Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

Later Adulthood (60 and Older)

What factors contribute to a positive adjustment to later adulthood?

A number of factors contribute to a positive adjustment to late adulthood, many of which serve a similar function at earlier stages of adulthood. For one, social support retains its critical importance. Although the size of people’s social circles tends to decrease with age, and many older adults spend less time with acquaintances in favor of family and close friends, the quality of social relationships has a powerful impact on the sense of well-being. Secondly, engagement in meaningful and satisfying activities, such as hobbies, creative work, volunteer work, or even part-time jobs, are crucial sources of satisfaction for adults in late life.

Involvement in productive work of some kind enhances self-esteem and a sense of belonging. Particularly after retirement, it is important to have some form of structured and meaningful activity with which to replace the purpose, structure, and identity formerly derived from the work role. Finally, physical exercise is tremendously beneficial. Even thirty minutes a day of walking can have clear, measurable benefits. Physical exercise promotes cardiovascular health, muscle strength, and bone density. This gives older adults mobility and functional independence, which has a strong impact on life satisfaction.

Further, improved cardio-vascular health protects brain function and cognition. There is considerable evidence that physical exercise is protective against dementia. In fact, exercise has been shown to increase the amount of a chemical called brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), which in turn promotes the growth of new brain cells.


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