Academic journal article Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology

Principles of Longevity and Aging: Interventions to Enhance Older Adulthood

Academic journal article Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology

Principles of Longevity and Aging: Interventions to Enhance Older Adulthood

Article excerpt


Healthy aging and prevention efforts for the elderly warrant attention in a world where the average mortality rate continues to increase. The current literature review is an overview of current findings related to healthy aging and recommendations for older adults who are living longer and healthier; as well as facing the physical and psychological challenges that come with extended life. Staying active, eating right, utilizing social and environmental resources, employing coping skills developed across the lifespan, as well as developing new strategies can enhance the quality of life for older adults. Helping professionals from all disciplines who are able to recognize the needs of this growing group, and recognize the resiliency factors inherent in healthy aging, have the best chance of designing and implementing successful preventionand intervention efforts.The purpose of the present literature review is twofold: 1) To systematically review the important factors that affect an individual's longevity and to raise awareness of the importance of those factors that are within one's control; and 2) To inform health care providers of prevention efforts important to older adults;encouraging an integration of research and practice to preventative efforts.

Keywords: Aging, Gerontology, Diet, Exercise, Substance abuse, Stress

1. Overview

Human beings are surviving much longer and the population over 55 is expanding exponentially with expectations of growth as high as 41% by 2041 in the United States (de Vaus & Wolcott, 1997; Snarksi, Scogin, DiNapoli, Presnell, McAlpine, & Marcinak, 2010). This "graying of America" has unavoidable implications for health care practitioners across disciplines. Up until recently, most prevention efforts for aging adults were actually tailored to middle-aged adultsor infirm older adults. Of note, research points out the consistently poor response of older adults to these interventions efforts usually effective with younger individuals (Alexopoulos, Raue, & Arean, 2003; Nebes, Butters, & Mulsant, 2000). Little is known about personality or environmental variables, which enhance the experience of aging, outside of research in health care settings and very few researchers, focus on positive aspects of coping with growing older (e.g., Row & Kahn, 1998; Hung, Kempen, & DeVries, 2010). An exploration of aspects of healthy aging with attention to a model for implementing recommendations would enhance the ability of educators and practitioners to facilitate healthy aging.

Empirical data suggests that, helping professionals often overlook the possibility that the most older adults have strong life coping skills from adaptation across a lifetime of stress (Alwin, 1994; Valliant, 1993). Many individuals over 65 have experienced wars, natural disaster, poor economic conditions, lower standards of living, and lack of available treatment as a part of their environment from the 1930s and 1940s. At the dawn of the research on aging adults, Valiant (1993) even suggested that older adults who have coped with more negative events emerge into older adulthood with an increased ability to cope as compared with others. Aging brings new and unexpected developmental and environmental changes to play; which may require a return to or enhancement of previously used coping skill sets.

These older adults are much more likely to use medical care, than their younger counter parts, due to health concerns (Frank, McDaniel, Bray, & Heldring, 2004).Yet, by many reports, this demographic group is likely to underutilize services to assist in healthy aging and prevention efforts because of stigma that marks such help seeking as an indication of weakness (Shore, 1997; Snarksi et al, 2010). This avoidance of help seeking, for preventative services, is further exacerbated by the shortage of health care and mental health care providers specializing in Geriatric clients (Panchana, Emery, Konnert, Woodhead, & Edelstein, 2010; Perry and Boccaaccini, 2009; Qualls, Segal, Norman, Niederche, & Gallagher-Thompson, 2002). …

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