Physical and Cognitive Development in Late Adulthood
• Functional age is the actual competence and performance a person displays, regardless of chronological age. People age biologically at different rates: o Young-old elderly appear physically young for their years. o Old-old elderly appear frail and show signs of decline. Life Expectancy
• Average life expectancy is the number of years that a person born in a particular year can expect to live. This has to do with nutrition, medical treatment available, safety. This has changed dramatically since 1900, when the average life expectancy was less than 50 years. Today, a person born in 2000 can expect to live 74 years (M) or 80 years (F). Certain death rates have declined greatly- especially heart disease- has dropped by 50% in the past 30 years due to declines in high blood pressure and smoking risks. • Variations in life expectancy relate to gender (women can expect to live 4-7 years longer than men due to the protective factor of the extra X chromosomes.) White people will generally outlive African-American people and Native-American people. This seems related to higher rates of infant mortality, unintentional injuries, life-threatening disease, poverty-linked stress, and higher levels of violent death in low-SES minority groups. Quality of life can be predicted by a country’s health care, housing and social services. o Active lifespan is the number of years of vigorous, healthy life a person born in a particular year can expect. Japan is first, and the US is 24th. Japan has a low rate of heart disease due to the low-fat diet, along with good health care and positive policies that benefit the elderly. In developing nations the life expectancy is closer to 50 years, and active lifespan is shorter- 44 in Haiti, 38 in Afghanistan, 26 in Sierra Leone. • Life expectancy in late adulthood- in the US, people age 65+ have grown in numbers- in North America, they have increased from 4% to 13%. The fastest growing group of elders is those 85+. The gender difference expands with age- at 65 there are 111 women per 100 men. At 85+ there are 160 women for 100 men. o Life expectancy crossover – surviving members of low-SES ethnic minority groups live longer than members of the white majority. Perhaps only the sturdiest males and females of low-SES groups survive into very old age, so they actually can outlive those in more favored groups. After people reach 75 years, heredity is not the same impact that environment is- now lifestyle makes the difference- diet, normal body weight, exercise, little substance use, optimistic outlook, low stress and social support. • Maximum lifespan is the genetic limit to length of life free of external risk factors. 85 seems about average, but the oldest verified age is 122.
• Centenarians’ secrets – centenarians have increased 10 times in the past 40 years. Women outnumber men by 4/1. 60-70% have disabilities that prevent independent living, but many lead active lives. What do they do differently? o Health and longevity seems to run in families, so there is an inherited aspect to long lived survival. They also haven’t had many chronic illness. They have efficient immune systems and few brain abnormalities. Most never smoked and were physically active into their late years. o Personality is optimistic, not fear-driven. They score high in independence, hardiness, emotional security and openness to experience. They also cite close family bonds and a long and happy marriage. o Activities include community involvement, work, and leisure activities and continued learning. • Nervous system impairments show up more after age 60, as the brain tissue declines due to loss of neurons and larger ventricles within the brain. As many as 50% of neurons may die in the visual, auditory, and motor areas of the brain. The cerebellum,...
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