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Late Adulthood: Social and Emotional Development


CHAPTER 18 Late Adulthood: Social and Emotional Development Singles and Older People without Children Single older adults without children just as likely as people ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Late Adulthood: Social and Emotional Development

  • Late Adulthood Social and Emotional Development

Theories of Social and Emotional Development in
Late Adulthood
Theories of Social and Emotional Development in
Late Adulthood
  • Eriksons psychosocial theory
  • Eighth or final stage of life is called ego
    integrity or despair he believed people who
    achieved positive outcomes to an earlier life
    crisis would be more likely to obtain ego
    integrity than despair in late adulthood
  • Ego integrity versus despair
  • Basic challenge is to maintain the belief that
    life is meaningful and worthwhile in the face of
    physical decline and the inevitability of death
    ego integrity derives from wisdom, as well as
    from the acceptance of ones lifespan as being
    limited and occurring at a certain point in
    history adjustment in the later years requires
    wisdom to let go

Robert Pecks Developmental Tasks
  • Peck outlined three developmental tasks that
    people face in late adulthood
  • Ego differentiation versus work-role
  • Body transcendence versus body preoccupation
  • Ego transcendence versus ego preoccupation
  • Ardelt (2008) writes that ego transcendence grows
    out of self-reflection and willingness to learn
    from experience.
  • Ego transcendence is characterized by a concern
    for the well-being of humankind in general, not
    only of ourselves and those we love.

Robert Butlers Life Review
  • Butler (2002) suggests reminiscence is a normal
    aspect of aging.
  • People can be extremely complex and nuanced.
  • They can be incoherent and self-contradictory
  • Life reviews attempt to make life meaningful, to
    help people move on with new relationships as
    others in their lives pass on, and to help them
    find ego integrity and accept the end of life.
  • Butler (2002) argues helping professionals rely
    too much on drugs to ease the discomforts of
    older adults.
  • Pilot programs suggest therapists may be able to
    relieve depression and other psychological
    problems in older adults by helping them
    reminisce about their lives.

Disengagement Theory
  • Disengagement theory
  • Older people and society mutually withdraw from
    one another as older people approach death.
  • People in late adulthood focus more on their
    inner lives, preparing for the inevitable.
  • Government or industry now supports them through
    pensions or charity rather than vice versa.
  • Family members expect less from them.
  • Older people and society prepare to let go of one
  • Well-being among older adults is predicted by
    pursuing goals, rather than withdrawal.

Activity Theory
  • Activity theory
  • Older adults are better adjusted when they are
    more active and involved in physical and social
  • Physical activity is associated with a lower
    mortality rate in late adulthood.
  • Leisure and informal social activities contribute
    to life satisfaction among retired people.
  • Israeli study found benefits for life
    satisfaction in activities involving the next
    generation, the visual and performing arts, and
    spiritual and religious matters, but there was
    also value in independent activities in the home

Socioemotional Selectivity Theory
  • Socioemotional selectivity theory
  • Looks at older adults social networks
  • Theory of motivation hypothesizes increasing
    emphasis is placed on emotional experience as we
  • Research by Carstensen et al. (1999) indicated
    proportion of emotional material recalled
    increased with the age group, showing greater
    emotional response of older subjects.
  • Social contacts limited to a few individuals who
    are of major importance to us as we grow older
  • Does not mean older adults are antisocial
  • See themselves as having less time to waste and
    they are more risk-averse
  • They do not want to involve themselves in painful
    social interactions

Fig. 18-1, p. 374
Psychological Development
  • Robins et al. (2002)
  • Recruited more than 300,000 individuals, who
    completed an extensive online questionnaire that
    provided demographic information and measures of
  • Results indicated self-esteem of males was higher
    than that of females
  • Self-esteem highest in childhood and dips with
    entry into adolescence
  • Self-esteem then rises gradually throughout
    middle adulthood and declines in late adulthood,
    with most of the decline occurring between the
    70s and the 80s
  • All this is relative
  • The measure of self-esteem is above the mid-point
    of the questionnaire for adults in their 80s

Fig. 18-2, p. 375
Self-Esteem (contd)
  • Drop in self-esteem may be due to life changes
    such as retirement, loss of a spouse or partner,
    lessened social support, declining health, and
    downward movement in socioeconomic status
  • Or older people are wiser and more content
  • Older people express less body esteem
  • Older men express less body esteem than older
  • Men more likely to accumulate fat around the
    middle, women accumulate fat in the hips
  • Sexual arousal problems more distressing for the
  • Older adults with poor body esteem tend to
    withdraw from sexual activity, often frustrating
    their partners.

  • Older people who are independent think of
    themselves as leading a normal life.
  • Those who are dependent on others, even only
    slightly dependent, tend to worry more about
    aging and encountering physical disabilities and
  • A study of 441 healthy people aged 65-95 found
    dependence on others to carry out the activities
    of daily living increased with age
    (Perrig-Chiello et al., 2006).
  • Interviews of stroke victims found independence
    in toileting is important in enabling older
    people to avoid slippage in self-esteem (Clark
    Rugg, 2005).

  • Affects some 10 of people aged 65 and above
  • Depression in older people sometimes a
    continuation of depression from earlier periods
    of life and sometimes a new development
  • Appears to have multiple origins
  • Can be connected with the personality factor of
  • Possible structural changes in the brain
  • Possible genetic predisposition to imbalances of
    the neurotransmitter noradrenaline may be link
    between depression and physical illnesses such as
    Alzheimers disease, heart disease, stroke,
    Parkinsons disease, cancer

Depression (contd)
  • Depression is connected with the loss of friends
    and loved ones, but depression is a mental
    disorder that goes beyond sadness or bereavement.
  • Loss of companions and friends will cause
    profound sadness, but mentally healthy people
    bounce back within a year or so.
  • Depression goes undetected, untreated in older
    people much of the time.
  • May be overlooked because symptoms are masked by
    physical complaints such as low energy, loss of
    appetite, and insomnia
  • Healthcare providers tend to focus on older
    peoples physical health than their mental health

Depression (contd)
  • Depression connected with memory lapses and other
    cognitive impairment, such as difficulty
  • Some cases of depression are simply attributed to
    the effects of aging or misdiagnosed as dementia,
    even Alzheimers disease
  • Depression in older people can usually be treated
    successfully with the same means that work in
    younger people, such as antidepressant drugs and
    cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy.

Depression (contd)
  • Untreated depression can lead to suicide, which
    is most common among older people.
  • Highest rates of suicide found among older men
  • have lost their wives or their partners
  • lost their social networks
  • fear the consequences of physical illnesses and
    loss of freedom of action
  • Fewer older adults suffer from depression than
    younger adults, suicide is more frequent among
    older adults, especially Caucasian men.

Anxiety Disorders
  • Anxiety disorders affect at least 3 of those
    aged 65 and above, but coexist with depression in
    about 8 to 9 of older adults.
  • Most frequently occurring anxiety disorders among
    older adults are generalized anxiety disorder
    (GAD) and phobic disorders.
  • Panic disorder is rare
  • Agoraphobia affecting older adults tends to be of
    recent origin and may involve the loss of social
    support systems due to the death of a spouse or
    close friends.
  • GAD may arise from the perception that one lacks
    control over ones life.

Anxiety Disorders (contd)
  • Anxiety disorders increase levels of cortisol (a
    stress hormone).
  • Takes time for them to subside
  • Cortisol suppresses functioning of the immune
    system, so that people are more vulnerable to
  • Mild tranquilizers are commonly used to quell
    anxiety in older adults.
  • Psychological interventions
  • Cognitive-behavior therapy
  • Shows therapeutic benefits in treating anxiety in
    older adults
  • Does not carry the risk of side effects or
    potential dependence

Social Contexts of Aging
Communities and Housing for Older People
  • Older Americans report that they prefer to remain
    in their homes as long as their physical and
    mental conditions allow them.
  • Older people with greater financial resources,
    larger amounts of equity in their homes, and
    stronger ties to their communities are more
    likely to remain in their homes.
  • Older people with declining health conditions,
    changes in their family composition, and
    significant increases in property taxes and costs
    of utilities are likely to need to consider
    residing elsewhere.

Communities and Housing for Older People (contd)
  • Older people who live in cities, especially inner
    cities, are highly concerned about exposure to
    crime, particularly crimes of violence.
  • Most concerned
  • People of advanced old age (80 and above), in
    poor health, and of depressed mood
  • People aged 80 and above less likely to be
    victimized than people in other age groups
  • Social support helps older people cope with their
    concerns about victimization
  • If victimized, it helps them avoid some of the
    problems that characterize posttraumatic stress

Communities and Housing for Older People (contd)
  • Older people who can no longer manage living on
    their own may have access to home health aides
    and visiting nurses to help them remain in the
  • Affluent older people may be able to afford to
    hire round-the-clock or part-time live-in help.
  • Others may move in with adult children
  • Others may move into assisted living residences
    in which they have their own apartments but
    community dining rooms and nursing aid with
    physicians on call and available in the facility

Communities and Housing for Older People (contd)
  • Older adults who relocate to residences for the
    elderly, whether or not they have facilities for
    assisted living, tend to experience disrupted
    social networks and challenges for finding new
    friends and creating new networks.
  • Residences should have communal dining facilities
    and organized activities, including
    transportation to nearby shopping and
  • Residents take time in engaging other people
    socially and are selective in forming new

Communities and Housing for Older People (contd)
  • Older adults may be most reluctant to relocate to
    nursing homes because nursing homes signify the
    loss of independence.
  • Surveys indicate that older adults are relatively
    more willing to enter nursing homes when they
    perceive themselves to be in poor health and when
    one or more close family members live near the
    nursing home.
  • Elder abuse
  • Staff acts harshly toward residents, sometimes in
    response to cognitively impaired residents acting
    aggressively toward the staff well-selected and
    well-trained staff can deal well with impaired

  • Religion involves participating in the social,
    educational, and charitable activities of a
    congregation as well as worshiping.
  • Religion and religious activities provide a vast
    arena for social networking for older adults.
  • As people undergo physical decline, religion asks
    them to focus, instead, on moral conduct and
    spiritual, not physical, substance such as the
  • Studies find religious involvement in late
    adulthood is usually associated with less
    depression and more life satisfaction as long as
    it is done in moderation.

Religion (contd)
  • Frequent churchgoing associated with fewer
    problems in the activities of daily living among
    older people
  • Older African Americans who attend services more
    than once a week live 13.7 years longer, on
    average, than their counterparts who never attend
  • In-depth interviews with the churchgoers find
    reasons such as the following for their relative
  • avoidance of negative coping methods such as
    aggressive behavior and drinking alcohol
  • evading being victimized by violence
  • hopefulness
  • social support

  • 20 to 25 of marriages last half a century or
    more, only to end with the death of one of the
  • Couples report less disagreement over finances,
    household chores, and parenting/grandparenting.
  • Concerns about emotional expression and
  • Older couples show more affectionate behavior
    when they discuss conflicts, and they disagree
    with one another less in general.
  • Similarity in personality is less of a
    contributor to conflict than in midlife,
    consistent with the finding that similarity in
    conscientiousness and extraversion is no longer
    strongly associated with marital dissatisfaction.

Divorce, Cohabitation, and Remarriage
  • Older adults less likely than younger adults to
    seek divorce fear of loss of assets, family
    disruption, and relocation, and older adults do
    not undertake divorce lightly
  • If divorcing, often because they belong to an
    aberrant marriage that is punitive or because one
    of the partners has taken up a relationship with
    an outsider
  • 4 of older adults of the unmarried population
  • Less likely than younger people to wish to
  • Older cohabiters report being in more intimate,
    stable relationships.
  • Younger cohabiters see their lifestyle as a
    prelude to marriage, older cohabiters are more
    likely to see their relationship as an alternate

Gay and Lesbian Relationships
  • Gay men and lesbians in long-term partnerships
    tend to enjoy higher self-esteem, less depression
    and fewer suicidal urges, and less alcohol and
    drug abuse.
  • Gay men in long-term partnerships are also less
    likely to incur sexually transmitted infections.
  • Gay men and lesbians sometimes form long-term
    intimate relationships with straight people of
    the other sex relationships do not involve
    sexual activity, but the couples consider
    themselves to be family and are confidants.

  • Middle-aged male widowers are relatively more
    capable of dealing with their loss than older
  • Men and women need to engage in the activities of
    daily living (taking care of their personal
    hygiene, assuming the responsibilities that had
    been handled by their spouse, and remaining
    connected to the larger social community).
  • Widowhood more likely to lead to social isolation
    than is marital separation
  • Reasons for isolation are physical, cognitive,
    and emotional

Widowhood (contd)
  • Widowhood leads to a decline in physical and
    mental health, including increased mortality and
    deterioration in memory functioning.
  • Loss of a spouse heightens risks of depression
    and suicide among older adults, more so among men
    than women.
  • Men who are widowed are more likely than women to
    remarry, or at least to form new relationships
    with the other sex.
  • Women, more so than men, make use of the web of
    kinship relations and close friendships available
    to them.
  • Men may be less adept than women at various
    aspects of self and household care.

Singles and Older People without Children
  • Single older adults without children just as
    likely as people who have had children to be
    socially active and involved in volunteer work
  • Tend to maintain close relationships with
    siblings and long-time friends
  • Very old (mean age 93) mothers and women who
    have not had children report equally positive
    levels of well-being
  • Married older men without children appear to be
    especially dependent on their spouses.
  • Parents seem to be more likely than people
    without children to have the social network that
    permits them to avoid nursing homes or other
    residential care upon physical decline.

  • Older sibling pairs tend to give each other
    emotional support.
  • True among sisters (women more likely than men to
    talk about feelings) who are close in age and
    geographically close
  • After being widowed, siblings (and children) tend
    to ramp up their social contacts and emotional
  • Support begins to decrease within two to three
  • A sibling, especially a sister, often takes the
    place of a spouse as a confidant
  • Twin relationships more intense in terms of
    frequency of contacts, intimacy, conflict, and
    emotional support
  • Frequency of contact and emotional closeness
    declines from early to middle adulthood, but
    increases again in late adulthood (mean age at
    time of study 71.5 years)

  • Older people narrow friendships to friends who
    are most like them and share similar activities.
  • To regulate their emotions, they tend to avoid
    friends with whom they have had conflict over
    the years.
  • Friends form social networks that keep elders
    active and involved.
  • Friends remain confidants with whom older adults
    can share feelings and ideas.

Friendship (contd)
  • Friends provide emotional closeness and support.
  • Friendships help older adults avert feelings of
  • Social networking helps with physical and
    psychological well-being of older adults in the
    community and in residential living facilities.
  • Older adults have a difficult time forming new
    friendships when they relocate with time,
    patience, and encouragement, new friendships can

Adult Children and Grandchildren
  • Grandparents provide a perspective on the
    behavior and achievements of their grandchildren
    they might not have had with their own children.
  • Both cohorts view each other in a positive light
    and see their ties as deep and meaningful.
  • Grandparents-grandchildren conceptualize their
    relationships as distinct family connections that
    involve unconditional love, emotional support,
    obligation, and respect.
  • Grandparents and adult grandchildren often act as
    friends and confidants.
  • Their relationship can seem precious, capable of
    being cut short at any time

Retirement and Retirement Planning
  • The average person has two decades of life in
    front of him or her at the age of 65, indicating
    a need for retirement planning (Arias, 2011).
  • Retirement planning may include regularly putting
    money aside in plans (IRAs, Keoghs, and various
    pension plans in the workplace).
  • Investing in stocks, bonds, or a second home
  • Older people may investigate the kinds of
    healthcare and cultural activities that are
    available in other geographic areas of interest.
  • If they are thinking of another area, they will
    also be interested in learning about the weather
    and crime statistics

Retirement and Retirement Planning (contd)
  • Couples in relationshipsincluding married
    heterosexuals, cohabiting heterosexuals, and gay
    and lesbian couplesusually but not always make
    their retirement plans interdependently.
  • The greater the satisfaction in the relationship,
    the more likely the couple are to make their
    retirement plans together
  • In married couples,
  • husbands more often than wives tend to be in
    control of the plans
  • although control was also related to the
    partners workload and income level

Adjustment to Retirement
  • Older adults who are best adjusted to retirement
    are highly involved in a variety of activities.
  • The group most satisfied with retirement
    maintained leisure and other non-work-related
    activities as sources of life satisfaction or
    replaced work with more satisfying activities.
  • They retired at a typical retirement age, had a
    wealth of resources to compensate for loss of
    work they were married, in good health, and of
    high SES (Pinquart and Schindler, 2007)

Adjustment to Retirement (contd)
  • The second retiree group retired at a later age
    and tended to be female.
  • The majority of the third group retired at a
    younger age and tended to be male..
  • The second and third groups were not as satisfied
    with retirement they were in poorer health, less
    likely to be married, and lower in socioeconomic
    status than the first group.
  • The third retiree group had a spotty employment
    record retirement per se didnt change these
    peoples lives in major ways.

Adjustment to Retirement (contd)
  • Adjustment of older retirees may be affected by
    their pre-retirement work identities
  • Upscale professional workers continued to be
    well-adjusted and had high self-esteem
  • They considered themselves retired professors or
    retired doctors or retired lawyers
  • Hourly wage earners and other blue collar workers
    had lower self-esteem and were more likely to
    think of themselves as simply a retired person.
  • The following factors made adjustment to
    retirement difficult
  • a lengthy attachment to work
  • lack of control over the transition to retirement
  • worrying and lack of self-confidence

(No Transcript)
Leisure Activities and Retirement
  • Engaging in leisure activities is essential for
    retirees physical and psychological health.
  • Joint leisure activities contribute to
    satisfaction of marital and other intimate
    partners and to family well-being.
  • Contributing to civic activities or volunteering
    to assist in hospitals enhances retirees
    self-esteem and fosters feelings of
  • If health remains good, leisure activities carry
    over from working days and may ease transition to
  • Physical aspects of aging and the death of
    companions with whom the retiree had shared
    leisure activities can force changes in choice of
    activities and diminish satisfaction.

Successful Aging
Successful Aging
  • Americans in their 70s report being generally
    satisfied with their lives.
  • Many older people are robust.
  • According to a national poll of some 1,600 adults
    by the Los Angeles Times, 75 of older people say
    they feel younger than their years (Stewart
    Armet, 2000)
  • Definitions of successful aging
  • Physical activity, social contacts, self-rated
    good health
  • The absence of cognitive impairment and
  • Not smoking
  • The absence of disabilities and chronic diseases
    such as arthritis and diabetes
  • Another definition includes high cognitive
    functioning and high social networking

Selective Optimization with Compensation
  • Selective optimization with compensation
  • Older people manage to maximize their gains while
    minimizing their losses
  • Successful agers
  • form emotional goals that bring them satisfaction
  • no longer compete in arenas better left to
    younger people, such as certain athletic or
    business activities
  • tend to be optimistic
  • often challenge themselves by taking up new
    pursuits such as painting
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