AN INSIGHT INTO COGNITION-EMOTION INTERPLAY OF AGING BRAIN IN LATE ADULTHOOD (AGE 65+)
By: Zahra Ali Khan
Emotions play a central role in terms of memory, experience, perception and regulation throughout human life from the moment we are born until we die; they draw attention to what is important to be remembered and noticed, and guide decisions and actions. Older adults consider their personalities and attitudes to have become stable by the time they reach late adulthood by the virtue of wisdom. Objects and places become more valuable in late adulthood than they have been earlier. This tendency to cling to familiar places and possessions may become problematic as it can lead to compulsive behaviors.
CHANGES IN THE BRAIN ELICITING EMOTIONAL RESPONSE
An enormous deal of research seems to be available on diseases associated to aging, there is few evidence on the molecular biology of the aging brain. In part of the reduction of the size of the brain, molecular changes are also due, as well loss of Brain plasticity; which is the ability of the brain to change the structure and function. If a person does not show an action or activity to retain information and cannot decide which one to keep, the brain eradicates the space for it. This may lead to loss of memory, deteriorating intellectual functioning and mobility, and much a much higher rate of getting disease. Age is a major risk for resulting in or pertaining to progressive loss of neurological functional and loss or nerve cells. Most common Neurodegenerative diseases as result of aging could include cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, (senile dementia; loss of mental functioning resulting from brain tissue deterioration) Parkinson’s disease, and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
During late adulthood, many changes in mind of persons in late adulthood are due. Typically, memory degenerates. Older aged adults seem to have a hard time in remembering, retaining, and attending to information. Procedural memory (memory used to perform particular actions and processes and most frequently resides below level of conscious awareness) tends to remain same whereas working memory (memory system that actively carries many several pieces of transitory information in brain where it can be manipulated) sharply declines, in contrast to procedural memory. When tasks are complex and become difficult to perform, the reduction in the working memory seems to be evident. Another memory system that remains relatively stable throughout the course of life is the Semantic Memory. It is comprehending meaning of concept based knowledge, events and things, and underlies the conscious recollection of general knowledge and factual information.
Cognitive changes in older population vary from individual to individual and are complex. There is a sharp decline in the response speed, both motor and neural. Some researchers contend that working memory is the central element underlying the poorer performance on cognitive tasks by the elderly persons. Intellectual variations in the late adulthood do not essentially result in the reduction of ability. However fluid intelligence does decline, which is the ability to solve problems, see and use patterns and relationships). Crystallized intelligence (the ability to use accumulated information to make decisions and solve problems) has been shown to slightly rise over the entire lifespan. Researches show that forty to sixty percent of cognitive performance upon given remedial trainings could be reversed.
EMOTION-REGULATION IN AGING FROM A BRAIN-BEHAVIOR PERSPECTIVE
Emotion regulation refers to promotion of helpful emotions while managing harmful emotions appropriately regulating one’s feelings in favor of successful social interactions may become particularly relevant in old age, given increased dependency and social loss. There is behavioral evidence that older compared to young adults show improved emotion-regulatory capacity. Despite normative declines in various functional domains, improved emotion-regulatory capacities may contribute to high levels of life satisfaction in aging. In contrast, neuroimaging evidence suggests that brain regions characterized by age-related decline in volumetric gray matter are relevant for successful emotion regulation.
Research studies show increase in longevity as a result older adults’ today show possibility of acquiring and maintaining relationship much longer than during any other time in the modern history. Nurturing long-term family relationships can be both gratifying and perplexing. Over the decades developed peaceful relationships can be thoroughly enjoyed by people in their middle and older adulthood however younger adults may feel some strain while looking after their ailing grandparents, parents or other relatives; others also report satisfying relations with their elders.
EMOTIONAL ABUSE OF DEPENDENT ELDERLY PERSONS
As people enter late adulthood there is high potential for neglect, and physical and emotional elderly abuse of dependent persons. It can take any form from withholding medications or food to not replacing bed linens to not providing appropriate hygienic environment. Physical abuse may consist of striking, punching, kicking, shoving, shaking, whereas emotional abuse may be of verbal threats, swearing, and insults. Abuse commonly occurs at home and sometimes in institutions; the typical victim is in poor health and shares his space with someone else, could be a person’s spouse, children or grandchildren.
ENSURING SAFETY FOR OLDER ADULTS
Both abusers as well as the victims require some form of treatment, be it individual, group or a family therapy. The main goal is to ensure the safety of dependent older adults who are frail in health and have been victimized. Licensed professionals such as clinical psychologists are obligated by law to report identified cases to the concerned authorities.
EGO INTEGRITY VERSUS DESPAIR IN CLINICAL PRACTICE
In utilizing the psychosocial stages of development as a framework for clinical evaluation, the clinician is able to provide more quality interventions essential to advancing and resolving the stages of development. Knowledge of the changes encountered during late adulthood provide a platform for clinicians to understand their clients as well as provides a foundation for more effective interventions for clients who are currently in the ego integrity versus despair developmental stage.
PRIORITIZING EMOTIONAL GOALS
Older adults are required to prioritize emotional goals and the key players in improving the quality of life are the adults themselves. Exercising, reducing stress, not smoking, limiting the use of alcohol, consuming more fruits and vegetables, and eating less meat and dairy, older adults can expect to live longer and more active lives. Regular exercise is also associated with a lower risk of developing neurodegenerative disorders, especially Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Stress decrease both in late adulthood and earlier in life is also crucial. The diminution of societal stressors can uphold active life expectancy. In the last 40 years, smoking rates have decreased, but obesity has increased, and physical activity has only reasonably.
To assist in the promotion of ego integrity, reminiscence therapy has been deemed a beneficial intervention to improve life quality and to conserve mental health. Interventions such as group socialization and group activities serve as a means of reminiscence therapy and support the idea of ego promotion. The presence of family members also serves as an intervention strategy that promotes ego integrity. The ability to reconnect through socialization and activities when one may be stagnant provides an opportunity to resolve some of the tasks that were not completed in previous stages and assists in providing balance between the integrity versus despair dichotomy.
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