tion of control between the device and the user, and user acceptance. It is also important to take seriously the idea that technology, as part of social context, shapes society and cognition (e.g., Mead, 1953; McLuhan, 1964; Sclove, 1995). The technologies must also be compatible with the users' values and motives. For example, if the values of older adults shift from emphasizing task efficacy to emphasizing emotional connectedness (e.g., Carstensen et al., 1999), that shift may affect their willingness to adopt some of the new technologies intended to increase their adaptivity. It is important to consider such reactions, both to predict which technological innovations may be successfully introduced to the population of older adults and to assess the possible sociocultural consequences of adopting them. It is also important to evaluate the possibility that particular technological supports might undermine cognitive functioning by supplanting the use of mental abilities.


The NIA should undertake a major research initiative to understand the effects of behavioral, social, cultural, and technological context on the cognitive functioning and life performance of aging individuals and to build the knowledge needed to intervene effectively in these contexts to assist individuals' functioning and performance.

An appropriate fit between person and context is necessary for effective cognitive functioning and performance at any age. If anything, the need for adaptation is greater in old age than in middle adulthood because of major changes in context that tend to accumulate in late life, such as losses of family and friends, chronic illness and physical decline, migration to new living conditions, and the contemplation of death. The recommended research initiative would promote adaptivity by pursuing three major goals: understanding adaptive processes that affect cognitive functioning during aging; understanding how differences in sociocultural context bring about systematic variation in cognitive functioning and performance; and developing the knowledge needed to design effective technologies to support adaptivity in older adults.

1. Understanding adaptive processes that affect cognitive functioning and performance during aging.

Studies are now needed to clarify the ways aging individuals deploy their cognitive faculties to maintain a high level of performance of life tasks despite decline in some abilities and to improve performance on the basis of accumulated knowledge and wisdom. These studies should focus particularly on: the ways older people rely on other people, technological aids, emotion-regula-

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