Do you observe a difference between men and women? Between co-workers and friends? Within your family? Where do we learn these coping mechanisms? Why do we distinguish between nondevelopmental and developmental coping?

Chapter 12 Coping and Support in Late Adulthood

I.  Coping Strategies and Aging

          A.     Non-developmental Models of Coping

1.        Late adulthood presents new challenges as adults enter their elderly years

2.       One popular and long-standing way of describing cognitive coping strategies is through the use of coping mechanisms.

3.                  These mechanisms can range from the

a)       More deliberately used and adaptive, such as humor, to

b)       The more involuntary, immature, and maladaptive, such as extreme denial of a source of stress (Vaillant, 2000).

4.       Another way is to divide strategies by focus- Popular non-developmental models of coping

a)           Problem-focused category

(1)       Aimed at searching for workable solutions or resolutions to the issues creating the stress.

b)           Emotion-focused category

(1)       Generally used when the target or source of the stress cannot be changed or eliminated.



              B.   Developmental Regulation

1.       Developmental regulation

a)        Highlights differences between primary control, which peaks in middle adulthood, and secondary control, which increases in strength and effectiveness throughout adulthood

b)        Offers a strategy for maintaining a sense of personal control over our situation, which is likely to contribute to successful aging

c)        PRIMARY CONTROL generally involves outward or external actions,

d)    SECONDARY CONTROL involves deliberately adjusting our internal sense of self, identity, and motivation to cope with external changes (Heckhausen, 1997).


               C.    Socioemotional Selectivity Theory

1.      Most people maintain the size of their social support network until very late in life.


2.       The socioemotional selectivity theory (SST) encourages older adults to cope by regulating their emotional responses, primarily by limiting their social interactions to those that are positive and supportive.



                D.    Selection, Optimization, and Compensation

1.    The Selection, Optimization, and Compensation SOC model encourages older adults to

a)      Survey their resources and select reasonable goals and priorities

b)      Optimize their resources with a focus on achieving those goals

c)       Use their resources to compensate for losses.

2.         While considered a meta-theory and applied to many areas of life, the SOC model is well suited as a coping strategy for older adults who are adjusting to limited resources and abilities.


II.            Coping by Accepting Social Support


                 A. Social Relationships and Support


1.  A helpful way to cope with the challenges of aging is to turn to trustworthy family members, friends, and neighbors.

2.  Social networks generally get smaller with age, but they will increase as an older adult experiences more disability and when a crisis occurs.


                  B.   A Closer Look at caregivers

1.  On average, those providing the most care are female, in their 60s, and either the spouse or the adult child of the care recipient.

2. Caregivers often provide over 40 hours of care per week for years, resulting for them in a restricted lifestyle with increased depression and stress.


III.             Religiosity, Coping, and Aging


                  A.   Religious Views of Aging

1.  There is a growing interest among researchers to understand the interactions between religiosity, health, coping, and aging.


                   B.   Adult Religious Development

1.   Most religious rites of passage are focused on childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood.


                                       C.    Coping and Religiosity

1.  Higher levels of religiosity and greater religious involvement have been found to be correlated with better physical and mental health, although the research conclusions have been mixed and are difficult to interpret.


Post Discussion: There are 3 types of nondevelopmental coping mechanisms: emotional focused, problem focused and avoidance. Evaluating yourself and those around you for a day or 2, which mechanism do you observe most often with adults? Do you observe a difference between men and women? Between co-workers and friends? Within your family? Where do we learn these coping mechanisms? Why do we distinguish between nondevelopmental and developmental coping? AND, why does the SOC model make more sense for older adults?