:
Widowhood (cont.)
– Widowers suffer greater increases in
depression following the loss of their spouses
than do widows
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Redirecting Energy to New Roles and Activities:
Patterns of Adaptation During Widowhood
– Common grief
– Chronic grief
– Chronic depression
– Depression followed by improvement
– Resilience
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
Figure 14.2 Percentage of U.S. Households with E-Mail by Age in 1994
and 1998
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Developing a Point of View about Death:
Changing Perspectives about Death
– The development of a perspective on death is
a continuous process that begins in childhood
and is not fully resolved until later adulthood
– The notion that one’s understanding of the
concept of death changes with development
is complemented by the idea that people go
through a process in coming to terms with
their own death
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Developing a Point of View about Death:
Changing Perspectives about Death (cont.)
– Kubler-Ross’s stages of death and dying age
not a fixed sequence but a useful model for
considering the dynamic ego processes that
are engaged as one faces death
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Case Study: Morrie Schwartz Reflects on His
Views About Death
– Thought Questions
• What is the point of view about life and death that
Morrie is developing?
• Why is it difficult for most people to listen to a
dying person express his or her thoughts about
death?
• What does this conversation suggest about
Morrie’s psychosocial development? To what
extent are issues of intimacy, generativity, and
integrity reflected in this dialogue?
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Case Study: Morrie Schwartz Reflects on His
Views About Death (cont.)
– Thought Questions (cont.)
• How might the conditions of Morrie’s illness
influence his outlook on death?
• What issues would you want to discuss if you had
a mentor like Morrie who was willing to help you
learn about living and dying?
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• The Psychosocial Crisis: Integrity Versus
Despair
– Integrity is the ability to accept the facts of
one’s life and to face death without great fear.
The sense of integrity is usually acquired
toward the end of later development
– Despair is feeling a loss of all hope and
confidence
– Depression is a state of feeling sad, often
accompanied by feelings of low personal
worth and withdrawal from relations with
others
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• The Central Process: Introspection
– Deliberate self-evaluation and examination of
private thoughts and feelings
• Reminiscence is the process of thinking or telling
about past experiences
• Integrative reminiscence involves reviewing one’s
past in order to find meaning or to reconcile one’s
current and prior feelings about certain life events
• Instrumental reminiscence emphasizes past
accomplishments, past efforts to overcome
difficulties, and the use of past experiences to
approach current difficulties
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• The Central Process: Introspection (cont.)
– Deliberate self-evaluation and examination of
private thoughts and feelings (cont.)
• Obsessive reminiscence suggests an inability to
resolve or accept certain past events and a
persistent guilt or despair over these events
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• The Prime Adaptive Ego Quality and the Core
Pathology
– Wisdom is the detached yet active concern
with life in the face of death
– Five basic features of wisdom
•
•
•
•
•
Factual knowledge
Procedural knowledge
Life-span contextualism
Relativism of values and life goals
Recognition and management of uncertainty
– Disdain is a feeling of weakness and frailty of
oneself and others
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Applied Topic: Retirement
– Adjustment to Retirement - most cope
effectively with the changes associated with
retirement, viewing it as a desired transition
– Difficulties with Retirement - perceptions of
retirement involve a person’s enthusiasm,
positive anticipation, or resentment about it
– Income Loss - adjustment to retirement is
especially difficult when it is associated with a
dramatic reduction in income
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Applied Topic: Retirement (cont.)
– A Look Toward the Future of Retirement ongoing dialogue among older workers,
retirees, and organizations is likely to result in
the formulation of more varied, flexible
alternative of full retirement
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Case Study: Retirement As a Release From
Tedious Work
– Thought Questions
• How are the developmental tasks of later
adulthood reflected in this case?
• Erikson mentioned the theme of initiative as
reemerging for this man in later adulthood. What
other psychosocial themes do you detect in this
case?
• How are the themes of person-environment fit and
creativity, the central processes of middle
adulthood, related to his case?
Later Adulthood (60 – 75 Years)
• Case Study: Retirement As a Release From
Tedious Work (cont.)
– Thought Questions (cont.)
• What challenges do older adults face in trying to
make a successful adjustment to retirement? How
might communities help to support adults in this
transition?
• What stereotypes about retirement and later
adulthood are challenged in this case?