Sonoma State University
Gerontology Program

Course

Gerontology/Psychology 421
Psychology of Aging
Tuesday/Thursday 8:00 a.m. to 11:40 a.m., Ives 78

Instructor

Susan Hillier
Stevenson 3075
e-mail HILLIER@SONOMA.EDU
Telephone 664.2452; 664.2411
FAX 824.0403
Office hours Tuesday 10-12; Thursday 2-3; e-mail

Course Description

The psychology of aging is the analysis of psychological development as a life-long process, with a focus on later life development. The last years of life are continuous with and inextricably linked with the events and processes of earlier life. The course will examine theories of human development with a focus on later life and particular phenomena associated with old age, such as loss of memory or organizational skills, or increased psychological “interiority.”

Many factors other than chronological age, including birth cohort, contemporary social conditions, and physical health, may account for differences among people of different ages. Some of the conceptual and practical limitations of age as an explanatory variable will be explored; and methods for empirical study of the aging process will be examined.

Learning Objectives

Text books

Required
Schaie, K.W. and Willis, S.L. (1996). Adult Development and Aging, Fourth Edition. Harper Collins: New York.

Erikson, E.H., Erikson, J.M. and Kivnick, H.Q. (1989). Vital Involvement in Old Age: The Experience of Old Age in Our Time. Norton & Co: New York.

Recommended Porterfield, J.D. and St. Pierre, R. (1992). Healthful Aging. The Dushkin Publishing Group, Inc.: Guilford, CT.

Class Assignments

There are five major learning activities, or class assignments, for this course; each is worth 20% of your final grade. Detailed descriptions of assignments are attached.
Note: GERN/PSYCH 421 is an upper division, 4-unit course. Students should anticipate spending 3 hours of preparation outside class per course unit per week. Assignment due dates have been specified so that you can plan your semester’s schedule vis a vis your other responsibilities. As the course develops, changes in the schedule might be made, but your assignment schedule will remain the same insofar as possible.
  1. Analyze the concept of reminiscence as a function of later life development. Due 26 September
  2. Provide an analysis of an important developmental aspect characteristic of the middle or late life years. Due 24 October
  3. Review and analyze a journal article on an important developmental aspect of late life development. Due 21 November.
  4. Analyze the meaning of death to the development of the self-concept. Due 12 December
  5. Enhance your technical and collaborative skills through preparation for and participation in class and the small groups, including out-of-class discussion with class members using e-mail. Throughout the course.

Class Assignments

All papers are to be prepared using APA style format. Two papers are to have at least one reference in addition to information from your text. The intent of this requirement is that you gain experience retrieving and organizing library material, and that you be able to integrate empirical observations with theoretical information.

You will be graded on your use of grammar and spelling; on the level of analysis you bring to the material you discuss; on your ability to synthesize material from various sources; and on the general appearance (including format) of the paper. Each paper is to be 4-5 pages in length.

Guidelines for Constructive Input
During Class Discussion

Level 1 possibilities Level 2 possibilities

Assignment 1: 26 September

Analyze the concept of reminiscence as a function of self-concept in late life.

Select one of the following options. Write a paper (4-5 pages) describing your findings. Prepare to discuss your findings in your small group in class.

Option 1

Talk with an older person about a special memory he/she has from their childhood. To generate the memory, you might ask specifically about their job, major moves during their childhood or young adulthood, or a special memory of one of their parents or of a sibling. For the paper, review your discussion and provide an analysis of your sense of the meaning of that memory to the person who told it. You might ask the person during your interview why that particular memory is so important, if you think that would help you in your analysis. Include in the paper what the memory was, what the meaning of the event seemed to be to the person telling it, and your analysis of the interview—in other words, what was your impression of the person and their story. In this paper you will hypothesize, to some extent, the meaning of a memory to self-concept.

Option 2
Discuss the role of reminiscence in later life development. Include in your analysis the way in which memory and reminiscence affect self-concept. Reference at least one bibliographic source aside from the class readings.

Assignment 2: 24 October

Provide an analysis of an important developmental aspect characteristic of the middle or late life years.

Select one of the following options. In a 4-5 page paper, describe your findings. Prepare to discuss your conclusions with your small group in class.

Option 1

Select a specific topic that represents one aspect of either middle or later adulthood. In your paper (4-5 pages) describe (a) in what way the topic is characteristic of the life stage you are describing; (b) what you know about it’s meaning to the development of self-concept; and (c) your empirical observations of this aspect. Examples of some characteristic developmental aspects might be widowhood; menopause; death of one’s parents; shrinking support network due to death; children reaching adulthood, etc. This assignment allows you to express your observations and/or personal experience. You are additionally expected to demonstrate a certain level of expertise relative to the readings in the course as you discuss the topic.
Option 2
Interview two people about their experience of an event that is characteristic of middle or late life. Compare and contrast their stories, and draw some conclusions on the relationship of your findings to the development of self-concept.

Assignment 3: 21 November

Write a 4-5 page paper providing your analysis of two library articles on self-concept. Relate the articles’ key points to development of the self in later life.

Assignment 4: 12 December

Using the information you have gathered over the course of the semester, write a 4-5 page paper on the way in which you believe the awareness of death impacts development in later life.

Psychology of Aging Assignment Schedule


First Day 29 August

Course introduction

Develop learning teams
Small group activity


Week 1 3, 5 September

Fundamentals of aging

Read


Week 2 10, 12 September

Epigenesis: Erikson’s stage theory

Read


Week 3 17, 19 September

Epigenesis: Erikson’s stage theory

Read


Week 4 Paper Due: Reminiscence 24, 26 September

Epigenesis: Erikson’s stage theory

Read

View

Week 5 1, 3 October

The context of aging

Read


Week 6 8, 10 October

Theories: Human ecology

Read


Week 7 15, 17 October

Theories: Dialectical approach

Reading TBA


Week 8 Paper Due: Developmental Task 22, 24 October

Personality development

Read


Week 9 29, 31 October

Personality development

Read


Week 10 5, 7 November

Intellectual development

Read


Week 11 12, 14 November

Development of the self

Review reading


		

Week 12 Paper Due: Self Concept 19, 21 November

Development of the self

Reading TBA


Week 13 26 November (28 Holiday)

Loss and the sense of self

Read


Week 14 3, 5 December

Loss and the sense of self

Reading TBA


		

Week 15 Paper Due: Loss and bereavement 19, 21 November

Creating meaning in later life

Reading TBA


Finals 16-20 December


Return to Psychology Department or SSU Home Page


Sonoma State University Gerontology Program

1801 East Cotati Avenue
Rohnert Park, California 94928
Telephone Voice 707.664.2452
FAX 707.664.3920
Email hillier@sonoma.edu