Lecture Transcript

Now we’re going to focus on late adulthood which to a large extent refers to people 65 and older. We’re going to look at some variations within that age group and some theories of late adulthood.

When defining late adulthood, you’ll see a couple of approaches. For example, the Census categories include the young old, or people 65 to 74, the old or people 75 to 84, and the oldest old or people 85 to 100 and then of course the category that’s growing considerably in fact, people 100 plus. Developmentalists focus on quality of life. This is important so that if we see an age, we don’t automatically assume too much about a given individual. Optimal aging seem to have greater health, vibrancy, and social relationships are quite strong, more than normal. Normal aging describes general tendencies for those of a particular age. Impaired aging refers to those who have more severe disability or social isolation than would be characteristic for their chronological age.

We’re going to look age structures in society by exploring population pyramids.

These are population pyramids of the U. S. that start in 1900 and end in the year 2040. When you explore these, one of the reasons I wanted to show you these was to first of all understand how much the population has grown and to explore the impact having a large cohort, the area in pink, indicates the Baby Boom generation. I would like for you to try to think about how that might have influenced stereotypes about late adulthood that we have seen and are now trying to fight against. So we see in these slides first of all in 1900, a much smaller population. And as you can tell, many people did not make it past the age of 50. In fact, we’re looking at fewer people that would be in the “old old” bracket. Perhaps this led to stereotypes of the old that were quite reverent; views that they were wise or had some special knowledge that allowed them to go past a normal life expectancy which at the time was about 47. In 1940 we see that the population increases. In 1960, we see this large cohort indicated in pink at the bottom; a large group born between 1946 and 1964. That group tended to bring about a lot of change in the structure. In 1980, Baby Boomers are in young adulthood. By 2000 they are in adulthood and by 2011 the first Baby Boomers are turning 65 or late adulthood. And we see the numbers in late adulthood in 2040. So consider that the focus has been on Baby Boomers, because they are such a large group, for quite a long time. This ‘younger generation’ tended to be fairly pejorative with respect to aging. So we’ve seen a lot of stereotypes that are negative from this generation.

Have you visited your local pharmacy and looked at birthday cards for someone in late adulthood? If not, I would encourage you to do so. I’m talking about in the United States, because there is considerable difference across cultures with respect to stereotypes about late adulthood. They’ve been particularly negative in the west. If you view these some of those pictures or images, usually cartoons, they depict older people as cranky, unfashionable, hard of hearing, full of disease, and they have very little to offer. A lot of these reflect stereotypes that would be unacceptable if they were applied to some variable other than age, perhaps gender or race.

Now, I’d like for you to test your knowledge.


True or false? There are about 10 million people 65 and older living in the United States. False. There are about 38.9 million people and the number continues to grow.


True or false? About half of those over 65 are in nursing homes. The answer: false. Of those 38.9 million, only 1.6 million are currently living in nursing homes.


True or false? The number of people with Alzheimer’s disease will increase by 2030. True. As more people enter late adulthood, the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease will increase.