Questions about aging are becoming increasingly important at both an individual and societal level. As life expectancy increases, individuals rethink their personal life plans, and as the number and proportion of older adults increases in the population, expectations about the needs and potential of older adults are being re-evaluated.
This course reviews research about normal and pathological aging and asks what is possible given optimal life circumstances. Throughout the course gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity in aging will be considered. By the end of the term, students should be able to characterize the usual and possible patterns of development and aging in adulthood. They should have new understanding of changes that they are likely to experience as they get older, and things that they can do to affect these changes. In addition, they should gain an understanding of the needs of older persons and of their value to society.
We will begin with an overview of the context of aging in the U.S., including discussion of attitudes about the old, demographics of past, present, and future older populations, and conceptual issues relevant to theory and research methods of development and aging. Adulthood age differences and changes in biological and psychological competencies and their interplay will constitute the core of the course. Topics to be considered include physical capacities, health, death and dying, memory, intelligence, expertise, creativity, wisdom, personality, self concept, emotions, social relationships, and roles associated with family, work, and community. The course takes a lifespan developmental and life course perspective and asks how events and experiences early in life impact later life quality and how societal changes influence the attitudes and pathways of aging in different birth cohorts.
The course involves a fairly heavy reading load of textbook chapters and journal articles. Throughout the academic term, students will work on a research paper of a topic of their choice reporting analyses of data drawn from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a nationally representative study of people over age 50.
The web site will contain links to the readings and research materials essential for completion of the research assignment and for exams. Students are expected to participate actively in class and to contribute to a group powerpoint presentation of research findings at the end of term.
Grades will be based on the number of points students accumulate by completing the research report, exams, as well as active participation in class discussion and activities.
Knowledge of SPSS is an advantage, but assistance will be given in class.
Class sessions will involve instructor lectures, student discussion, group work, and student presentations.