Cognitive changes: There are several changes that occur with aging, one of which is cognitive slowing. The slowing that occurs in all cognitive tasks where speed of response is a component is considered the most pervasive cognitive change in developmental aging. The probable locus of slowing is in the central nervous system (Bob & McCallum, 1998). Pigment lipofuscin builds up in the brain during old age and it gradually results in brain degeneration. The aged brain weighs less, the lateral ventricles tend to be dilated, and the ribbon of cortical tissue is narrowed (Hurlock, 1986).
Such degeneration is held accountable for a decline in the brains capacity to function. But the average persons intelligence is not likely to be seriously impaired before age 70 or 75 (Peterson, 1989). With good physical and mental health, adequate educational levels, and intellectual stimulation, it appears that there is not as a great decline in intellectual abilities with age as previously thought, especially in the 60 to 75 age group. Emotional changes: Emotional changes over the adult life span are a topic of considerable importance for psychotherapists working with older adults.
At the psychological level, the older adults are more difficult to arouse but also have more difficulty returning to a state of calm once aroused (Woodruff, 1985). The accumulation of experiences leads to more complex and less extreme emotional experiences in later life. A review of research, using the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory with older adults, noted that older adults were lower on scales associated with anger, impulsivity, and confusion and argued that people may become less impulsive with maturity (Gynther, 1979, in Bob & McCallum, 1998).
It was concluded that as a whole, emotionality in older adults may be both more complex and subtler than that of younger adults. Theories on Aging Attempts to understand and explain the lives and activities of those who appear to age successfully have led to the different formation of theories on aging. There are fourmain theories: (a) Disengagement theory: It is based on the notion that as people age they progressively withdraw from social, physical, and emotional interaction with the world.
As they gradually disengage themselves, the society too withdraws from its engagement with the aging person (b) Activity theory: It stresses that older people should remain active as long as they possibly can. When certain activities and associations must be given up (for example, employment), substitutes should be found because life satisfaction is highly dependent upon continued social, emotional, and physical involvement.
In a positive environment older people generally moved toward activity and informal contacts, rather than disengagement (Butler, Lewis & Sunderland, 1998). (c) Socioenvironmental theory: This approach is based on the understanding that people respond to the social meaning of events. Two factors that affect the meaning old people place on events-and thus their interaction patterns-are the physical proximity of other persons and the age homogeneity of an environment (Gubrium, 1973, 1975, cited in Butler et al. , 1973).
(d) Developmental theory: Erickson (1963) and Peck (1997) present a theory that describes human development in terms of progression through a series of stages. Old age is a stage of life in which the individual must try to balance the search for ego integrity with a sense of despair. Out of this conflict emerges wisdom the human virtue most commonly associated with old age. The negative emotions associated with this stage, are in part a result of the limitations of a persons physical and psychological energy (Butler, Lewis, & Sunderland, 1991).
(e) Biological or medical perspective. Moberg (2002) further elaborates this physical and psychological decline and its effect on the elderly. Highlighting aging from the biological/medical perspective of physical decline along with losses of friends, employment, mobility, income, and so forth, has contributed to a pervasive negativism among biosocial scientists that is evident in their different way of talking to (hardly with) elderly persons, avoidance of touching seniors, and other indications of ageism.
Opportunities for service are withdrawn from many who are retired, even in churches that use the Bible with its high value for elders, so disengagement theory becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Time spent in solitude and meditation can be wholesome, contrary to assumptions of Activity theory that lonely outer activities are worthwhile, for being alone is not the same as being lonely!