Topic: older adult education
A paper that includes both theory and practical experience of senior education. theories to discuss:
Classical theories, originating from the late 1940s through the 1970s, included:
Developmental task theory: argued that each of six stages in a person’s life (infancy/ early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, middle age, later maturity) has a set of developmental tasks determined by biology, psychology and society. Successful completion of each task leads to happiness, societal approval and success with later tasks. For later maturity, tasks include coping with physical change, redirecting energy to new roles, accepting one’s own life, and coming to terms with death.
Psychosocial theory of personality development: viewed personality development as happening in eight stages throughout life, each involving a personal/societal conflict that must be resolved. In the “old age” stage of life, the conflict is between integrity and despair; successful resolution is said to lead to wisdom. This theory takes into account the influence of personal experiences on age-related changes.
Counterpart theory: viewed aging as a process of biological change influenced by natural selection.
Disengagement theory: assumed that people normally withdraw from social roles and activities with age to focus on self. This was opposed by activity theory, which argued that older people must continue to develop, substituting new roles for those lost as they age.
Personality theory: looked at life transitions (marriage, parenthood, work accomplishment, retirement, etc.) and their contribution to identity, as well as the influence of personality type on the successful adaptation to these transitions.
Cognitive theory: viewed aging as a set of processes involving perception, the perceived situation, and the perceived self; in other words, successfully negotiating life transitions depends on how one sees the situation and one’s capabilities.
Modern theories of aging
Moving beyond the 1970s, newer theories have come into play that have allowed us to consider aging with more optimism and in more depth. These include:
Life span development: defines a model of successful aging called ‘selective optimization with compensation,’ in which aging involves successive processes of selection (choosing fewer high-priority areas of function), optimization (maximizing gains in the chosen areas), and compensation (finding alternatives to work around lost capabilities). This allows people to continue to accomplish life tasks that are important to them despite decreased energy.
Reduced processing resources: describes cognition as based on processing resources that are limited in quantity, enable cognitive performance in proportion to the quantity used, and are relevant to a broad range of cognitive processes. These resources relate to the space, energy, and/ or time required for mental processing. We will see this view in more detail when we consider the abilities and challenges of the older adult learner in week 4.
Personality trait model: looks at personality components that remain stable throughout life. These have been identified as neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Studies in this area suggest that goals, values, coping styles, and beliefs can more easily change.
Behavioural genetics: studies the influence of heredity on age-related change. Suggests that the relative roles of biology and the environment can change with age and considers the types of traits and measures of well-being that are stable or changeable with aging.
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