This chapter traces the development of concepts and theories in the sociology of aging from the 1940s through the mid-1970s through seven themes. The first theme describes the importance of age in social structure and the place of the aged in changing societies. The second theme focuses on the issue of ‘successful aging’: how to define, measure, and achieve it. The third theme highlights the tension between social structure and individual agency in the activity versus disengagement theory controversy. The fourth theme concerns the social meanings of age, age cohorts, and generations, as well as interactions between age groups. The fifth theme focuses on families, aging, and intergenerational relations. The sixth theme of age stratification deals with the interplay between cohort succession and the aging of individuals. The seventh theme addresses the life course as a socially constructed process.
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- Go to chapter: Introduction: Psychology—Rising as a Discipline to Meet the Challenges of an Aging, Increasingly Diverse Society
Introduction: Psychology—Rising as a Discipline to Meet the Challenges of an Aging, Increasingly Diverse Society
This chapter presents an illustration of the complexities involved in studying ethnic and racial influences on psychosocial processes and how they are intimately tied to physical outcomes in later life. It focuses on psychology as a discipline, minority aging research during the last several decades has revealed the need for multidisciplinary and intersectional conceptual and research approaches. The chapter also focuses on the age, gender, socioeconomic, cultural, and racial and ethnic graded influences on life course development that eventuate in unequal burdens of psychological and physical health morbidity and mortality for certain groups in late life. No section on psychology could be complete without a discussion of religion and spirituality among racial and ethnic minorities. Generational processes are clearly implicated in ideas about the cyclical nature of poverty and health behaviors that are intricately linked with environmental factors and social influence.Source:
The concept of Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) makes a lot of sense in that individuals are typically not “normal” one day and “demented” the next. In theory, especially for progressive neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), frontotemporal dementia (FTD), the development of dementia may take months or years. The clinical syndrome of MCI due to AD can be identified via a neuropsychological evaluation or less-sensitive cognitive screening measures. Much of what we are learning about MCI, and therefore refining its diagnostic criteria, is coming from two large-scale studies of cognition and aging: Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) and Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle (AIBL). According to the most recent research diagnostic criteria for MCI due to AD, evidence of beta-amyloid deposition, neuronal injury, and/or other biochemical changes needs to be seen to increase confidence of the etiology of MCI. Cholinesterase inhibitors remain the primary pharmacological treatment for AD.
Social support from close relationships is one of the most well-documented psychosocial predictors of physical health outcomes. Social support is distinguishable from other health-relevant social processes including social integration and social negativity. This chapter reviews epidemiological work on social support and health, and explores the major life-span models that have implications for understanding these issues. Importantly, the link between social support and mortality was consistent across age, sex, geographical region, initial health status, and cause of death. In order to elaborate on the developmental processes over time that might impact social support from close relationships and health, a life-span model of support has been proposed that attempts to integrate prior work and models across disciplines. Most social support interventions also target individuals who are most at risk or who already have psychological, behavioral, or medical problems.
Mounting evidence has shown that an array of proinflammatory cytokines and mediators is frequently elevated in aging populations, including interleukin (IL)-6, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, and C-reactive protein (CRP). In addition to chronological aging, sterile inflammation can be associated with a number of age-related disorders and diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, cancers, type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), bone diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and frailty. Many types of cancer are also related to or are preceded by chronic inflammation at sites of tumor development. Although more studies are required, evidence to date suggests that drugs that target age-related chronic inflammation and related fundamental aging processes, including cellular senescence or the age-related increase in mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) activity, might play an important role in reducing age-related disability, frailty, and multiple chronic diseases as a group.
This introduction presents an overview of key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book focuses on theoretical and conceptual developments in research on aging, both within and across disciplines. Recent years have brought major investments in longitudinal data, investments essential to understanding aging as a dynamic, multifaceted, and interactive process. The book summarizes what is meant by theory, and why theory is so important to advancing aging-related research, policy, practice, and intervention. The theory portrays the relationships among the complex variables suggested by a theory. A good theory identifies the problem and its most important components based on the separate findings and empirical generalizations from research. As the field of gerontology and research on aging continue to rapidly expand, the need for a strong theory will only grow.
The book summarizes what is meant by theory, and why theory is so important to advancing aging-related research, policy, practice, and intervention, and can keep researchers and practitioners in gerontology abreast of the newest theories and models of aging. It addresses theories and concepts built on cumulative knowledge in four disciplinary areas, biology, psychology, social sciences, and policy and practice, as well as landmark advances in trans-disciplinary science. Since longevity is indirectly governed by the genome it is sexually determined, and because aging is a stochastic process, it is not. Chapters cover major paradigm shifts that have occurred in geropsychology, theories in the sociology of aging, evolutionary theories pertaining to human diseases, theories of stem cell aging, evidence that loss of proteostasis is a central driver of aging and age-related diseases, theories of emotional well-being and aging, theories of social support in health and aging, and other theories such as environmental gerontological theories and biodemographic theories. Many chapters also address connections between theories and policy or practice. The book also contains a new section, "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants", which includes personal essays by senior gerontologists who share their perspectives on the history of ideas in their fields, and on their experiences with the process and prospects of developing good theory.
Wisdom tends to provide a sense of mastery and meaning in life that sustains well-being even under adverse circumstances. This chapter provides a summary of explicit and implicit wisdom theories. It explores the contextual life-course approach to address the divergent trajectories of personal wisdom development, with focuses on the importance of social support networks and role models. The chapter also explores the associations among wisdom and culture, religion/spirituality, and well-being in old age. Most wisdom literature concurs that advanced cognitive development is necessary but not sufficient for wisdom to arise. In older adult samples of mixed educational and socioeconomic backgrounds, wisdom, assessed as analytic and synthetic wisdom modes and an integration of cognitive, reflective, and compassionate wisdom dimensions was positively associated with subjective well-being, even after controlling for physical, health, socioeconomic status, financial situation, physical environment, and social involvement.
This chapter provides insight into the demographics of aging, and an overview of potential benefits and challenges of using technology to help older adults. It outlines four interconnected challenges of an aging population. With the expected increase in care needs that coincides with an aging population, the first challenge is the question of how to provide relevant high quality-care to older persons. Second, with fewer caregivers available in relation to the growing population in need, we can expect that the relative burden of care experienced by caregivers will increase. The third challenge is to increase the relative number of healthy and independent seniors by taking a more proactive approach with prevention and health maintenance strategies. The final challenge addressed concerns the development of health care systems and policy changes that are more inclusive of needed assistive technologies and medical devices.
This chapter reviews the typical changes in cognitive functioning that occur with aging. It presents an overview of the concept of crystallized and fluid intelligence. More recently intelligence has been conceptualized as consisting of multiple abilities, not adequately represented by a general quotient. The Seattle Longitudinal Study was the first major longitudinal study of cognitive changes with age. The chapter discusses changes in specific cognitive abilities with age. The inhibitory deficit hypothesis was presented as an explanation for changes with attention with age. One consistent finding has been that processing speed declines with advancing age. Visuospatial and language abilities remain fairly stable compared to other abilities. Memory comprises several types of memory, which are affected differentially by aging. Executive functioning also consists of several separate skills, affected differently by aging. Lastly, the chapter discusses two important implications of cognitive changes with age, driving and mandatory retirement ages.