There is a certain maturity of judgment
about men, things, causes and life generally,
that nothing in the world but
years can bring, a real wisdom that only age can teach.
--G. Stanley Hall, Senescence: The Last Half
of Life (1922: p.366)
While it is difficult to generalize about the psychological experiences
of any age group, consider the parallels between the young and old. Both
are times of mental and physical change, leading to increasing introspection,
need for meaning, questionings of identity, loneliness, and sense of privacy.
But whereas the young have short pasts and long futures, old age is a life-stage
characterized by long pasts and short futures. It is a time of loss: the
loss of spouse, friends, jobs, standard of living, and health. Old age is
that life-cycle stage when individuals often must face life's
most stressful experiences.
- Do adult personalities undergo distinct, significant changes or
are they largely set in concrete by early adulthood?
- Depression in old age: According to the
Psychiatric Institute of Washington, "estimates on the prevalence of
depression among the elderly vary from 10 percent up to 65 percent."
- What is the relationship between personality and longevity? Examining
the Terman sample of 1,178 gifted California individuals (who have been
followed since childhood in the early 1920's), Howard S. Friedman (Journal
of Personality and Social Psychology, 1993) found those who were conscientious
as children were 30 percent less likely to die in any given year of adulthood
than their freewheeling peers. Such traits as sociability and self-esteem
had no relationship to how long people lived, while childhood optimism
had a negative impact on longevity.
- How different are the emotional experiences of older persons from those of other
age groups? Click here for one
- Assuming different generations feature differing predominant personality
types, how do the coping strategies in old age vary (using Riesman's historic
typology) between other- directed and inner-directed selves?
- Findings of the Seattle
Kame Project (1991-2002), a study of dementia among elderly Japanese
Americans, wherein found that those with strong ties to their heritage were
less likely to suffer cognitive decline.
- The relationship between cohort size and psychological well-being.
Richard Easterlin in Birth and Fortune, for instance, found a negative
relationship between cohort size and well-being.
- Will the grief of widowhood in old age change for those cohorts
having the (possible) anticipatory socializations of divorce?
- American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
- In Andrew Scharlach and Barry Robinson's "Curricular Module on the Aging
Process" (Berkeley), see their sections on the cognitive
and the personality
changes associated with aging
Online: Mental Health of the Elderly
- Manual of Geriatric Mental
- Lars Tornstam's theory
Resources on depression and the elderly
Depression:Elderly Medline entry
- "Older Adults: Depression and Suicide Facts" from NIMH
- "Depression in Older Persons" from
the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill
Return to Social Gerontology Index