This book fills a gaping void in the selection of textbooks to use in graduate courses on the psychology of aging. It serves as a primer for any graduate student who is going to work in a clinical setting with older adults, or in a research lab that studies some aspect of the psychology of aging. The book introduces students to the background knowledge needed in order to understand some of the more complex concepts in the psychology of aging. Additionally, it provides clear explanations of concepts (e.g., genetics of aging research, neuroimaging techniques, understanding of important legal documents for older adults). The book focuses solely on older adults, providing in-depth coverage of this burgeoning population. It also provides coverage on cognitive reserve, neurocognitive disorders, and social aspects of aging. The book is intended for graduate students or upper-level undergraduate students in psychology, biology, nursing, counseling, social work, gerontology, speech pathology, psychiatry, and other disciplines who provide services for, or perform research with, older adults. It is organized into four sections. Section I presents introduction to the psychology of aging. Section II gives a core foundation in biological aspects of aging. It covers general biological theories of aging, common physical health problems in older adults, and normal changes that occur to the brain with aging. Section III describes the psychological components of aging such as changes in personality and emotional development, mental health aspects of aging, normal changes in cognitive functioning, cognitive reserve and interventions for cognitive decline, neurocognitive disorders in aging, aging's impact on relationships and families, and working in late life and retirement. The final section presents the social aspects of aging, which includes death, bereavement, and widowhood, aging experience in ethnic and sexual minorities, and lastly, aging and the legal system.
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This chapter explores changes that occur to the brain, beginning with an overview of modern technologies that are used to answer questions about brain functioning in older adults. Next it summarizes the changes that occur to the brain with normal aging. Finally, the chapter presents an overview of neuroplasticity. Although the human brain clearly loses volume with age, the brain also shows plasticity that can be used to maintain functioning in old age. Research in the coming decades can use the principles of neuroplasticity described previously to enhance the functioning of older adults, whether they are experiencing normal age-related change or damage to the brain following strokes or other neurological events. Neuroimaging methods will continue to be developed that allow us to determine what happens to the brain with age, and in response to neurological events, and how neuroplasticity enables the brain to adjust to such changes.