Allison R. Heid and Steven H. Zarit
Individuals are living longer than they ever have before with average life expectancy at birth estimated at 79 years of age in the United States. A greater proportion of individuals are living to advanced ages of 85 or more and the ratio of individuals 65 and over to individuals of younger age groups is shrinking. Disparities in life expectancy across genders and races are pronounced. Financial challenges of sustaining the older population are substantial in most developed and many developing countries. In the United States in particular, employer-based pension programs are diminishing. Furthermore, Social Security will begin taking in less money than it pays out as early as 2023, and the debate over its future in part entails discussions of equitable distribution of resources for the young in need and the old. Living longer is associated with a greater number of chronic health conditions—over two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries in the United States have two or more chronic health conditions that require complex self-management regimes partnered with informal and formal care services from family caregivers and institutional long-term services and supports. Caregiver burden and stress is high as are quality care deficiencies in residential long-term care settings. The balance of honoring individuals’ autonomous wishes and providing person-centered care that also addresses the practicalities of safety is an ever-present quandary. Furthermore, complex decisions regarding end-of-life care and treatments plague the medical and social realms, as more money is spent at the end of life than at any other point and individuals’ wishes for less invasive treatment are often not accommodated. Yet, despite these challenges of later life, a large percentage of older individuals are giving financial support, time, and energy to younger generations, who are increasingly strained by economic hardship, the pressures on dual earner parents, and the problems faced by single parenthood. Older individuals’ engagement in society and the help they provide others runs counter to stereotypes that render them helpless and lonely. Overall, the ethical challenges faced by society due to the aging of the population are considerable. Difficult decisions that must be addressed include the sustainability of programs, resources, and social justice in care, as well as how to marshal the resources, talents, and wisdom that older people provide.
Karen Z. H. Li, Halina Bruce, and Rachel Downey
Research on the interplay of cognition and mobility in old age is inherently multidisciplinary, informed by findings from life span developmental psychology, kinesiology, cognitive neuroscience, and rehabilitation sciences. Early observational work revealed strong connections between sensory and sensorimotor performance with measures of intellectual functioning. Subsequent work has revealed more specific links between measures of cognitive control and gait quality. Convergent evidence for the interdependence of cognition and mobility is seen in patient studies, wherein cognitive impairment is associated with increased frequency and risk of falling. Even in cross-sectional studies involving healthy young and older adults, the effects of aging on postural control and gait are commonly exacerbated when participants perform a motor task with a concurrent cognitive load. This motor-cognitive dual-task method assumes that cognitive and motor domains compete for common capacity, and that older adults recruit more cognitive capacity than young adults to support gait and posture.
Neuroimaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have revealed associations between measures of mobility (e.g., gait velocity and postural control) and measures of brain health (e.g., gray matter volumes, cortical thickness, white matter integrity, and functional connectivity). The brain regions most often associated with aging and mobility also appear to subserve high-level cognitive functions such as executive control, attention, and working memory (e.g., dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate). Portable functional neuroimaging has allowed for the examination of neural functioning during real-time walking, often in conjunction with detailed spatiotemporal measures of gait. A more recent strategy that addresses the interdependence of cognitive and motor processes in old age is cognitive remediation. Cognitive training has yielded promising improvements in balance, walking, and overall mobility status in healthy older adults, and those with age-related neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease.
Adam R. Pearson and Matthew T. Ballew
Environmental sustainability, the long-term management and protection of earth’s resources and ecosystems, is increasingly recognized as a societal challenge shaped by human behavior at every level of social interaction, from neighborhoods to nations. Psychological perspectives on conservation, which have traditionally emphasized individual determinants of proenvironmental behavior (e.g., personal environmental concern), have begun to incorporate a more nuanced picture of the ways in which both individual and group-level processes can influence conservation efforts. In particular, research on social norms and identity-based influences suggests that social perceptions, such as beliefs about what actions are common and socially valued, can be more powerful drivers of conservation behavior than monetary incentives, proenvironmental appeals, or the ease of proenvironmental actions. Additional research has begun to incorporate cross-cultural perspectives and insights from diversity science and intervention science to better understand how different cultural orientations and social identity processes, such as those related to race, ethnicity, and social class, impact environmental decision-making. A new class of “wise” interventions that target psychological mechanisms that shape conservation behavior, such as interventions that incorporate normative feedback, target public behavior, or seek to alter daily routines during major life transitions, have proven especially effective at promoting sustained behavior change. Generally, behavioral interventions are more effective at promoting conservation behavior when they are tailored to the social context in which behavior occurs.
Victoria M. Esses
Migration is the movement of people from one location to another, either within a country (internal migration between cities or regions) or between countries (international migration). Migration may be relatively voluntary (e.g., for employment opportunities) or involuntary (e.g., due to armed conflict, persecution, or natural disasters), and it may be temporary (e.g., migrant workers moving back and forth between source and receiving areas) or permanent (e.g., becoming a permanent resident in a new country). The term immigration refers specifically to international migration that is relatively permanent in nature. Immigrants are those individuals who have moved to a new country on a relatively permanent basis. Of importance, refugees are a particular type of immigrant, defined and protected by international law. They are individuals who have been formally recognized as having fled their country of residence because of a well-founded fear of persecution, armed conflict, violence, or war. Until they are recognized as such, these individuals are asylum seekers—individuals who have claimed refugee status and are waiting for that claim to be evaluated. Despite the relative permanence of immigration, advances in transportation and communication mean that immigrants are able to travel to, spend time in, and communicate on a regular basis with their country of origin. As a result, what has been termed transnationalism may result, with individuals holding strong ties with, and actively participating in, both the country of origin and the new receiving country.
Migration often results in two or more cultures coming into contact. This contact is especially likely for international migration where immigrants from one national group (the society of origin) come into contact with members of a different national group (the receiving society). Culture may include specific beliefs, attitudes, and customs, as well as values and behaviors. The term acculturation refers to the changes that may occur when individuals from different cultures come into contact, with possible changes in both immigrants and members of the receiving society. Psychological theory and research suggest that acculturation is bidimensional, with changes potentially taking place along two dimensions—one representing the maintenance or loss of the original culture and the other representing the adoption or rejection of the new culture. This bidimensionality is important because it suggests that acculturation is not linear from original culture to new culture, but instead that individuals may simultaneously participate in the new culture and maintain their original culture. The two cultures may be expressed at different times, in different contexts, or may merge to form cultural expressions that have aspects of both cultures. With voluntary and involuntary migration at historically high levels, understanding the drivers of migration and its consequences for migrants and those with whom they come into contact are essential for global cooperation and well-being.
Globalization has become an influential force in the construction of older age, notably in the framing of social and economic policies designed to manage and regulate demographic change. National institutions such as the welfare state provided a distinctive shape and associated meanings to the final phase of the life course in Western societies during the 20th century. This process was disrupted from the 1990s onward, with a combination of more intense processes of globalization and accelerated international migration. A transformed cultural context is influencing a move from a linear life course toward one in which events influencing later life are scattered across a broad spectrum of time, space, and chronological age.
Globalization will undoubtedly be a major factor in shaping the lives of older people through the 21st century. The types of changes it will bring are easy to predict in some respects, much less so in others. Older people will certainly be living in a culturally and socially diverse world, increasingly aware not only of the aging of their own society but also the impact of growing old on communities across the globe. An additional change will be the influence of supranational bodies in determining policies in areas such as Social Security and health and social care, these creating the framework for resources for support for old age. Globalization—as one constituent of the “risk society”—may also generate new forms of insecurity for individuals, of which anxieties and fears about aging could represent a significant dimension.
Jarred Gallegos, Julie Lutz, Emma Katz, and Barry Edelstein
The assessment of older adults is quite challenging in light of the many age-related physiological and metabolic changes, increased number of chronic diseases with potential psychiatric manifestations, the associated medications and their side effects, and the age-related changes in the presentation of common mental health problems and disorders. A biopsychosocial approach to assessment is particularly important for older adults due to the substantial interplay of biological, psychological, and social factors that collectively produce the clinical presentation faced by clinicians. An appreciation of age-related and non-normative changes in cognitive skills and sensory processes is particularly important both for planning the assessment process and the interpretation of findings. The assessment of older adults is unfortunately plagued by a paucity of age-appropriate assessment instruments, as most instruments have been developed with young adults. This paucity of age-appropriate assessment instruments is an impediment to reliable and valid assessment. Notwithstanding that caveat, comprehensive and valid assessment of older adults can be accomplished through an understanding of the interaction of age-related factors that influence the experience and presentation of psychiatric disorders, and an appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of the assessment instruments that are used to achieve valid and reliable assessments.
Religion, spirituality, and sport is an increasingly popular discipline in the sport psychology framework, often based on one’s own faith and religious beliefs. The spiritual dimension of the human experience first focused on religious and mystic experiences; later, various other states of mind, such as peak experiences, flow, and “being in the zone,” were discussed using the framework of humanistic and positive psychology, including in the context of sports. Human movement activities were part of religious cults and rites in ancient societies, for example in the Greek Olympic Games. Thanks to this tradition, the father of the modern Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin, wrote about religio athletae when discussing the transcendent aspects of modern sport. Contemporary sport is not connected to religion in such a direct way, however. The modern athlete normally follows his or her own religious tradition in a private manner. This does not mean, however, there is no connection between religion and sport. On the contrary, religious and quasi-religious behavior is commonly found in the sport environment, including superstitious rituals of athletes and fans, prayer in sporting areas, and application of non-Christian practices in sports psychology consulting. Furthermore, deeper values and meanings can be attributed to sport activities as a kind of nonreligious spirituality. It is possible to observe an increasing interest in the religious and spiritual aspects of sports in the new millennium, which can be seen in the establishing of specific professions like sport psychologists or chaplains, as well as university centers for the study of religion and spirituality in sport.
Roger L. Peterson and Katherine A. Lambos
A sociocultural-constructionist epistemology stands alongside more traditional psychology epistemologies for the study of aging. These positions are not commensurable. Based on Donald Peterson’s classic position on how science and practice differ in fundamental ways, on his view of “disciplined inquiry,” and Trierweiler’s view of the “local clinical scientist,” this epistemological position is more-directly relevant to practice. Within the constructionist context, it emphasizes the importance of “local” as a key level of description, along with particular levels of local knowledge. All of this is consistent with Knight’s Contextual Adult Lifespan Theory. Bruner’s ideas on cultural psychology and how culture is embedded in narrative take these ideas further. They are consistent with Bruner’s metacomments on epistemology.
Aidan Moran, Nick Sevdalis, and Lauren Wallace
At first glance, there are certain similarities between performance in surgery and that in competitive sports. Clearly, both require exceptional gross and fine motor ability and effective concentration skills, and both are routinely performed in dynamic environments, often under time constraints. On closer inspection, however, crucial differences emerge between these skilled domains. For example, surgery does not involve directly antagonistic opponents competing for victory. Nevertheless, analogies between surgery and sport have contributed to an upsurge of research interest in the psychological processes that underlie expertise in surgical performance. Of these processes, perhaps the most frequently investigated in recent years is that of motor imagery (MI) or the cognitive simulation skill that enables us to rehearse actions in our imagination without engaging in the physical movements involved. Research on motor imagery training (MIT; also called motor imagery practice, MIP) has important theoretical and practical implications. Specifically, at a theoretical level, hundreds of experimental studies in psychology have demonstrated the efficacy of MIT/MIP in improving skill learning and skilled performance in a variety of fields such as sport and music. The most widely accepted explanation of these effects comes from “simulation theory,” which postulates that executed and imagined actions share some common neural circuits and cognitive mechanisms. Put simply, imagining a skill activates some of the brain areas and neural circuits that are involved in its actual execution. Accordingly, systematic engagement in MI appears to “prime” the brain for optimal skilled performance. At the practical level, as surgical instruction has moved largely from an apprenticeship model (the so-called see one, do one, teach one approach) to one based on simulation technology and practice (e.g., the use of virtual reality equipment), there has been a corresponding growth of interest in the potential of cognitive training techniques (e.g., MIT/MIP) to improve and augment surgical skills and performance. Although these cognitive training techniques suffer both from certain conceptual confusion (e.g., with regard to the clarity of key terms) and inadequate empirical validation, they offer considerable promise in the quest for a cost-effective supplementary training tool in surgical education. Against this background, it is important for researchers and practitioners alike to explore the cognitive psychological factors (such as motor imagery) that underlie surgical skill learning and performance.