Presentation on theme: "The increase of the number of older age people has stimulated much research on ageing, and in psychology, the psychological changes associated with ageing."— Presentation transcript:
The increase of the number of older age people has stimulated much research on ageing, and in psychology, the psychological changes associated with ageing. Psychologists who specialise in the study of older people are called geropsychologists. A lot of geropsychologists categorise people in the lifespan stage of older age into one of two subgroups- the ‘young old’ and the ‘very old’. People in the young old are those people between the ages of 65-85 years old and the people in the very old are those people who are over 85 years. Although these subgroups are not determined only by age, the distinction is made because psychological abilities and wellbeing of the very old tend to be different from the young old. Usually the young old experience fewer cognitive, social and emotional changes when compared with the very old; whereas the very old are more likely to experience considerable decline of cognitive abilities, and social and emotional changes as they age.
People are now living longer than they have in the past. The life expectancy of a male born in this century is expected to live to about 79 years of age, and a female born in this century is expected to live to about 84 years of age. The increase in life expectancy is mostly due to advances in medical knowledge and improvements in the availability and quality of aged care services.
In terms of specific cognitive abilities, very old people tend to have difficulty separating relevant from irrelevant information. For example; in a conversation, a very old person may focus on an irrelevant detail and miss the main point of what the person talking has said. Also the very old people tend to find it difficult to concentrate on more than one thing at one time, this may make the task of driving difficult as when you are driving you need to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. Because there is so many things they need to concentrate on when driving this may explain why older people are hesitant with their driving and unaware of others on the road. The very old also tend to be a lot slower at mentally processing information than other who are younger than them, however, if they are given plenty of time many are still able to. Memory is another cognitive ability that also tends to decline among the very old. There are several different kinds of memory. Some tend to decline minimally in the very old whereas others are more affected by the ageing process. For example; the long term memory for skills and thought processes required to do something such as how to use the oven is effected to a lesser extent than other kinds of memory.
However the long term memory of personal experiences in ones life tends to decline more but the long term memory for facts and general knowledge tend to be uneffected until about age 90 and then it slowly declines.
Erikson said that a person’s psychosocial experiences in older age will depend, to a large extent, on how they perceive their earlier life when they look back and reflect on it.If the individual views their life as meaningful, useful and productive they are more likely to experience ‘integrity’ and therefore more content or happier in their older age whereas very old people who look back and view their life full of regrets, bitterness, past mistakes, missed opportunities or bad decisions are more likely to feel disappointment, experience despair and therefore be less content or happy. Although other psychologists believe it is not just past life experiences that impact on a person’s psychosocial wellbeing but current life circumstances such as events and attitudes towards things as well which are also considered very important.
The very old have relatively unique experiences that can be challenging and often stressful for example sight and hearing, and physical abilities such as mobility and strength, all decline. These sorts of changes also affect a person’s ability to function effectively in everyday life as they once did and therefore their overall satisfaction with their present life. The decline in cognitive abilities also do become very frustrating for very old people because they need to learn how to cope with unwanted changes to their mental functioning can be a further source of dissatisfaction. Among the very old there is also a considerable increase in the amount of people who develop dementia. This is not only associated with a serious loss of cognitive abilities but often dramatic changes in personality and social and emotional wellbeing too. Alot of old people report feeling lonely, but this is because of a number of reasons, things like when friends die they no longer have them in their life, not being able to drive anymore because of decreases in cognitive changes, and where they live are also factors which affect ones feeling of being lonely.
Some Geropsychologists have considered how psychological impact of the losses very old people experience can be minimised to enable them to be more productive and satisfied in the latter part of their lives. Paul Baltes a German psychologist has been prominent in this area. Baltes introduced the concept of successful ageing, which is sometimes called successful development. According to Baltes, successful ageing occurs when a very old person maximises and attains positive outcomes while minimising and avoiding negative outcomes. In the process of maximising positive outcomes, the individual used strategies to continue to develop their skills to their full potential. For example; a very old person who is a skilled writer might continue to read widely, do crossword puzzles and write letters on issues of concern to daily newspapers or write items and newsletter articles for a community organisation with which they may be involved in.
By continuing to use their skills the individual is not only maintaining use of their cognitive abilities but also preventing further deterioration or losses. According to Baltes this gives the individual a feeling of achievement and worth, therefore giving their life more positive satisfaction
Baltes said that promoting gains and managing losses are two main ways of ageing successfully. He constructed a theory to describe and explain how these two goals could be achieved. Baltes’ theory is called the selection, optimisation and compensation theory and describes selection, optimisation and compensation as three distinct, but interrelated processes that are all vital for successful ageing. This example of 80-year-old Concert pianist Arthur Rubenstein illustrates how these three processes work. (this example is out of the textbook )
Rubenstein was asked during an interview how he managed to remain such an excellent concert pianist throughout his old age, Rubenstein gave three reasons. He said that he played fewer pieces of music, practiced them more often, and used variations and contrasts in speed to make it seem as though he was playing faster. He did this by playing more slowly just before a fast segment so that it seemed that he was playing the fast section a lot faster than he actually was. By reducing his range of playing pieces, Rubenstein was being selective. This gave him more opportunity to practice each piece more often in order to optimise, or give his best performance. He also looked for different ways to overcome the loss of his finger speed when playing the piano. Thereby compensating for a skill for which he has experienced loss.
According to Baltes when a person uses selection, they reduce the number of goals they try to achieve, then prioritise the goals. For example, after moving into a retirement village, an individuals goal might be be to develop friendships within the village. If they are invited to attend the Friday night community dinner at the village as well as a family dinner on the same night, they may select the village dinner over the family. This reflects their current priority of building friendships ‘close to home’ Optimisation involves making the most of the abilities, resources and opportunities available to achieve the optimal or best outcome. For example, if a very old person wanted to prepare a dinner for a family members birthday, they might choose simple recipes, or something they have cooked before. They may also practice what they plan to cook prior to the special day and prepare as much of the meal as they can in advance. Using strategies such as these will optimise the likelihood of a successful dinner, which is the desirable outcome.
Because very old people experience losses in many aspects of their lives, one of their challenges is to maintain a productive life. In order to maintain a productive (and enjoyable) life, they must develop new strategies to compensate, or ‘substitute’, for each of these losses. For example; someone whose partner dies may have to develop strategies to cope with being on their own. They may arrange to have company each day and find ways to occupy themselves so they don't feel so lonely. similarly, a person who can no longer read due to deteriorated eyesight may compensate for their loss of vision be listening to audio books. According to Baltes people who select, optimise and compensate are able to more successfully adapt to the psychological and physical changes they experience through ageing. His research has shown that people who use strategies are generally more happier and more satisfied with their lives because they feel that they have contributed to their own successful ageing.