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 introduces some of the concepts that are important in the psychology of aging. It starts by discussing definitions of older adulthood and some characteristics, as a whole, of older adults. It then reviews the data on the projected increase in older adults in the United States and internationally. The chapter discusses the importance of birth cohort and continues to be an important theme throughout this book. Specifically, it reviews characteristics of the Baby Boom generation since most of the current generation of older adults were born in that era. Erik Erikson and Paul Baltes are two researchers who have made substantial contributions to the development of aging studies. The chapter then reviews development of the professional field and training resources that are available to students and professionals, and ends with a discussion of research methods that attempt to untangle the effects of age, cohort, and time of measurement.