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 discusses several topics relevant to older adults' mental health including access and use of mental health services, prevalence of common mental health diagnoses, assessment of mental health symptoms, and empirically supported treatments for older adults. Although some topics presented in this chapter need additional research focused specifically on an older adult population, several conclusions can be drawn from the material. First, several studies have documented that older adults use mental health services less frequently than other age groups, although it is unclear why this is the case and likely involves a combination of barriers/access to treatment and stigma. Second, several of the mental health problems discussed may present differently among older adults, such as the specific symptoms of depression that older adults endorse. Third, assessment instruments for older adults need to be selected cautiously to ensure that adequate validity and reliability has been established for this population.