Life’s Development Longitudinal Study
Old Age is the closing period. It is a period where people “move away” from previous, more desirable periods or times of “usefulness”. As people move away from the earlier periods of their lives they often look back on them, usually regretfully, and tend to live in the present, ignoring the future as much as possible.
Age sixty or older is usually considered the dividing line between middle and old age. However, it is recognized that chronological age is a poor criterion to use in the marking off the beginning of old age because there are such marked differences in among individuals in the age at which aging actually begins.
Like every other period in the life span, old age is characterized by certain physical, physiological, cognitive and social changes. The effects of these changes determine, to a large extent, whether elderly men and women will make good or poor personal and social adjustments.
While it is unquestionably true that physical changes do occur with aging and that these changes are, for most part, in the direction of deterioration, individual differences are so marked that no two people of the same age are necessarily at the same state of deterioration. Furthermore, within the same individual there are variations in the rate of aging of different parts of the body. The organs of reproduction, for example, age sooner than the other organs. The Common changes in appearance during Old Age are the Following:
· Head Region
1. The nose elongates
2. The mouth changes shape as a result of tooth loss or the necessity of wearing dentures
3. the eyes seem dull and lusterless and often have a watery look
4. a double or triple chin develops
5. the cheeks become pendulous, wrinkled and baggy
6. the skin becomes wrinkled and dry
7. the hair on the head becomes thin and turns gray or white
· Trunk Region
1. the shoulders stoop and thus seem smaller
2. the abdomen bulges and droops
3. the hips seem flabbier and broader
4. the waistline broadens giving the trunk a sac like appearance
5. the woman’s breasts become flabby and droop
1. the upper arm becomes flabby and heavy, while the lower arm seems to shrink in diameter
2. the legs become flabby and the veins prominent, especially around the ankles
3. the hands become scrawny, and the veins on the back of the hand are prominent
4. the feet become larger as a result of sagging muscles, and corns, bunions and callouses often appear
5. the nails of the hands and feet become thick, touch and brittle
Older people are more cautious about learning, need more time to integrate with their responses, are less capable of dealing with new material that cannot readily be integrated with earlier experiences, and are less accurate than younger people.
There is general reduction in the speed with which the individual reaches a conclusion in both inductive and deductive reasoning.
Older people tend to lack the capacity for, or interest in, creative thinking. Thus significant creative achievements are less common among older people than among younger ones.
Old people tend to have a poor recent memories but better remote memories. This maybe due partly to the fact that they are not always strongly motivated to remember things, partly to lack of attentiveness, and partly to not hearing clearly and distinctly what others say.
Recall is affected more by age than recognition. Many older people use cues, especially visual, auditory, and kinesthetic ones, to aid their ability to recall.
Deterioration in vocabulary is very slight in old age because elderly people constantly use words most of which were learned in childhood or adolescence.
· Mental Rigidity
It is far from universal in old age, contradiction to the stereotype of the elderly as mentally rigid. When mental rigidity sets in during the middle age, it tends to become more pronounced with advancing age partly because the elderly learn more slowly and with more difficulty than they did earlier and partly because they believe that old values and ways of doing things are better than new ones.
With advancing age, most people suffer increasing social loss or social disengagement, which a process of mutual withdrawal of the aged from the social environment. Social disengagement in old age is commonly expressed in a narrowing down of the sources of social contact and a decline in social participation. For older people this means a radical change in the pattern of social life they established during early adulthood and carried on, with only minor changes, through middle age.
Of the different sources of possible contact in old age, three are greatly affected by aging. These are the Close, Personal Friendships; Friendship Cliques; and the Formal Groups or Clubs. With advancing age, participation in social activities declines and its scope narrows. There are many reasons for decline in social participation with advancing age, while declining health is generally believed to be the main reason; this is not always the case. Other reasons are as important and sometimes even more important. The extent of participation in social activities when younger has a marked influence on participation in old age. A change in individual status, due either to loss of a spouse or to retirement, is likely to affect friendships and social participation.
1. Hurlock, E. B. (1982). Old Age: Personal and Social Adjustments. Developmental Psychology, 5th edition, 389-409