Emotional and Social Development in Late Adulthood

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Slide 1

There is a mix of gains and losses in older age Time of pleasure and tranquility – children grown, retirement, less responsibility Declining physical functions, loneliness, awareness of death

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Adults who arrive at sense of integrity feel: whole, complete, satisfied with achievements; being at peace with self and all choices made Despair – occurs when elders feel they have made wrong decisions and time is too short to find an alternate route to integrity – finds it hard to accept that death is near and is overwhelmed with bitterness, defeat, and hopelessness May result in anger and contempt for others that disguises contempt for self

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Need to achieve these 3 tasks to achieve ego integrity Ego differentiation – if invested heavily in career, find other ways to affirm self-worth (family, friendship, community life) Body transcendence – surmount physical declines by emphasizing other areas (cognitive, emotional, social) Ego transcendence – orient toward larger, more distant future, face reality of death constructively – make life more secure, meaningful, gratifying for younger generations.

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Joan Erikson (Erikson’s widow) – Geotranscendence as another distinct stage? Erikson’s ego integrity involves coming to terms with the past whereas the attainments in Peck’s theory involve development beyond ego integrity Need more research to confirm a distinct, transcendent late-life stage

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Older adults have accumulated a lifetime of self-knowledge, leading to more secure and complex conceptions of themselves than at earlier ages Still have some possible selves that allows attempt to reach goals and a sense of further development – important for psychological well being Big five personality traits still stable from mid to late life, but some shifts as well Agreeableness (good natured, generous) – seems to increase between age 60-80; may be related with coming to terms with life despite imperfections Slight drop in sociability with age – may reflect fewer options for social contacts and a tendency to be more selective about relationships, and death of family and friends Greater acceptance of change with age – reflected in elderly continued satisfaction with life and positive outlook Spirituality and religiosity – May develop more mature sense of spirituality – seek higher meaning for life because they know it will end in near future – NOT same as religion – increased spirituality can be found in a sense of truth and beauty found in art, nature, and relationships with others Religion – provides beliefs, symbols, and rituals that guide quest for meaning Many older adults place great value on religious beliefs – but actual participation in religious activities actually remains stable throughout life Women more likely to be members of church or synagogue and engage in various religious activities

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Observations of older adults interacting with others has shown that dependency behaviors are attended to immediately by others whereas independent behaviors are mostly ignored regardless of elder’s health status; referred to as DEPENDENCY-SUPPORT SCRIPT and INDEPENCE-IGNORE SCRIPT– reinforces dependent behavior at the expense of impendent behavior regardless of older persons actual abilities Why? – stereotypes of elderly as passive and incompetent Older adults aware of others low expectations of them and fear becoming dependent on others – BUT dependency can be adaptive to a point if it allows the older adult to conserve their strength by investing it only in highly valued activities (selective optimization with compensation) For dependency to foster well-being need to assume personal control over it – deciding which things need help with and which things want to do independently Health – predictor of psychological well being Physical declines can be stressful and may lead to a loss of personal control – one of strongest risk factors for late-life depression Relation between physical health and well being can be vicious cycle Depression in old age can lead to suicide – age 65 and older have highest suicide rate of any age group Effective coping and sense of self efficacy are important Negative life changes – elders at risk for this – death of spouse, siblings, friends, illness, physical disabilities, declining income, dependency May actually evoke less stress and depression in older than younger adults One study showed that although diagnosis of breast cancer was stressful at any age, younger women had greater adjustment problems – may be that chronic disease is more expected in old age Many elders have learned to cope with hard tomes and come to accept loss as part of life But, when these events pile up, elder is at risk for depression – thus need support Social support and interaction – reduces stress and thus promotes health and psychological well-being At same time, older adults do not want a great deal of support from people close to them unless they feel they can reciprocate – may explain why children are most likely to offer such support and feel sense of obligation

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4 theories offer explanations for why we see a decline in social relations – two theories (disengagement and activity) interpret change in opposite ways; other approaches account for wider range of findings on social contact in old age Disengagement theory Older people decrease activity levels and interact less frequently – become preoccupied with inner lives Society releases them from work duties and other responsibilities If disengage, then death is less disruptive to society BUT, not everyone disengages, and elders retreat from interaction is more complex Activity theory – according to this view, arranging conditions that permit elders to remain engaged in roles and relationships is vital for life satisfactions However, theory does not account for psychological changes with aging – if actually offer opportunities for social contact, does not lead to greater social activity on part of elders Also important to remember that it is the quality vs. quantity of relationships that matter for well-being in old age Continuity theory – older adults try to minimize the stress and disruptiveness of aging by integrating the changes associated with aging into a coherent, consistent life path. Choose to use familiar skills and engage in familiar activities with familiar people, which provides sense of routine and direction amidst change. Evidence does support such continuity in everyday pursuits and relationships (elders do seem to participate in similar activities with the same people over time) Selectivity theory – physical and psychological aspects of aging lead to changes in the functions of social interaction that are most important to older adults Older adult no longer need to gather information from others or receive self-affirmation from others – instead emphasize the EMOTION-REGULATION function of interaction – interacting with mostly family and friends makes it more likely that older adults emotional balance will be preserved

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Fairness – men participate more in household tasks after retirement – but still more traditional Men – home maintenance projects Women – same duties as before Extra time together – more leisure activities Communication – greater emotional understanding and emphasis on regulating emotion Resolve conflicts that are less negative and more affectionate – even in unhappy marriages less likely to express anger and resentment If dissatisfaction is present – worse for females than males in terms of physical and mental health

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Have sustained partnership through historical period of hostility and discrimination Most report happy, fulfilling relationships Report physical health and mental health more favorably than homosexual elders who live alone

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Small rate of divorce in late adulthood, but seems to be increasing with increase acceptance of marital break up and increased risk for second marriages When divorce occurs – stressful – shift in family relationships at a time when social support is important Women suffer more because more likely to spend remaining years alone Remarriage – more opportunities for men than women, but women may be more motivated because of financial difficulties Remarriages are more stable for older adults and divorce rate is much lower

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Most widows and widowers tend to live alone rather than in extended families (more true of whites than ethnic minorities) – want to live alone to retain control over time and living space and avoid disagreements with adult children Loss of spouse can be very stressful, but wide variations Age, social support, and personality make a difference Easier for elders than younger individuals – may be more expected

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Only about 5 percent of older Americans remain unmarried and childless throughout life Aware of being different from norm, but develop alternative relationships Nieces and nephews, same sex friendships

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Women continue to have more intimate friends Women also more likely to have more secondary friends – people who are not intimates but whom they spend time with occasionally (e.g., meet for lunch) Allows to remain socially involved and gain in well-being Elders tend to avoid excessive dependency on friends

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Most elders enjoy positive relations with family members, caregivers, etc., but some suffer malatreatment Physical maltreatment – intentional infliction of pain, discomfort, or injury, through hitting, cutting, burning, physical force, restraint, sexual assault and other acts Physical neglect – intentional or unintentional failure to fulfill caregiving obligations- lack of food, medication, health services or elder being left alone or isolated Psychological abuse – verbal assaults, humiliation, intimidation Financial abuse – illegal or improper exploitation of elder’s property or financial resources through theft or use without the elder’s consent Concern has increased in recent years and estimated that 1.5 million American adults age 60 and older are mistreated by caregivers These types of maltreatment may be difficult to detect – need better legal definitions Risk factors Dependency of perpetrator – may be experienced as powerlessness and lead to aggressive exploitative behavior – often mutual dependency Psychological disturbance – alcohol and drug dependency, socially isolated, trouble at work or unemployed and have financial concerns

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Women tend to retire earlier than men – may be due to family events (e.g., need to care for older parent or spouse) BUT, many women do not have retirement benefits and must continue working into old age This is especially true among African American women

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If reluctant to retire because of high involvement and enjoyment of work then retirement can be stressful Social support important – quality relationships If martial relationship is positive, retirement can increase satisfaction – more time for companionship

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Successful agers – growth, vitality, and striving tend to overcome physical, cognitive, and social declines Also important – social policies – social security plans, good health care, safe housing, etc.

Slide 1

Social and Emotional Development in Late Adulthood

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Erikson: Ego Integrity vs. Despair Stage involves coming to terms with one’s life Ego Integrity Feel whole, complete, satisfied with achievements Serenity and contentment Associated with psychosocial maturity Despair Feel many decisions were wrong, but now time is too short Bitter and unaccepting of coming death Expressed as anger, contempt for others

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Peck: Three Tasks of Ego Integrity Ego differentiation versus work-role preoccupation Body transcendence versus body preoccupation Ego transcendence versus ego preoccupation

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Gerotranscendence Beyond ego integrity Cosmic, transcendent perspective Directed beyond self forward and outward Heightened inner calm Quiet reflection Senior Lifestyles

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Changes in Self-Concept and Personality Strengthening of self concept Agreeableness, sociability, and acceptance of change Spirituality and Religiosity

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Individual Differences in Well-Being Control vs. Dependency Health Negative Life Changes Social Support and Interaction

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Social Theories of Aging Disengagement theory Mutual withdrawal between elders and society takes place in anticipation of death Activity theory Social barriers to engagement vs. the desires of elders cause declining rates of interaction Continuity theory Strive for consistency between past and anticipated future Selectivity theory Social networks become more selective as we age

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Relationships in Late Adulthood Marriage Marital satisfaction rises with age Perceptions of fairness in the relationship increase Couples engage in more joint leisure activities Communication becomes more positive

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Long-Term Gay and Lesbian Partnerships Most happy, highly fulfilling healthier, happier than singles Coping with oppression may strengthen skill at coping with physical aging. Face legal, health-care issues

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Relationships in Late Adulthood Divorce and Remarriage Divorce is more stressful for older than younger adults Remarriage rates are low in late adulthood, but those who do remarry have more stable relationships

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Relationships in Late Adulthood Widowhood Wide variation in adaptation to widowhood Elders fare better than younger individuals Women – if developed rewarding roles outside marital relationship – fare better than men

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Relationships in Late Adulthood Never-married, childless older adults Develop alternative meaningful relationships Often worry about how care will be provided in old age if needed

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Relationships in Late Adulthood Siblings Share long unique history Joint reminiscing increases in late adulthood Serve as vital sources of social support

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Relationships in Late Adulthood Friendships Functions of elder friendships Intimacy and companionship Acceptance Link elderly to larger community Help protect elders from psychological consequences of loss Characteristics Intimate friends Secondary friends

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Relationships in Late Adulthood Relationships with adult children Often stay in touch and typically exchange advice rather than direct assistance Daughters are primary agents of elderly parent contact with family

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Relationships in Late Adulthood Relationships with adult grandchildren and great-grandchildren Provide a wider network of support Grandparents often expect and receive affection rather than practical help from grandchildren

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Relationships in Late Adulthood Elder Maltreatment Physical maltreatment Physical neglect Psychological abuse Financial abuse Risk factors Dependency of victim Dependency, psychological disturbance of perpetrator History of family violence

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Relationships in Late Adulthood Preventing Elder Maltreatment Treatment and social support aimed at reducing stress for the caregiver Protection and provision of unmet needs for elder Counseling and education In-home help

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Retirement and Leisure Decision to retire Depends on affordability, health status, opportunities to pursue meaningful activities Depends on societal factors – early retirement benefits, gender, and ethnicity

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Retirement and Leisure Adjustment to retirement Affected by involvement and enjoyment of work, social support, and marital happiness Leisure activities Engaging in meaningful and pleasurable activities relates to psychological well-being Best preparation for leisure experiences in late life is development of rewarding interests at younger ages

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Optimal Aging Ability to minimize losses and maximize gains Optimism and sense of self-efficacy in improving health and physical functioning Selective optimization with compensation Strengthening of self-concept Enhanced emotional understanding and self-regulation Acceptance of change Mature sense of spirituality and faith Personal control High quality relationships

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