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decorative star graphic  Late Adulthood:
Cognitive Development
- Cognition in Daily Life -

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  • To an older adult, one of the most salient changes associated with aging is cognitive decline, particularly memory failure.
  • Very few of the elderly actually regard their memory loss as a handicap in daily life.
  • Much of the discrepancy between the way the elderly view their memory loss and the way it is assessed by researchers can be attributed to the nature of the experiments used in the laboratory setting.
  • The use of meaningless strings of numbers and words makes it difficult for older adults to practice the material.
  • The less artificial the circumstances, the better an older person remembers.

Changes in Memory & Cognition

Four general conclusions regarding age-related changes in memory & cognition are:

  1. Mental processes slow down with age.
  2. The elderly do show memory declines.
  3. The elderly are less likely to use memory strategies.
  4. Memory in late adulthood is not as weak as anticipated.

  • Older adults are more resistant to learning new memory techniques and slower to abandon old techniques than are younger adults.
  • A hallmark of successful aging is, “selective optimization with compensation” - the capability to compensate for age-related declines in intellectual functioning; the idea that individuals set their own goals, assess their own abilities, and then figure out how to accomplish what they want to achieve despite the limitations of later life.
  • Research has shown that giving patients the freedom to make mistakes in order to preserve their health - therapeutic risk taking - may slow the more rapid decline observed in traditional nursing homes
  • The rate at which thinking slows down with age can be reduced with regular exercise – improving blood flow to the brain.
  • Cognitive stimulation may trigger new neural connections.
  • Its possible to slow brain deterioration by:

        1. Eating low-fat diets that reduce arteriosclerosis
        2. By consumption of antioxidants
        3. By estrogen replacement in women
        4. The use of anti-inflammatory drugs.

Factors that have a direct impact on thinking during adulthood are:

        1. Pulmonary functioning
        2. Physical exercise
        3. Past education
        4. Individual’s sense of control

Growth & Development
Robert C. Gates
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