Understanding Psychology

Chapter 5: Adulthood and Old Age

Chapter Overviews

Chapter 5 explores the gradual physical, intellectual, social, and emotional changes that occur in adulthood and old age.

Section 1 discusses how adulthood is filled with changes, and how a person's lifestyle may set the stage for problems that will show up then or later in life. This section describes Daniel Levinson's theory of male development, and how men usually go through self-evaluation and changes during the midlife transition. All females go through menopause during midlife, and some women may experience changes in physical attractiveness, the "empty nest" syndrome, and depression.

Section 2 describes the changes in health and life situations that can be associated with old age. Older adults' priorities change, and they must adjust to physical, mental, and social changes. People in this age group face life transitions that are often negative, reduce responsibilities, and increase isolation. Senile dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, is experienced by a small percentage of older adults.

Section 3 focuses on the cultural and social aspects of dying and death. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross identified the stages of dying and her studies made a major contribution in establishing thanatology—the study of dying and death. The chapter concludes with a look at hospice care and how it is changing in our society.

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