Development in Late Adulthood
Late adulthood (old age) is generally considered to begin at about age 65. Erik Erikson suggests that at this time it is important to find meaning and satisfaction in life rather than to become bitter and disillusioned, that is, to resolve the conflict of integrity vs. despair. It has been estimated that by the year 2030, Americans over 65 will make up 20% of the population. Despite the problems associated with longevity, studies of people in their 70s have shown that growing old is not necessarily synonymous with substantial mental or physical deterioration. Many older people are happy and engaged in a variety of activities. Gerontology, an interdisciplinary field that studies the process of aging and the aging population, involves psychology, biology, sociology, and other fields. Theories of successful aging. Theories of successful aging include the following: •The disengagement theory states that as people age, their withdrawal from society is normal and desirable as it relieves them of responsibilities and roles that have become difficult. This process also opens up opportunities for younger people; society benefits as more-energetic young people fill the vacated positions. •The activity theory contends that activity is necessary to maintain a “life of quality,” that is, that one must “use it or lose it” no matter what one's age and that people who remain active in all respects—physically, mentally, and socially—adjust better to the aging process. Proponents of this theory believe that activities of earlier years should be maintained as long as possible. Ageism. Ageism may be defined as the prejudice or discrimination that occurs on the basis of age. Although it can be used against people of all ages, older people are most frequently its target and it may often result in forced retirement. Stereotyping of the elderly is also an aspect of ageism, as seen in such a statement as “He drives like a little old lady.” Physical...
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