when i m 64 book

by National Research Council

Author National Research Council Isbn 978 0309100649 File size 1 2 MB Year 2006 Pages 280 Language English File format PDF Category Personality By 2030 there will be about 70 million people in the United States who are older than 64 Approximately 26 percent of these will be racial and ethnic minorities Overall the older population will be more diverse and better educated than their earlier cohorts The range of late life outcomes is very dramatic with old age being a significantly different

Publisher :

Author : National Research Council

ISBN : 978 0309100649

Year : 2006

Language: English

File Size : 1.2 MB

Category : Personality



Committee on Aging Frontiers in Social Psychology, Personality, and
Adult Developmental Psychology

Laura L. Carstensen and Christine R. Hartel, Editors

Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, N.W.

Washington, DC 20001

NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the
councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for
the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by Contract No. N01-0D-4-2139 between the National
Academy of Sciences and the National Institutes of Health. Any opinions, findings,
conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the
author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies
that provided support for the project.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
When I’m 64 / Laura L. Carstensen and Christine R. Hartel, editors.— 1st ed.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN 0-309-10064-X (pbk. book) — ISBN 0-309-65508-0 (pdfs) 1. Aging—
Psychological aspects. 2. Aging—Social aspects. 3. Older people—United States. I.
Title: When I am sixty-four. II. Carstensen, Laura L. III. Hartel, Christine R., 1947BF724.55.A35W54 2006
155.67—dc22
2005033689
Additional copies of this report are available from National Academies Press, 500
Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202)
334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu
Printed in the United States of America
Copyright 2006 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Suggested citation: National Research Council. (2006). When I’m 64. Committee
on Aging Frontiers in Social Psychology, Personality, and Adult Developmental
Psychology. Laura L. Carstensen and Christine R. Hartel, Editors. Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences
and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society
of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated
to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare.
Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and
technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of
Sciences.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of
the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members,
sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the
federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research,
and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Wm. A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering.
The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of
Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the
examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute
acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its
congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own
initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V.
Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.
The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences
in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the
Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government.
Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the
Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy
of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the
government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr.
Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Wm. A. Wulf are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the
National Research Council.
www.national-academies.org

COMMITTEE ON AGING FRONTIERS IN SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY,
PERSONALITY, AND ADULT DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY
LAURA L. CARSTENSEN (Chair), Department of Psychology, Stanford
University
FREDDA BLANCHARD-FIELDS, School of Psychology, Georgia
Institute of Technology
MARGARET GATZ, Department of Psychology, University of Southern
California
TODD F. HEATHERTON, Department of Psychological and Brain
Sciences, Dartmouth College
GEORGE LOEWENSTEIN, Department of Social and Decision Sciences,
Carnegie Mellon University
DENISE C. PARK, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign
LAWRENCE A. PERVIN, Department of Psychology (emeritus), Rutgers
University
RICHARD E. PETTY, Department of Psychology, Ohio State University
ILENE C. SIEGLER, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences,
Duke University Medical Center
LINDA J. WAITE, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago
KEITH E. WHITFIELD, Department of Behavioral Health, Pennsylvania
State University
CHRISTINE R. HARTEL, Study Director
TRACY G. MYERS, Study Director (until March 2004)
JESSICA G. MARTINEZ, Senior Program Assistant

v

BOARD ON BEHAVIORAL, COGNITIVE,
AND SENSORY SCIENCES
ANNE C. PETERSEN (Chair), W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Battle Creek, MI
LINDA MARIE BURTON, Center for Human Development and Family
Research, Pennsylvania State University
STEPHEN J. CECI, Department of Human Development, Cornell
University
EUGENE K. EMORY, Department of Psychology, Emory University
ROCHEL GELMAN, Center for Cognitive Science, Rutgers University
ANTHONY W. JACKSON, The Asia Society, Los Angeles, CA
PETER LENNIE, Center for Neural Science, New York University
MARCIA C. LINN, Graduate School of Education, University of
California at Berkeley
ELISSA L. NEWPORT, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences,
University of Rochester
CHARLES R. PLOTT, Division of Humanities and Social Sciences,
California Institute of Technology
MICHAEL L. RUTTER, Institute of Psychiatry, University of London
ARNOLD SAMEROFF, Center for Human Growth and Development,
University of Michigan
JAMES W. STIGLER, Department of Psychology, University of
California at Los Angeles
JOHN A. SWETS, BBN Technologies, Cambridge, MA
RICHARD F. THOMPSON, Neuroscience Program, University of
Southern California
WILLIAM A. YOST, Office of Research and the Graduate School,
Loyola University Chicago
CHRISTINE R. HARTEL, Board Director

vi

Contents

Preface

ix

Executive Summary

1

PART ONE: COMMITTEE REPORT
1
2
3
4

Overview
The Social Side of Human Aging
Motivation and Behavioral Change
Socioemotional Influences on Decision Making:
The Challenge of Choice
5 Social Engagement and Cognition
6 Opportunities Lost: The Impact of Stereotypes on
Self and Others
References

9
19
34
54
68
80
92

PART TWO: BACKGROUND PAPERS
Initiatives to Motivate Change: A Review of Theory and
Practice and Their Implications for Older Adults
121
Alexander J. Rothman
A Review of Decision-Making Processes: Weighing the Risks and
Benefits of Aging
145
Mara Mather

vii

viii

CONTENTS

A Social Psychological Perspective on the Stigmatization
of Older Adults
Jennifer A. Richeson and J. Nicole Shelton
Measuring Psychological Mechanisms
Committee on Aging Frontiers in Social Psychology,
Personality, and Adult Developmental Psychology
Measurement: Aging and the Psychology of Self-Report
Norbert Schwarz
Optimizing Brief Assessments in Research on the Psychology
of Aging: A Pragmatic Approach to Self-Report Measurement
Jon A. Krosnick, Allyson L. Holbrook, and Penny S. Visser
Utility of Brain Imaging Methods in Research on Aging
Christine R. Hartel and Randy L. Buckner
Research Infrastructure
Committee on Aging Frontiers in Social Psychology,
Personality, and Adult Developmental Psychology

174
209

219

231
240
247

APPENDIX: Biographical Sketches of Committee Members
and Contributors

251

INDEX

259

Preface

Late in 2002 staff of the Behavioral and Social Research Program of the
National Institute on Aging (NIA) asked the National Research Council
(NRC) to explore research opportunities in social psychology, personality,
and adult developmental psychology in order to assist the NIA in developing a long-term research agenda in these areas. The NRC, through the
Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences, created the Committee on Aging Frontiers in Social Psychology, Personality, and Adult Developmental Psychology, which I had the honor of chairing, to undertake this
task.
Committee members included clinical, personality, social, and life-span
developmental psychologists, as well as a sociologist and an economist.
Some committee members hold primary expertise in aging; others represent
different but related fields. As we educated each other about the broad
range of work relevant to our charge it became clear that this was an ideal
mix. The committee held four meetings, at which it identified a variety of
possible research opportunities and considered the promise of each. As the
committee considered priorities, it invited the input of a number of other
specialists in vital research areas at a committee-sponsored workshop in
September 2003. This made possible an even deeper discussion of the more
promising areas of opportunity. Through such consultation and private
deliberation, the committee arrived at consensus in giving its recommendations to the NIA. The committee believes it has identified key areas of
ix

x

PREFACE

research in which additional investment may lead to an entirely new understanding about the health and well-being of older people.
On behalf of the committee, I would like to acknowledge the contributions of a number of people who helped us to complete our work. First, we
are grateful to Richard Suzman, the sponsor of the project and associate
director of the NIA. He posed provocative ideas and questions to the committee and stimulated much thoughtful discussion.
We owe special thanks to several experts from outside the committee
whose input was very valuable. Prominent among these are the authors of
the six papers prepared for the committee: Mara Mather, University of
California at Santa Cruz; Jennifer Richeson, Northwestern University;
Nicole Shelton, Princeton University; Norbert Schwarz, University of Michigan; Alexander Rothman, University of Minnesota; Randy Buckner,
Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Washington University in St. Louis;
Jon Krosnick, Stanford University; Allyson Holbrook, University of Illinois,
Chicago; and Penny Visser, University of Chicago.
We also benefited considerably from the presentations and comments at our workshop of Roger Dixon, University of Alberta; John
Darley, Princeton University; Annamaria Lusardi, Dartmouth College; Marc
Freedman, Civic Ventures; Claude Steele, Stanford University; Charles
Carver, University of Miami; Robert Wallace, University of Iowa; William
Greenough, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Dov J. Cohen,
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Michael Feuerstein, Uniformed
Services University of the Health Sciences; Marjorie Bowman, University of
Pennsylvania School of Medicine; and Lisa Berkman, Harvard University,
all of whom contributed to the committee’s thinking in important ways.
At the NRC, Christine R. Hartel and Tracy G. Myers served as the
study directors for this project. Special thanks are due to Eugenia Grohman,
who provided timely counsel and support as well as editing our manuscript
with skill and insight; to Kirsten Sampson-Snyder, who managed the review
process; to Amy Love Collins and Susan R. McCutchen, who assisted with
research for the report; and to Jessica Gonzalez Martinez, our skilled and
dedicated project assistant, who was both efficient and considerate.
I would also like to recognize the committee members for their unusually generous contributions of time and expertise and for their professionalism in completing this work. They receive only the compensation of knowing that they have done their best to provide recommendations to the NIA
that could advance the field in important ways.
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for
their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the Report Review Committee of the NRC. The purpose
of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that
will assist the institution in making the published report as sound as pos-

PREFACE

xi

sible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of
the deliberative process.
We thank the following individuals for their participation in the review
of this report: Marilyn S. Albert, Division of Cognitive Neuroscience, Johns
Hopkins University; Toni Antonucci, Institute for Social Research Life
Course Development Program, University of Michigan; Karlene Ball, Center for Research on Applied Gerontology, University of Alabama at Birmingham; John T. Cacioppo, Department of Psychology, University of
Chicago; Medellena (Maria) Glymour, Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health; Brenda Major,
Department of Psychology, University of California at Santa Barbara; Matthew McGue, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota; and
Phyllis Moen, Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota.
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive
comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions
or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its
release. The review of this report was overseen by Lisa Berkman, Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of
Public Health. Appointed by the NRC, she was responsible for making sure
that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all reviewers’ comments were
considered carefully. Responsibility for the final content of this report,
however, rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.

Laura L. Carstensen, Chair
Committee on Aging Frontiers in Social Psychology,
Personality, and Adult Developmental Psychology

Executive Summary

T

he “aging of America” has become a familiar part of people’s understanding of
today’s world. This dramatic change in
the nation’s demography began several decades ago and will continue for
many more. By 2030 there will be about 70 million people in the United
States who are older than 64, nearly 22 percent of the population. This
older population will be quite different from earlier cohorts: it will be more
ethnically and racially diverse, with almost 26 percent comprised of ethnic
minorities; it will be better educated than any in history; and it will be the
first cohort to anticipate old age as a normative stage in life. The “oldest
old”—those over 85 years of age—will increase from 4.2 million to 8.9
million by 2030.
The range of late-life outcomes is already dramatic, and it is likely to
become more so. Old age is a very different experience for financially secure
or well-educated people than it is for poor or uneducated people. Those
who are healthy experience old age very differently from those who are ill.
Those who are embedded in strong social networks fare much better than
those who find themselves alone. Culture, race, and ethnicity, plus the
accumulation of individual life experiences, shape the course of people’s
later years. Understanding individual and social behavior across the life
span is key to understanding the diverse outcomes in old age. It is also key
to understanding how society can develop the best policies to support
longer, healthier lives and to have society benefit from them.
Whether longer life expectancies are good or bad for societies will
depend on the nature of old age. To the extent that people come to old age
1

2

WHEN I’M 64

physically and psychologically fit and play integral roles in communities
and families, societies will be strengthened. To the extent that older people
are infirm, isolated, or dependent, growing numbers of older people will
increase the burdens on a relatively smaller younger population. To the
extent that older people are healthy and involved, they will likely contribute
far more to society than older people in previous generations.
To further advance understanding of how social and individual factors
can improve the health and functioning of older adults, the Behavior and
Social Research Program at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) requested
a study by the National Research Council. The Committee on Aging Frontiers in Social Psychology, Personality, and Adult Developmental Psychology was formed and charged with exploring research opportunities in social, personality, and adult developmental psychology. More specifically, it
was charged with identifying research opportunities that have the added
benefit of drawing on recent developments in the psychological and social
sciences, including behavioral, cognitive, and social neurosciences, that are
related to experimental work in social psychology, personality, and adult
developmental psychology, and that also cross multiple levels of analysis.
The committee recommends areas of research opportunity that are
characterized by recent, provocative findings from psychological science,
findings that strongly suggest that additional work will lead to new understanding about the health and well-being of older people. The committee
emphasizes areas that have clear applicability to the everyday lives of the
nation’s older population. Much of this new work will benefit from a lifespan perspective that looks not only at older people, but at people who will
become old in the coming decades, recognizing that old age outcomes are
the product of cumulative effects of behavioral and social processes that
occur throughout adulthood.
RECOMMENDATION
On the basis of the needs of the aging population and the benefits to
individuals and to society that could be achieved through research, the
committee recommends that the National Institute on Aging concentrate its research support in social, personality, and life-span psychology in four substantive areas: motivation and behavioral change;
socioemotional influences on decision making; the influence of social
engagement on cognition; and the effects of stereotypes on self and
others.
Advances in psychological science have brought the field to a critical
juncture where—with adequate support—substantial advances are likely in
the near future. Of the social sciences, psychology is especially well-equipped
to isolate behavioral mechanisms and to understand how to modify them.

3

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Thus, a move away from the description of behavior toward an investigation of its underlying mechanisms and functions would be most productive.
Much of the work the committee identified will proceed most effectively in
interdisciplinary teams. Psychology brings to interdisciplinary research a
number of sophisticated statistical and methodological approaches. Infrastructure support that stimulates the incorporation of these methods into
future research will be essential for the greatest progress.
RESEARCH TOPICS
Motivation and Behavioral Change A great deal has been learned in recent
years about life-styles that increase or decrease well-being in old age. Information about the value of adequate nutrition, exercise, and preventive
health care is widely available throughout the country, but the dissemination of information alone is clearly insufficient to bring about widespread
behavioral change. Having knowledge about what to do does not ensure
that people live accordingly; getting people to develop and maintain healthy
patterns of living involves motivation.
How do you get people to engage in exercises, take their medications,
see their doctors, move to assisted living, or even hang up on telemarketers?
More broadly, how do you motivate people to maintain goals that are
realistic and adaptive while also modifying those goals and developing new
ones in response to new challenges and opportunities, such as retirement,
relocation, loss, and illness? Research suggests that older people have diminished interest in novelty, which impairs change initiation, but it also
supports that the stability of daily routines and contexts will contribute to
maintaining changes once they are in place. Research about motivation that
addresses the activation and maintenance of behavior change could generate important insights about long-term adherence to healthy life-styles.
Socioemotional Influences on Decision Making The range of choices faced
by Americans of all ages has changed significantly in recent years and is
likely to increase. Moreover, decisions about many issues, such as financial
planning and retirement, have become more complicated, as have choices
about health care, while there is also a wider range of options for where and
how to live one’s later life.
Most current research on decision making at older ages examines the
ways in which cognitive decline impairs decision making, yet research also
suggests that there is stability or even improvement in automatic, intuitive
cognitive processes. For older people, affective heuristics may come to play
a more central role in decision making than effortful, deliberative strategies.
Such findings have major implications on the processes involved in decision
making, particularly on the implications of emotional and social influences.

4

WHEN I’M 64

Significant topics for basic research in this field are the roles of affect, risk
aversion, persuasion, self-insight, and regret, in increasing or decreasing the
likelihood that older adults make adaptive decisions.
Social Engagement and Cognition Maintaining a “healthy mind” is one of
the central concerns of old age, with profound social and economic consequences for older people and for society. Recently, fascinating correlational
findings suggest that social relationships and social interactions may affect
cognitive functioning at older ages, but these findings have not been examined systematically: they do not establish causal connections nor do they
help to identify contributing mechanisms. If there is a causal relationship, it
is imperative that researchers identify its properties. Do high levels of social
engagement lead to greater intellectual stimulation? Does social engagement mediate depression, which can depress cognitive abilities? Do culture,
context, and ethnicity play a role in either minimizing or magnifying the
effects of social engagement for cognitive health?
Opportunities Lost: Stereotypes of Self and by Others To the extent that
false beliefs influence the ability of societies to use the resources represented
in older cohorts, opportunities are lost. Ageism—the attitudes, behaviors,
and stereotypes targeted toward older adults because of their perceived
age—can affect the opportunities that individuals are afforded during the
later years of life. Stereotypes are not just static beliefs: they have both longand short-term consequences that may function in a pernicious cycle. Stereotyped beliefs about older adults can lead to differential treatment and a
loss of access to opportunities. Because people frequently respond to the
conscious or unconscious stereotypes held by others (or even by themselves), stereotypes may limit the contributions that older people can make
to society.
Aging stereotypes include both positive and negative assessments of
older adulthood. In some cases, these beliefs may be particularly difficult to
change because they contain some truths. How do negative and positive
stereotypes about older adults lead to differential treatment? How do beliefs about aging affect identity and other aspects of self-concept? How can
stereotyped beliefs of aging and about older adults be changed? How applicable are the theories and successful intervention strategies in changing
race- and gender-based stereotypes for those associated with aging?
DEVELOPING A PSYCHOLOGY OF DIVERSITY
Gender, race, socioeconomic class, culture, and ethnicity are factors
that affect virtually all aspects of the health and functioning of older people
because of their cumulative effects across the life course. Recognizing this,

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

5

the NIA has invested significantly in survey research on health disparities
between men and women as well as among cultural, racial, and ethnic
groups. However, beyond this approach, there has been relatively little
investment in understanding how these factors affect fundamental psychological processes and behavioral practices that are associated with aging or
even whether the standard measures used in psychological research are
reliable and valid across groups. As the U.S. population becomes increasingly diverse across these dimensions, the understanding of subgroups grows
in importance. From a scientific perspective, studies of the older population
also offer a unique opportunity to study the psychological and behavioral
mechanisms that group membership confers and the opportunity to isolate
these mechanisms such that behavioral change can occur. The growing
diversity of the population means that broad descriptive generalizations
about behavior, decisions, social engagement, stereotypes, or any other
topic will not characterize large parts of the population accurately.
RECOMMENDATION
The committee recommends that psychological research help to further
clarify whether race, culture, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic class
are associated with fundamental psychological processes represented in
each of the committee’s recommended research areas.
The study of race, culture, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic class should
become substantive topics in aging research. The development of psychological theory in these domains will permit important questions about
mechanisms to be answered.
RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE
The problem-focused nature of our recommendations will require an
interdisciplinary approach that focuses on multilevel factors, a research
program difficult to carry out with existing funding mechanisms. The research needs to unite the best conceptual and empirical work in personality
and developmental and social psychology with work from economics, neuroscience, medicine, demography, engineering, and other fields.
Better research infrastructure is also needed to support and disseminate
methods development. Breakthroughs in thought and theory often occur
after improvements in measurement techniques and methodology are made.
RECOMMENDATION
In order to carry out the committee’s proposed research program, the
committee recommends that the National Institute on Aging provide

6

WHEN I’M 64

support for research infrastructure in psychology and methods development in aging research, including interdisciplinary and multilevel
approaches, in order to make progress in each of the other recommended areas more likely and more rapid.
New funding mechanisms could encourage interdisciplinary research
and build bridges to other branches of government, private foundations,
and industry. Infrastructure development could also include extended workshops and topical conferences. Structural changes could also make innovative use of the review process, perhaps by developing special peer review
groups.

Part One

Committee Report



Committee on Aging Frontiers in Social Psychology, Personality, and
Adult Developmental Psychology

Laura L. Carstensen and Christine R. Hartel, Editors

Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, N.W.

Washington, DC 20001

NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the
councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for
the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by Contract No. N01-0D-4-2139 between the National
Academy of Sciences and the National Institutes of Health. Any opinions, findings,
conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the
author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies
that provided support for the project.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
When I’m 64 / Laura L. Carstensen and Christine R. Hartel, editors.— 1st ed.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN 0-309-10064-X (pbk. book) — ISBN 0-309-65508-0 (pdfs) 1. Aging—
Psychological aspects. 2. Aging—Social aspects. 3. Older people—United States. I.
Title: When I am sixty-four. II. Carstensen, Laura L. III. Hartel, Christine R., 1947BF724.55.A35W54 2006
155.67—dc22
2005033689
Additional copies of this report are available from National Academies Press, 500
Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202)
334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu
Printed in the United States of America
Copyright 2006 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Suggested citation: National Research Council. (2006). When I’m 64. Committee
on Aging Frontiers in Social Psychology, Personality, and Adult Developmental
Psychology. Laura L. Carstensen and Christine R. Hartel, Editors. Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences
and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society
of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated
to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare.
Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and
technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of
Sciences.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of
the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members,
sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the
federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research,
and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Wm. A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering.
The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of
Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the
examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute
acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its
congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own
initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V.
Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.
The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences
in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the
Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government.
Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the
Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy
of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the
government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr.
Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Wm. A. Wulf are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the
National Research Council.
www.national-academies.org

COMMITTEE ON AGING FRONTIERS IN SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY,
PERSONALITY, AND ADULT DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY
LAURA L. CARSTENSEN (Chair), Department of Psychology, Stanford
University
FREDDA BLANCHARD-FIELDS, School of Psychology, Georgia
Institute of Technology
MARGARET GATZ, Department of Psychology, University of Southern
California
TODD F. HEATHERTON, Department of Psychological and Brain
Sciences, Dartmouth College
GEORGE LOEWENSTEIN, Department of Social and Decision Sciences,
Carnegie Mellon University
DENISE C. PARK, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign
LAWRENCE A. PERVIN, Department of Psychology (emeritus), Rutgers
University
RICHARD E. PETTY, Department of Psychology, Ohio State University
ILENE C. SIEGLER, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences,
Duke University Medical Center
LINDA J. WAITE, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago
KEITH E. WHITFIELD, Department of Behavioral Health, Pennsylvania
State University
CHRISTINE R. HARTEL, Study Director
TRACY G. MYERS, Study Director (until March 2004)
JESSICA G. MARTINEZ, Senior Program Assistant

v

BOARD ON BEHAVIORAL, COGNITIVE,
AND SENSORY SCIENCES
ANNE C. PETERSEN (Chair), W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Battle Creek, MI
LINDA MARIE BURTON, Center for Human Development and Family
Research, Pennsylvania State University
STEPHEN J. CECI, Department of Human Development, Cornell
University
EUGENE K. EMORY, Department of Psychology, Emory University
ROCHEL GELMAN, Center for Cognitive Science, Rutgers University
ANTHONY W. JACKSON, The Asia Society, Los Angeles, CA
PETER LENNIE, Center for Neural Science, New York University
MARCIA C. LINN, Graduate School of Education, University of
California at Berkeley
ELISSA L. NEWPORT, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences,
University of Rochester
CHARLES R. PLOTT, Division of Humanities and Social Sciences,
California Institute of Technology
MICHAEL L. RUTTER, Institute of Psychiatry, University of London
ARNOLD SAMEROFF, Center for Human Growth and Development,
University of Michigan
JAMES W. STIGLER, Department of Psychology, University of
California at Los Angeles
JOHN A. SWETS, BBN Technologies, Cambridge, MA
RICHARD F. THOMPSON, Neuroscience Program, University of
Southern California
WILLIAM A. YOST, Office of Research and the Graduate School,
Loyola University Chicago
CHRISTINE R. HARTEL, Board Director

vi

Contents

Preface

ix

Executive Summary

1

PART ONE: COMMITTEE REPORT
1
2
3
4

Overview
The Social Side of Human Aging
Motivation and Behavioral Change
Socioemotional Influences on Decision Making:
The Challenge of Choice
5 Social Engagement and Cognition
6 Opportunities Lost: The Impact of Stereotypes on
Self and Others
References

9
19
34
54
68
80
92

PART TWO: BACKGROUND PAPERS
Initiatives to Motivate Change: A Review of Theory and
Practice and Their Implications for Older Adults
121
Alexander J. Rothman
A Review of Decision-Making Processes: Weighing the Risks and
Benefits of Aging
145
Mara Mather

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viii

CONTENTS

A Social Psychological Perspective on the Stigmatization
of Older Adults
Jennifer A. Richeson and J. Nicole Shelton
Measuring Psychological Mechanisms
Committee on Aging Frontiers in Social Psychology,
Personality, and Adult Developmental Psychology
Measurement: Aging and the Psychology of Self-Report
Norbert Schwarz
Optimizing Brief Assessments in Research on the Psychology
of Aging: A Pragmatic Approach to Self-Report Measurement
Jon A. Krosnick, Allyson L. Holbrook, and Penny S. Visser
Utility of Brain Imaging Methods in Research on Aging
Christine R. Hartel and Randy L. Buckner
Research Infrastructure
Committee on Aging Frontiers in Social Psychology,
Personality, and Adult Developmental Psychology

174
209

219

231
240
247

APPENDIX: Biographical Sketches of Committee Members
and Contributors

251

INDEX

259

Preface

Late in 2002 staff of the Behavioral and Social Research Program of the
National Institute on Aging (NIA) asked the National Research Council
(NRC) to explore research opportunities in social psychology, personality,
and adult developmental psychology in order to assist the NIA in developing a long-term research agenda in these areas. The NRC, through the
Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences, created the Committee on Aging Frontiers in Social Psychology, Personality, and Adult Developmental Psychology, which I had the honor of chairing, to undertake this
task.
Committee members included clinical, personality, social, and life-span
developmental psychologists, as well as a sociologist and an economist.
Some committee members hold primary expertise in aging; others represent
different but related fields. As we educated each other about the broad
range of work relevant to our charge it became clear that this was an ideal
mix. The committee held four meetings, at which it identified a variety of
possible research opportunities and considered the promise of each. As the
committee considered priorities, it invited the input of a number of other
specialists in vital research areas at a committee-sponsored workshop in
September 2003. This made possible an even deeper discussion of the more
promising areas of opportunity. Through such consultation and private
deliberation, the committee arrived at consensus in giving its recommendations to the NIA. The committee believes it has identified key areas of
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PREFACE

research in which additional investment may lead to an entirely new understanding about the health and well-being of older people.
On behalf of the committee, I would like to acknowledge the contributions of a number of people who helped us to complete our work. First, we
are grateful to Richard Suzman, the sponsor of the project and associate
director of the NIA. He posed provocative ideas and questions to the committee and stimulated much thoughtful discussion.
We owe special thanks to several experts from outside the committee
whose input was very valuable. Prominent among these are the authors of
the six papers prepared for the committee: Mara Mather, University of
California at Santa Cruz; Jennifer Richeson, Northwestern University;
Nicole Shelton, Princeton University; Norbert Schwarz, University of Michigan; Alexander Rothman, University of Minnesota; Randy Buckner,
Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Washington University in St. Louis;
Jon Krosnick, Stanford University; Allyson Holbrook, University of Illinois,
Chicago; and Penny Visser, University of Chicago.
We also benefited considerably from the presentations and comments at our workshop of Roger Dixon, University of Alberta; John
Darley, Princeton University; Annamaria Lusardi, Dartmouth College; Marc
Freedman, Civic Ventures; Claude Steele, Stanford University; Charles
Carver, University of Miami; Robert Wallace, University of Iowa; William
Greenough, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Dov J. Cohen,
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Michael Feuerstein, Uniformed
Services University of the Health Sciences; Marjorie Bowman, University of
Pennsylvania School of Medicine; and Lisa Berkman, Harvard University,
all of whom contributed to the committee’s thinking in important ways.
At the NRC, Christine R. Hartel and Tracy G. Myers served as the
study directors for this project. Special thanks are due to Eugenia Grohman,
who provided timely counsel and support as well as editing our manuscript
with skill and insight; to Kirsten Sampson-Snyder, who managed the review
process; to Amy Love Collins and Susan R. McCutchen, who assisted with
research for the report; and to Jessica Gonzalez Martinez, our skilled and
dedicated project assistant, who was both efficient and considerate.
I would also like to recognize the committee members for their unusually generous contributions of time and expertise and for their professionalism in completing this work. They receive only the compensation of knowing that they have done their best to provide recommendations to the NIA
that could advance the field in important ways.
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for
their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the Report Review Committee of the NRC. The purpose
of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that
will assist the institution in making the published report as sound as pos-

PREFACE

xi

sible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of
the deliberative process.
We thank the following individuals for their participation in the review
of this report: Marilyn S. Albert, Division of Cognitive Neuroscience, Johns
Hopkins University; Toni Antonucci, Institute for Social Research Life
Course Development Program, University of Michigan; Karlene Ball, Center for Research on Applied Gerontology, University of Alabama at Birmingham; John T. Cacioppo, Department of Psychology, University of
Chicago; Medellena (Maria) Glymour, Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health; Brenda Major,
Department of Psychology, University of California at Santa Barbara; Matthew McGue, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota; and
Phyllis Moen, Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota.
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive
comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions
or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its
release. The review of this report was overseen by Lisa Berkman, Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of
Public Health. Appointed by the NRC, she was responsible for making sure
that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all reviewers’ comments were
considered carefully. Responsibility for the final content of this report,
however, rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.

Laura L. Carstensen, Chair
Committee on Aging Frontiers in Social Psychology,
Personality, and Adult Developmental Psychology

Executive Summary

T

he “aging of America” has become a familiar part of people’s understanding of
today’s world. This dramatic change in
the nation’s demography began several decades ago and will continue for
many more. By 2030 there will be about 70 million people in the United
States who are older than 64, nearly 22 percent of the population. This
older population will be quite different from earlier cohorts: it will be more
ethnically and racially diverse, with almost 26 percent comprised of ethnic
minorities; it will be better educated than any in history; and it will be the
first cohort to anticipate old age as a normative stage in life. The “oldest
old”—those over 85 years of age—will increase from 4.2 million to 8.9
million by 2030.
The range of late-life outcomes is already dramatic, and it is likely to
become more so. Old age is a very different experience for financially secure
or well-educated people than it is for poor or uneducated people. Those
who are healthy experience old age very differently from those who are ill.
Those who are embedded in strong social networks fare much better than
those who find themselves alone. Culture, race, and ethnicity, plus the
accumulation of individual life experiences, shape the course of people’s
later years. Understanding individual and social behavior across the life
span is key to understanding the diverse outcomes in old age. It is also key
to understanding how society can develop the best policies to support
longer, healthier lives and to have society benefit from them.
Whether longer life expectancies are good or bad for societies will
depend on the nature of old age. To the extent that people come to old age
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WHEN I’M 64

physically and psychologically fit and play integral roles in communities
and families, societies will be strengthened. To the extent that older people
are infirm, isolated, or dependent, growing numbers of older people will
increase the burdens on a relatively smaller younger population. To the
extent that older people are healthy and involved, they will likely contribute
far more to society than older people in previous generations.
To further advance understanding of how social and individual factors
can improve the health and functioning of older adults, the Behavior and
Social Research Program at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) requested
a study by the National Research Council. The Committee on Aging Frontiers in Social Psychology, Personality, and Adult Developmental Psychology was formed and charged with exploring research opportunities in social, personality, and adult developmental psychology. More specifically, it
was charged with identifying research opportunities that have the added
benefit of drawing on recent developments in the psychological and social
sciences, including behavioral, cognitive, and social neurosciences, that are
related to experimental work in social psychology, personality, and adult
developmental psychology, and that also cross multiple levels of analysis.
The committee recommends areas of research opportunity that are
characterized by recent, provocative findings from psychological science,
findings that strongly suggest that additional work will lead to new understanding about the health and well-being of older people. The committee
emphasizes areas that have clear applicability to the everyday lives of the
nation’s older population. Much of this new work will benefit from a lifespan perspective that looks not only at older people, but at people who will
become old in the coming decades, recognizing that old age outcomes are
the product of cumulative effects of behavioral and social processes that
occur throughout adulthood.
RECOMMENDATION
On the basis of the needs of the aging population and the benefits to
individuals and to society that could be achieved through research, the
committee recommends that the National Institute on Aging concentrate its research support in social, personality, and life-span psychology in four substantive areas: motivation and behavioral change;
socioemotional influences on decision making; the influence of social
engagement on cognition; and the effects of stereotypes on self and
others.
Advances in psychological science have brought the field to a critical
juncture where—with adequate support—substantial advances are likely in
the near future. Of the social sciences, psychology is especially well-equipped
to isolate behavioral mechanisms and to understand how to modify them.

3

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Thus, a move away from the description of behavior toward an investigation of its underlying mechanisms and functions would be most productive.
Much of the work the committee identified will proceed most effectively in
interdisciplinary teams. Psychology brings to interdisciplinary research a
number of sophisticated statistical and methodological approaches. Infrastructure support that stimulates the incorporation of these methods into
future research will be essential for the greatest progress.
RESEARCH TOPICS
Motivation and Behavioral Change A great deal has been learned in recent
years about life-styles that increase or decrease well-being in old age. Information about the value of adequate nutrition, exercise, and preventive
health care is widely available throughout the country, but the dissemination of information alone is clearly insufficient to bring about widespread
behavioral change. Having knowledge about what to do does not ensure
that people live accordingly; getting people to develop and maintain healthy
patterns of living involves motivation.
How do you get people to engage in exercises, take their medications,
see their doctors, move to assisted living, or even hang up on telemarketers?
More broadly, how do you motivate people to maintain goals that are
realistic and adaptive while also modifying those goals and developing new
ones in response to new challenges and opportunities, such as retirement,
relocation, loss, and illness? Research suggests that older people have diminished interest in novelty, which impairs change initiation, but it also
supports that the stability of daily routines and contexts will contribute to
maintaining changes once they are in place. Research about motivation that
addresses the activation and maintenance of behavior change could generate important insights about long-term adherence to healthy life-styles.
Socioemotional Influences on Decision Making The range of choices faced
by Americans of all ages has changed significantly in recent years and is
likely to increase. Moreover, decisions about many issues, such as financial
planning and retirement, have become more complicated, as have choices
about health care, while there is also a wider range of options for where and
how to live one’s later life.
Most current research on decision making at older ages examines the
ways in which cognitive decline impairs decision making, yet research also
suggests that there is stability or even improvement in automatic, intuitive
cognitive processes. For older people, affective heuristics may come to play
a more central role in decision making than effortful, deliberative strategies.
Such findings have major implications on the processes involved in decision
making, particularly on the implications of emotional and social influences.

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Significant topics for basic research in this field are the roles of affect, risk
aversion, persuasion, self-insight, and regret, in increasing or decreasing the
likelihood that older adults make adaptive decisions.
Social Engagement and Cognition Maintaining a “healthy mind” is one of
the central concerns of old age, with profound social and economic consequences for older people and for society. Recently, fascinating correlational
findings suggest that social relationships and social interactions may affect
cognitive functioning at older ages, but these findings have not been examined systematically: they do not establish causal connections nor do they
help to identify contributing mechanisms. If there is a causal relationship, it
is imperative that researchers identify its properties. Do high levels of social
engagement lead to greater intellectual stimulation? Does social engagement mediate depression, which can depress cognitive abilities? Do culture,
context, and ethnicity play a role in either minimizing or magnifying the
effects of social engagement for cognitive health?
Opportunities Lost: Stereotypes of Self and by Others To the extent that
false beliefs influence the ability of societies to use the resources represented
in older cohorts, opportunities are lost. Ageism—the attitudes, behaviors,
and stereotypes targeted toward older adults because of their perceived
age—can affect the opportunities that individuals are afforded during the
later years of life. Stereotypes are not just static beliefs: they have both longand short-term consequences that may function in a pernicious cycle. Stereotyped beliefs about older adults can lead to differential treatment and a
loss of access to opportunities. Because people frequently respond to the
conscious or unconscious stereotypes held by others (or even by themselves), stereotypes may limit the contributions that older people can make
to society.
Aging stereotypes include both positive and negative assessments of
older adulthood. In some cases, these beliefs may be particularly difficult to
change because they contain some truths. How do negative and positive
stereotypes about older adults lead to differential treatment? How do beliefs about aging affect identity and other aspects of self-concept? How can
stereotyped beliefs of aging and about older adults be changed? How applicable are the theories and successful intervention strategies in changing
race- and gender-based stereotypes for those associated with aging?
DEVELOPING A PSYCHOLOGY OF DIVERSITY
Gender, race, socioeconomic class, culture, and ethnicity are factors
that affect virtually all aspects of the health and functioning of older people
because of their cumulative effects across the life course. Recognizing this,

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

5

the NIA has invested significantly in survey research on health disparities
between men and women as well as among cultural, racial, and ethnic
groups. However, beyond this approach, there has been relatively little
investment in understanding how these factors affect fundamental psychological processes and behavioral practices that are associated with aging or
even whether the standard measures used in psychological research are
reliable and valid across groups. As the U.S. population becomes increasingly diverse across these dimensions, the understanding of subgroups grows
in importance. From a scientific perspective, studies of the older population
also offer a unique opportunity to study the psychological and behavioral
mechanisms that group membership confers and the opportunity to isolate
these mechanisms such that behavioral change can occur. The growing
diversity of the population means that broad descriptive generalizations
about behavior, decisions, social engagement, stereotypes, or any other
topic will not characterize large parts of the population accurately.
RECOMMENDATION
The committee recommends that psychological research help to further
clarify whether race, culture, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic class
are associated with fundamental psychological processes represented in
each of the committee’s recommended research areas.
The study of race, culture, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic class should
become substantive topics in aging research. The development of psychological theory in these domains will permit important questions about
mechanisms to be answered.
RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE
The problem-focused nature of our recommendations will require an
interdisciplinary approach that focuses on multilevel factors, a research
program difficult to carry out with existing funding mechanisms. The research needs to unite the best conceptual and empirical work in personality
and developmental and social psychology with work from economics, neuroscience, medicine, demography, engineering, and other fields.
Better research infrastructure is also needed to support and disseminate
methods development. Breakthroughs in thought and theory often occur
after improvements in measurement techniques and methodology are made.
RECOMMENDATION
In order to carry out the committee’s proposed research program, the
committee recommends that the National Institute on Aging provide

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support for research infrastructure in psychology and methods development in aging research, including interdisciplinary and multilevel
approaches, in order to make progress in each of the other recommended areas more likely and more rapid.
New funding mechanisms could encourage interdisciplinary research
and build bridges to other branches of government, private foundations,
and industry. Infrastructure development could also include extended workshops and topical conferences. Structural changes could also make innovative use of the review process, perhaps by developing special peer review
groups.

Part One

Committee Report

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