developmental psychology psychology  LATE ADULTHOOD:

Retirement is one of the transitional period of late adulthood and is a period in one’ life, occurring generally during the late adulthood which required adaptation and changes in behaviour role and perception. Retirement always involve role changes. Changes in interest and values and changes in Whole pattern of individual’s life. The age at which one retires is variable. In certain countries or occupation it is 58 years and in others it is 60, 62 or 65. Many individuals even at 70 years may be healthy and efficient in their work output but are forced to retire due to social security reasons. Psychologists have investigated in depth the question why people retire? Reasons for retiring very from individual. Those who choose to retire do so because of adequate financial resources good pension plan desire to spend more time with family, or dislike for the job. Involuntary retirement however, usually results from the mandatory retirement policy of the company or form poor health. Very few retire out of compulsion due to health problems. Retirement for some is joyous occasion, especially people who have money. For other who need money, retirement can create more problems and lead to unhappiness, lack of self-esteem and economic hardships. Not all workers retire, or retire completely. Self-employed people artists, professional shcolars, independent craftsmen, and contractors – are not affected by mandatory retirement. But of those who do retire, an important life adjustment is required. Retirement has little effect on physical health, but it sometimes affects mental health (Boose, Aldwin, Levnson & Ekredt, 1987). Among 1513 older men surveyed in the Boston Veterans Administration Normative Ageing Study (a cross-sectional study) reties were more likely than workers to report depression, obsessive-compulsive behaviour, and physical symptoms that had not organic cause. Those who had retired early (before age 62) or late (after age 65) reported the most symptoms.

Factors Influencing Retirement:

Amount of choice one can exercise considerably influence one’s decision to retire. This varies with the occupation. People who are self-employed, such as novelist, carpenter, or physician, have the option of working well beyond normal retirement age. A school teacher can choose to retire after twenty or twenty-five years with different benefit schedules. Members of trade unions may be able to take advantages of a “flexible retirement” clause that allows them to work past normal retirement; or provides an early retirement option that allows full benefits after only thirty years. Other workers have no choice but to accept retirement at the specified moment. Satisfaction with respect to one’s occupation is another factor that influences one’s decision to retire. Unskilled workers, who generally show less job satisfaction, are likely to opt for early retirement within a corporation that provides this option. More satisfied workers chose retirement at sixty-five or, if possible, later.

Economic Status:

People who are financially well off prefer early retirement as compared to individuals who are in need of financial security. Sex also considerably influenced one’s decision to retire. Women generally prefer retirement as compared to men. Women, on the whole adjust better to retirement than men. There are three reasons for this. First, the role change is not as radical because, for the most part, women always played the domestic role, whether they were married roles. Second, because work provides fewer psychological benefits and social supports for women, retirement is less traumatic for them then for men. Third, because few women have held executive positions, they do not feel that they have suddenly lost all their power and prestige. On the basis of attitudes to retirement elderly people, according to having Hurst, can be divided into two general categories. The first category he labeled the transformers – those who are able and willing no change their lifestyles by reducing their activities by choice and by creating for themselves new and enjoyable lifestyles. This they do by dropping old roles and undertaking new ones. They seldom relax and do nothing but, instead, they develop hobbies, travel, and becomes active in community affairs. The second category, the maintainers, Having Hurst has explained, holds onto work by pursuing part-time assignments after retirement and other activities to fill their time. They, like the transformers, seldom relax and do nothing, but what they do is a continuation of what they have done for years some form of work for which they are paid as they were throughout their working years.

Stages of Retirement:

To understand the adjustment required of elderly persons, it is helpful to develop an awareness of the various phase of retirement. Atchely (1976) views retirement not only as a process but also as a social role that unfolds through a series of six phases. Furthermore, he believes that various adjustments must be made by the retiree as these stages are encountered. Because the retirement period is an individual phenomenon that varies in duration, relating these six phases to chronological ages is impossible. Also, individuals may not experience call the phases or encounter them in the order proposed. Pre-retirement: This period can be further divided into two sub-stags, remote and near. In the remote phase, retirement is perceived as an event that is a reasonable distance in the future. This phase can begin before a person takes his or her first job; it ends when retirement nears. Anticipatory socialization and adjustment for retirement at this point are usually informal and unsystematic. The individual may also become exposed to negative stereotypes concerning retirement, (of course, an individual’s positive or negative reaction depends in part on the prevalent view of retirement on the part of relatives, friends, and coworkers). The near phase emerges when workers become aware that they will take up the retirement role very soon and that adjustments are necessary for a successful transition. This phase may be initiated by a company’s preretirement program or by the retirement of slightly older friends. Some workers may develop negative attitudes at this time because the realities of retirement are much clearer and financial prerequisites for the retirement role may not have been met. Many workers also fantasies about retirement and attempt to imagine what they lifestyles might entail after work stops. Preretirement programs appear to be successful in reducing anxious feeling about subject.

The Honeymoon Phase:

This period, immediately following the actual retirement event, is frequently characterized by a sense of euphoria that is partly the result of one’s newfound freedom. It is a busy period for many people, filled with such activities as fishing, sewing, visiting family members, and traveling, although these activities will be influenced by numerous factors including finances, lie-style, health, and family situation. The honeymoon period may be short or long, depending on the resources available to people and their imaginativeness in using them and life begin to slow down, some retirees become disenchanted and feel let-down or even depressed. The depth of this emotional let-down is related to a variety of factor such as declining health, limited finances, or begin unaccustomed to such an independent lifestyle. In some cases, eagerly anticipated post-retirement activities (i.e. extensive travelling) may have lost their original appeal. Unrealistic preretirement fantasies as well as inadequate anticipatory socialization for retirement may also promote disenchantment.

The Reorientation Phase:

For those whose retirements either never got off the ground or landed with a loud crash, a reorientation phase of adjustment is necessary. At this time, one’s experience as a retired person is used to develop a more realistic view of life alternatives. Reorientation may also involve exploring new avenues of involvement, sometimes with the assistance of groups in the community. Many seeks to become activity involved in jobs especially designed for the retiree, either on a volunteer basis or for pay.

The Stability Phase:

Stability, ad defined by Atchely, does not refer to the absence of change but rather to the reutilization of criteria for dealing with change. People who reach this stage have established a well-developed set of criteria for making choices, which allow them to deal with life in a fairly comfortable and orderly fashion. They know what is expected of them and know what they have to work with, strengths as well as weakness. In the stability phase, the individual has mastered the retirement role.

The Termination Phase:

Although death may end retirement in any phase, the role itself is most often cancelled out by the illness and disability that sometimes accompany old age. When people are no longer capable of housework or self-care, they are transferred from the retirement role to the sick and disabled role. This role transfer is based on the loss of able-bodies status and autonomy, both of which are instrumental for carrying out the retirement’s role. Retired status is also lost, of course, if a full-time job is taken.

Cognitive Changes in Late Adulthood:

There are two principle changes in cognitive functions in old age.

  1. A decline in general intellectual functioning
  2. Changes in memory as age increases in late adulthood The decline in mental functioning with age increase is well documented by many researchers. These changes are among the major stereotypes characteristics of the elderly. The aged individual is pictured often as being forgetful, intellectually slow, indecisive and so n. IQ scores made by individuals in old age do show a constant decrease along with ageing. Scores on verbal portions of these tests do not show greater declines, indicating that “stored information” is relatively unaffected by advancing age. However, problem solving skills are affected more significantly by increasing age. Research findings generally indicate that the decline in mental functioning may be due more to a diminished performance speed and changes in solving problems that are new an unfamiliar. Among the most striking mental characteristics of the elderly are the changes affecting their memory? Undoubtedly, these changes can be frustrating for older person as well as for those with whom they interact frequently. As individuals progress through late adulthood, there is increasing difficulty in processing long term memory. Problems with memory may account also for older person’s communication. Problem of being repetitious in relating facts during a conversation. Often they may forget what was said only a few minutes earlier.

Developmental Tasks of Old Age:

The developmental tasks of late adulthood differ from those of earlier stages in two fundamental ways. There is a focus on maintenance of life rather than discovering more about it. The task centre on happenings in the person’s own life rather than on the lives of other (Hurlock, 1980). Following are important development tasks of late adulthood.

  • Adjusting to decreasing physical strength and health.
  • Adjusting to retirement and reduced income.
  • Adjusting to death of spouse
  • Establishing an explicit affiliation with one’s age group
  • Meeting social and civic obligation
  • Establishing satisfactory physical living arrangement

The above development tasks require person to adjust to several unique challenges in order to remain healthy during this time in life. The challenges include: Accepting on increasing degree of dependency on others, adjusting to decreased economic conditions, leading to changes in life type and living conditions and developing new interests

Sensory Changes in Old Age:

Many deteriorating changes in the sensory system occur, in the old age. Age related vision changes include: An increase in threshold or an increased amount of light needed to stimulate retinal calls. A decreases in actually or sharpness of vision due to changes in the lens, pupil size, and accommodation (focusing) ability and A decrease in adaptation to dark and light environments Elderly people may expect to experience a number of eye disorders. These include: Muscular degeneration or a decreased blood supply to the retina causing loss of vision sharpness in looking directly but not in the peripheral areas and eyelids disorders such as drooping eyelids. Blindness increases considerably after the age of sixty. Perhaps the mot significant sensory changes occur with hearing and can cause serious adjustment problems that sometimes lead to a complete withdrawal from others. Hearing handicaps increase considerably as age increases in late adulthood. About 50 percent of individuals over the age of 65 experience some degree of hearing loss. These losses occur earlier in men than women perhaps due to men’s exposure to more hazardous environmental working conditions. There is a continued loss of hearing for high pregnancy sounds that first became noticed in middle age. Loss of mid to low range frequencies occur more frequently as age increases. Deafness can occur in many elderly people due to hardening of the bones and nerve damage to the inner ear. Changes can be expected in both taste and smell perception in old age. Many elderly people remark that food tastes bland and will heavily season it with salt, pepper and other condiments to improvement flavor. This change in taste often is attributed to a decrease in the number of taste buds as well as the need for stronger stimulation to activate the taste receptors in the mouth.

Divorce in Late Adulthood:

Divorce in late life is rare; couples who take this step usually do it much earlier. Despite the increase in divorce over the past 20 years, very few people over age 65 are divorced and not remarried. People who divorce after age 50 have more trouble adjusting to the change then younger people, and older divorced people tend to have less hope for the future (Chiriboga, 1982). Divorced and separated people express much less satisfaction with family life than married people do. The men are less satisfied with friendships and activities not related to work, and the women” standard of living drops. For both sexes, mental illness and death rates are higher, perhaps because social support networks for older divorced people are inadequate (Uhlemerg & Myers, 1981).


Characteristics of the Old Age:

According to Hurlock the following are the characteristics of old age:

Old age is a period of decline:

During the old age physical and psychological functioning declines. There is a decline in intellectual activity, social activity, and physical health. Psychological make up plays an important role in decline. People who have low motivation and who have poor self concept decline faster as compared to individuals who are higher in these abilities.

Individual differences:

There are individual differences in ageing. Some decline early as compared to others. People age differently. Some may look old at 60 years other at 70 years also can be active and healthy. Individual’s age is poor criteria for determining when one reaches old age. Hereditary endowments, different socio-economic and educational backgrounds and different patterns of living considerably influence the process of ageing.

There is also intra individual in ageing:

As a general rule, Physical ageing precedes mental ageing. Physical functions are the first to decline.

Old age is filled with many stereotypes:

There are many stereotypes concerning old age. Old age perceived unfavorably. Many, wrongly believe that old people are sick and physically weak. Old people are a subject of Joke and different forms of rumour. Another stereotype is that old people are perceived to be physically and mentally unproductive, accident prone and had to live with. It is generally believed in our society that “Young is beautiful and old is ugly”.

Unfavorable social attitudes toward old people:

Social attitudes toward old people are unfavorable. Unfavorable social attitudes towards the elderly are fairly universal in American Culture today. Thee are cross cultural differences in unfavorable social attitudes towards elderly. People who come from counters where respect for the elderly is customary (e.g. India) usually treat elderly people with more consideration and respect than do those who are materialistic and less tradition bound.

Old age as a privileged group:

Older people, especially in India are considered “Senior citizens” and are a privileged group. They receive concessions in almost all areas . For e.g. they have concession in Train fares, seating arrangement in Train & buses, Income Tax concessions etc.

Prone to be victims of crimes:

Elderly people are victims of crimes ranging from purse snatching to rape and murder. This is especially true of elderly women who create the impression that they are not strong or agile enough to defend themselves.

Changes in role and status:

Old age brings about changes in Role and Status. Old people play a less active role in social life. Their social status due to retirement and decline of Income is generally reduced. In many cases, due to retirement, there is role reversal, retired men would stay at home and would be expected to help in the household activities including looking after grandchildren and attending to their needs.

Period of enjoyment, relaxation and family involvement:

Old age is a period when one starts taking more interest in one’s household activities and one’s family. It is a period where one generally spends time in relaxation and in pursuing his/her leisure activities.

Development Tasks:

In every stage of development the individual has to achieve certain developmental tasks. The major developmental task in the old age as follows:-

To attain Ego-integrity and avoid Ego despair :

According to Erikson ego-integrity means that even without daily responsibilities of job and family, psychologically healthy older people can maintain their sense of ‘wholeness’ and adequacy and are satisfied that they have done good job of living . Ego-desire is the result is the result of general dissatisfaction with one’s life, wishing it were possible to do it over again and knowing that it will never be possible. Ego-integrity is to be developed, at this period, while the feeling of ego-despair is to be avoided.

Facing Death :

Old people who have developed ego-integrity can face death peacefully, but those who have developed ego despair cannot die calmly because they feel that they spent their lives uselessly.

Adjustment to Retirement :

This is one of the most critical tasks of old age. After retirement the old person’s self-image may change and he may feel helpless. Retirement being greater leisure but excessive free time leads to boredom and financial problem, lack of social contact and other related problems. Some people continue job-related activities and hobbies expand their roles as volunteers and develop new interests; e.g. a retired teacher may engage in adult education programme, guide needy students etc. or a lawyer may do some social work related to his old profession.

Disengagement :

Old people reduce the number of contracts with the world and tend to be less active and withdraw from their social surroundings. This is called disengagement. This is very difficult task, and only a few people can adjust with it smoothly. Those who were more active in social activities in their earlier life, find it most difficult. In the societies where old people are respected and consulted by the young generation, old people find it easier to adjust, but in the society where old people are treated as a useless burden on the family, they find it very difficult to adjust.

To overcome depression and frustration and to adjust to decreasing physical strength and health:

In many cases physical and financial difficulties of old men make them dependent on others. In some cases even if there are no financial difficulties, the loss of life-partner makes it very difficult to live. Depression is very common in old people. Suicide rate is higher among old people than among young people. To overcome depression and attain peace of mind is very difficult task for old people. Thus the developmental tasks to be attain in the old age are numerous and also difficult.

Various Problems of Old Age:

Old age brings various types of changes in physical structure, cognitive abilities, emotions and personality pattern. These changes give rise to various special problems for the old people. The most important problems for old age are the following:

Physical problems :

In the old age muscular strength decreases activities become slower. Sensitivity to physical stimuli is reduced, therefore, they cannot quickly respond to physical stimuli. The ability to resist diseases and environmental changes also reduces; therefore, they cannot recover form illness easily and quickly. Thus old age produces physical helplessness and dependence on others. Economic problems – In the old age the person retires from this job or occupation and there is no regular income. If he has no sufficient savings, he has to depend on others for economic support. Social Problems – Since the activities of old people are reduced and they cannot contact other people frequently, the social relationship are gradually reducing. They cannot make new friendship or establish new social relationships.

Adjustment problems :

Due to physical and economic, dependence on others, old people have a feeling of inadequacy. They suffer from depression; they may be tired of living. Due to generation gap there may be

various conflicts between old people and their children. Old people develop a complaining and irritating behavior.

Leisure time problems :

Old people are retired from job and they have no specific activities to pass time. They have a lot of free time which brings tiredness, boredom and fatigue. Because the activities are reduced, they cannot pass the time easily. Thus there is the problem about leisure time. Some old people can resolve these problems successfully and live happily till their death. But in general the adjustment in the old age is very difficult.

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