Chapter 17- Physical and Cognitive Development in LateAdulthood (pg 475-500)
Summarized By: Gerda Pantea
VARIABILITY IN LATEADULTHOOD: (pg. 475-479)
- Life expectancy increases as adults get older
- Life expectancy is longer for women then it is for men (ex. Women 65yrs live till 85 vs
Men 65yrs live till 80)
- Young old (age 60-75)
- Old old (age 75-85)- fastest-growing segment of the population in Canada
- Oldest old (age 85 and over)
- The oldest old population almost tripled during the same time frame; estimation, in year
2051 oldest old (age 85-over) population will grow to almost 5x
- Elderly over 100 years old is growing at rapid rate (estimates from 2009 – 600 elderly
increased to 15 000 by 2030).
- Researchers found that some seniors that rated their health as good recover more physical
and cognitive functions after a stroke then their peers who rated their health lower.
- Adults who already suffer with chronic disease by the age 65 illustrate rapid decrease
then those who begin late adulthood without disease symptoms.
LIMITATIONS ON ACTIVITIES
- Functional status: measure of an individual’s ability to perform certain roles and tasks,
particularly self-help tasks and other chores of daily living.
- Activities of daily living (ADLs): self-help tasks such as bathing, dressing, and using the
- Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs): more complex daily living tasks such
as doing homework, cooking, and managing money. - Women aged 65+ are more likely to suffer from arthritis= limitation in movement and
- 1/3 of Canadians over age 65 & 44% of those over age 85 experience at least one level of
difficulty performing some basic daily life activities.
- Oldest old are more likely to suffer from physical and mental impairments
- Frail elderly: seniors whose physical and or mental impairments are so extensive that
they cannot care for themselves.
- Frail elderly is growing significantly; this is a concern for young and middle-aged adults
that support the growing number of elderly.
- Living a long life is clearly inherited
- Twin studies show that identical twins have more similar illness rates vs. fraternal twins
- Good health habits extends late adulthood (ex. Smokers vs nonsmokers)
- Exercise can help prevent heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes etc.
- Today there is a lower rate of exercise
- Canadians over age 65 only 34% of males and 22% females engage in vigorous exercise
- Eating healthy and physical activity will control the growing rate of obesity in elderly
PHYSICAL CHANGES: (pg. 480-488)
THE BRAINAND NERVOUS SYSTEM
- 4 main changes in the brain during adult years:
1.) Reduction of brain weight
2.) Loss of grey matter
3.) Decline of dendrites
4.) Slower synaptic transmission speed
- The most significant of these changes is the loss of dendritic density. - Researchers suggest that experience as well as aging is involved in the loss of dendritic
- Between ages 60- 90 of educated adults show less atrophy of the cerebral cortex
- Dendritic loss results in gradual slowing of synaptic speed, with resulting increase in
reaction time for everyday tasks.
- Synaptic plasticity: redundancy in the nervous system that ensures that it is nearly
always possible for a nerve impulse to move from one neuron to another.
- With increasing loss of dendrites, the shortest route may be lost, therefore plasticity
decreases and reaction time increases.
- When the brain loses a significant amount of interconnectivity, which occurs as dendrites
decrease in number, that “computational power” declines
- Presbyopia (farsightedness) late adulthood can bring other vision defects due to body
Ex. Blood flow to the eye decreases which results in an enlarged “blind spot” on the
retina and thus a reduced field of vision. Older adult has more difficulty seeing at night
and responding to rapid changes in brightness.
- Cataracts (age 65-74)- 9% suffer with a condition in which the lens inside the eye
becomes clouded and obscures vision
- Glaucoma (age 65-74)- 3% suffer with a progressive loss of vision caused by optic nerve
damage that is often associated with increased fluid pressure buildup in the eye.
- Macular degeneration- a type of age-related deterioration of the retina that results in
loss of central vision. The older you are the higher chance of this condition.
- Presbycusis- hearing loss - Auditory problems, unlike many other disabilities of old age, are more likely to be
experienced by men than by women. Men-higher exposure to noise in work force,
- Hearing difficulties in late adulthood have several components:
1.) Loss of ability to hear high-frequency sounds
2.) Develop difficulties with word discrimination- difficulty identifying individual words
they have just heard
3.) Tinnitus- persistent ringing in the ears, also increases in frequency with age
- Older adults secrete more ear wax, which may block the ear canal
- Bones in the middle ear become calcified and less elastic
- Cochlear membranes of the inner ear become less flexible and less responsive
- Nerve pathways to the brain show some degeneration
TASTE, SMELL,AND TOUCH
- 4 flavours: salty, bitter, sweet and sour
- Taste does not seem to decline over the years of adulthood -> taste receptors have short
lives and are constantly replaced
- Secretion of less saliva= woolly mouth
- Elders my find food blander due to the loss of the sense of smell
- Loss of sensitivity to odours is far greater in men than in women- linked to enviroment
- Less acute smell results in elderly people become less motivated to prepare tasty food=
lower nutrition or significant dietary imbalances.
- Sensitivity to touch decreases with age
- Loss of sensitivity occurs in a pattern that is a reversal of the proximodistal principle –
feet are the first body part to decline in sensitivity
THEORIES OF BIOLOGICALAGING
THE HAYFLICK LIMIT - Hayflick limit: theoretical proposal that each species is subject to a genetically
programmed time limit after which cells no longer have any capacity to replicate
- Each chromosome in the human body has a string of repetitive DNAcalled telomeres
appears to have a timekeeping mechanism for the organism.
- Number of telomeres is reduced each time a cell divides, by the age 70 there are lower
GENETICALLY PROGRAMMED SENESCENE
- Senescence: physical changes and declines associated with aging
- Programmed senescence theory: the view that age-related declines are the result of
species-specific genes for aging
- Evolutionary theorists argue that programmed senescence prevents older, less fit
individuals from becoming parents at an age where they are unlikely to raise offspring to
- Aging genes have a built-in clock that prevents genes from having an effect when
humans are in their reproductive years but switches them on one the reproductive peak
REPAIR OF GENETIC MATERIALAND CROSS-LINKING
- Focuses on the cells’ability to repair breaks in DNA
- Accumulation of unpaired breaks results over time in a loss of cellular function, and the
- Cross- linking: the formation of undesirable bonds between proteins or fats – occurs most
often in cell proteins of older adults
- Free radicals: molecules or atoms that possess an unpaired electron
- Occurs in older people because age-related deterioration of the mitochondria, the cell
structures that convert food into energy
- Antioxidants help prevent radicals
- Antioxidants are found in food with high vitamin C, E and beta carotene healthy eating
and increasing antioxidants can prevent antioxidants and live longer TERMINAL DROP
- Theorists claim that physical and mental declines in old age are part of dying process
- Terminal drop hypothesis: mental and physical functioning decline drastically only in the
few years immediately preceding death
- Decrease in cognitive performance
- Researchers found that inconsistency in speed of performance was a more sensitive
predictor of approaching death
BEHAVIOURAL EFFECTS OF PHYSICAL CHANGES
- Dendritic loss at the neuronal level clearly contributes substantially to this general
- Arthritic changes in the joints and loss of elasticity in the muscles
- Developmentalists believe that the decline in the speed of nerve impulses is responsible
for age-related difficulties in translating thoughts into action.
- Brain activity interferes with older adults retrieval of the knowledge they need to
accomplish the task and that they use behavioural feedback to compensate for mistakes
- Older adults have trouble judging their own speed
- Slower reaction time to switch attention from one thing to the next
- Decline in temperature sensitivity, slowing leads increase of accidental burns
SLEEPING AND EATING PATERNS
- Adults over the age 65 typically wake up more frequently, low REM sleep= lighter sleep
- Become more “morning people” rather than night- also take naps during the day
- Older adults satiety (feeling of fullness) seem to be impaired therefore causing overeating
and constant feeling of hunger
- Rely on certain times to eat meals (habits) and eating the same meal everyday
- Particular eating regime is simply a way of coping with physiological change.
MOTOR FUNCTIONS - Loss of stamina clearly arises in large part from the changes in the cardiovascular system,
as well as from changes in muscles.
- Dexterity is lost primarily as a result of arthritic changes in the joints.
- Gradual loss of the sense of balance- older adults fall more often
- Those who practice Tai Chi or play golf regularly are better at maintain balance then
- Changes of aging in sexual behaviour
- Frequency of sexual activity declines gradually in middle adulthood
- Decline in testosterone levels among men clearly play some role
- Chronic pain may also affect the desire for sex
- Stereotypes that portray old age as asexual period may also play some effect
- Studies suggest that older women are more sexually adventurous and are more willing to
engage in sexual experimentation.
MENTAL HEALTH (p.488-494)
- Alzheimer’s disease, an irreversible degenerative condition, is the most common cause of
- Other sources of mental confusion include “intercurent illnesses, infection metabolic