I opted to look at Joanie’s life through the lens of life-span developmental theory. Life-span developmental theory, as described by Paul Baltes, espouses that the individual continues to develop over the course of a life time through a series of multidirectional gains and losses (Baltes, 1987). Life-span developmental theory encompasses biological, cognitive and psychological changes that occur within an individual over time (Wahl et al., 2012). Baltes and associates asserted that there are differences between normal, pathological and optimal aging, with optimal aging enriching development in an environment that best meets the need of older adults (Schroots,1996). In regard to aging, Baltes also believes in the heterogeneity of individuals, latent reserve capacity and loss in reserve capacity or adaptability (Schroots, 1996). Baltes asserted that crystalized knowledge can serve to compensate for some of the age related loss of fluid knowledge (Schroots, 1996). Life-span developmental theory contends that there is a balance between gains and losses over the developmental course with increases in losses over time (Baltes, 1987). In addition, the older person remains resilient and seeks to find ways to cope with losses associated with aging (Schroots, 1996).
In interviewing Joanie, I was certainly able to see that she is truly an individual, not to be compared with any other person her age. She has been shaped by her own experiences and is aging on her own path. In looking at optimal aging, I would say that she may be normally aging and not necessarily optimally aging. Joanie has found ways to continue to grow and develop through employment, political activism and socialism with peer groups. Environmentally speaking, Joanie is living in an environment that prohibits her from travel a great deal of the time due to weather conditions. This would not be described as environmentally friendly. Joanie has proved to be resilient as she has come back from significant incapacity with her knees. She also maintains a very good memory regarding events from many years ago and can draw on her prior experiences to continue to perform in the workplace but has some difficultly with day to day memory and learning new skills which is in keeping with Baltes’ assertions on crystallized vs. fluid intelligence (Baltes, 1987).
Selective optimization with compensation is a key tenet of the life-span developmental theory as relate to aging (Baltes, 1987). This describes how a person can compensate for normal age related losses by focusing more on a reduced number or range of important goals (Donnellan, 2015). Time and energy can then be invested in goal directed activities, acquisition or practice of skills (Donnellan, 2015). Adaptation or compensatory mechanisms develop in order for a person to manage growing deficits (Baltes, 1987). This can result in an aging person maintaining the ability to complete activities deemed important despite loss of energy or limited capacity (Schroots, 1996).
Joanie has indicated that she has some memory issues. To address this, she tends to keep the number of things she needs to keep track of to a minimum, keeps a manageable schedule and uses lists, and other reminder techniques to keep her on track. Joanie’s physical limitations may be too overwhelming should she attempt to maintain a schedule that she did in years past. She reduces activity in weather that is too hot or too cold. Joanie will also choose not to work on a day before she has a trip planned, so she is not too tired to enjoy her trip. These are examples of how she is identifying her losses, building on her strengths and making adjustments accordingly toward aging well and is selective optimization with compensation in action.
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