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 long-and 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?
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,