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decorative star graphic  Adulthood:
Biosocial Development
- The Aging Process-

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Ψ  Senescence: the organic process of growing & showing the effects of increasing age. Senescence happens to everyone in every body part but the rate of decline is highly variable.

•  Primary aging: The age related changes that inevitably take place in a person as time goes by.
•  Secondary aging: The age-related changes that take place as a consequence of a person's behavior or a society's failure to eliminate unhealthy conditions.

Ψ  Signs of Aging:

Note: Outward signs of senescence are present long before old age arrives.

•  first visual in the skin
 •  collagen – the connective tissue of the body, decreases by about 1% per year
  •  hair turns gray & gets thinner
   •  skin becomes drier
    •  “middle-age spread” decorative star graphic  Excessive weight will impair health!
     •  people get shorter
      •  muscles weaken

Ψ  Each of the 5 senses becomes less acute. The 2 most obvious are: hearing (presbycusis - "aging hearing"  Pure tones are lost 1st.  Practical measure: Whisper test)  & vision (losses in acuity & accommodation (presbyopia).

Ψ  The Aging Brain

•  The brain slows down with age. Reaction time is slower & complex memory tasks become impossible.
 •  Neurons fire more slowly & messages sent from the axon of one neuron are not picked up as quickly by the dendrites of another neuron.
  •  Multitasking becomes more difficult.

The Sexual-Reproductive System

Ψ   Both males & females encounter analogous changes in their sexual reproductive systems.
 •  Sexual responses gradually become slower with age & reproduction is less likely.
 •  Attitude is more important than biology in evaluating the impact of these changes.
 •  Women usually reach menopause between the ages of 42 & 58, average age is 51. At menopause, both ovulation & menstruation stop; several hormones, especially estrogen, progesterone, & testosterone are also reduced.
 •  Menopause is dated one year after a woman’s last menstrual period.

Menopause a.k.a. the Climacteric

Ψ  The climacteric is a phase preceding actual menopause and lasting 6 years. Biological and psychological changes are associated with this period due to the lower levels of estrogen.
Ψ  The first symptom of the climacteric is usually shorter menstrual cycles. Ovulation here usually occurs early or late in the cycle rather than mid cycle as it did in earlier years.
Ψ  Mood fluctuations are common in this time.

Ψ  The most obvious symptoms of climacteric are hot flashes (feeling hot), hot flushes (suddenly looking hot), and cold sweats (feeling cold and clammy). These symptoms are all caused be vasomotor instability, a temporary disruption in the body’s homeostatic mechanism that constricts or dilates the blood vessels to maintain body temperature.

It's a Mickey Mouse World , isn't it?

Ψ  Vasomotor instability varies in severity: Only 1 in 5 women (20%) find them bothersome while 3 in 5 women don’t even notice them.

 Ψ  Other changes in a female’s body because of lower estrogen levels include:
 •  Drier skin
  •  Less vaginal lubrication
   •  Loss of some breast tissue

Ψ  The two other changes caused by reduced estrogen levels that pose serious heath risks are:

     1. Loss of bone calcium, which can lead to osteoporosis. This is more common in small framed women of European descent.
     2. Increase of fat deposits in the arteries, which can lead to coronary heart disease.

Ψ  About 1 in 3 women in the U.S. have a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) at some point in their lives. The sudden onset of menopause caused by a hysterectomy is more likely to cause striking symptoms.

Estrogen Replacement

 •  10% of all women going through natural menopause and 90% of all women going through surgically induced menopause receive estrogen replacement therapy. In most cases, the treatment is hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
 •  Continued use of HRT can have health benefits, but may have some risks as well.
 •  The benefits include a reduction in half the incidents of hip fractures as well as the reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease when taken for more than 15 years.
 •  HRT can increase the risk of some cancers especially breast cancer. HRT is no longer routinely prescribed for women who have reached menopause.


 The usual way to measure sexual activity is in frequency of intercourse and orgasm.
 Sexual expression gradually declines throughout adulthood.
 For men, sexual stimulation takes longer and needs to be more direct. Even so, most men are still satisfied with their sex lives.
  The woman’s capacity for orgasm is not impaired in any way by aging as long as there are no other health problems.
 Sex is usually the result of social interaction.
 Emotional problems, physical illness, and numerous medications can affect sexual performance.
 Sexual activity helps promote sexual interest and excitement.
 A satisfactory sex life is possible for most loving couples, at any age.

Key Terms

  • Menopause - The time in middle age, usually around age 50, when a woman’s menstrual periods cease completely and the production of estrogen drops considerably.
  • Male Menopause (andropause) a term coined to signify a drop in testosterone levels in older men, which normally results in reduced sexual desire, erections, & muscle mass - Not biologically based? - Hormone (testosterone) level shifts are probably related to stress levels.
  • Climacteric - Refers to the various biological and psychological changes that accompany menopause.
  • Osteoporosis - A loss of calcium that makes bone more porous and fragile. It occurs somewhat in everyone with aging, but serious osteoporosis is more common in elderly women than men.
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) - Treatment to compensate for hormone reduction at menopause or following surgical removal of the ovaries.

Growth & Development
Robert C. Gates
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