Psychological Theories/Models of Ageing

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Psychological Theories/Models of Ageing

Psychological theories of ageing focus on how individuals respond to older age. Psychological development does not stop at adulthood, but continues throughout life.

Hierarchy of Human Needs (Maslow):
Human needs are arranged in five levels of priority (physiological; safety and security; love and belonging; esteem and self esteem; need for self-actualisation). Motivation in humans is seen as a hierarchy of needs that have different orders of priority. The needs are often interrelated and interdependent. As needs are met at one level, individuals strive to meet the needs at the next level. Individuals strive for self-actualisation. The well being and life satisfaction of older persons can be conceptualised in this framework for analysing the needs of older adults to achieve positive or successful ageing. Positive ageing is seen as how successful the older person is in meeting the needs.

Eight Stages of Life (Erikson):
Eight psychosocial stages or development tasks are passed through during the course of a lifetime – these impact on a persons ego structure or sense of self. Successful mastery of crises that occur at each stage prepares the individual for continued development. Each stage represents the task of a choice in development. During middle and older adulthood, the task is resolving the crises/conflict between generativity and stagnation. During older adulthood, the resolution is between the search for integrity and wholeness with a sense of despair.

Theory of Individualism (Jung):
Development occurs throughout life – the goal of personality development is self-realisation. The second half of life has different tasks to the first half. As an individual gets older  capable of transformation into a more spiritual being. As people age, the personality develops from an outward one (concerned with establishing ones role in society) to an inward one (concerned with searching for answers within). According to this theory, successful ageing is when the individual looks inward and values oneself in the context of physical limitations and/or losses.

Life-Span Development :
Development/growth/aging is a lifelong process in which no age holds supremacy in the regulating the nature of development. At all stages of the life span, processes are at work that influence the nature of that development. This model recognises these multifaceted influences that affect the nature of development – includes the normal age related influences of other models, but also includes non-normative life events (eg accidents, winning the lottery, chance encounters) and normative history graded influences (eg wars)  all these affect development and ageing. Each ‘stage’ of life is seen as preparing the individual for the next stage of development.

Selective Optimisation with Compensation (SOC theory):
Physical capacity diminishes with age, so adaptations occur throughout the lifespan by compensating for these deficits through three interacting components  selection, optimisation and compensation. Selection is the process of specialisation of behavioural competencies that allow individuals to continue to develop through the lifespan – it implies a restriction on a person’s life as it limits the number of areas of competencies or areas of functioning. This limitation implies adaptation, in which the selected competencies become easier. Optimisation is related to the concept that individuals regulate themselves in order to function at high, effective and desirable levels of execution. In this way individuals move in the direction of obtaining the best possible functioning in a specific number of areas of life. Compensation is a natural process that is used when a person’s abilities decline and it is not possible to attain the required standards of execution. Strategies are modified with the aim being to compensate for the deficits (eg use of memory aids). Certain personal strategies are developed to manage the losses that occur.

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