DEP 3464 - Psychology of Aging DEP 3464 - Psychology of Aging
Richard D. Tucker, Ph.D, Professor of Psychology

Office Hours: 11-12 M, T, W Office: Phillips Hall 302 D
or call (407) 823-2566(voice mail) or e-mail:

Course Description - The purpose of this course is to provide both a general introduction to the multi-disciplinary field of gerontology and a specific focus on those aspects of aging behavior that have been of particular interest to psychologists, namely, learning and memory, intellectual behaviors, personality, psychopathology and clinical intervention. While the primary purpose of the course is to provide a theoretical and empirical basis for understanding the aging process, it is expected that students will also be exposed to aging from an experiential perspective. Much of this will be accomplished via "celluloid fieldtrips", but the use of a periodic journal is intended to heighten personal awareness of issues in aging. Specific course objectives and the means of evaluating their attainment are listed at the end of the course outline.

TEXT: Adult Development and Aging (1996) Papalia, Camp and Feldman, McGraw Hill.

Tentative Schedule


5/12 -General introduction to course objectives and means of evaluation.

5/13 - Introduction to Gerontology and the Demographics of Aging. Florida to world perspectives on aging.

5/14 - Models of aging and the multiple meanings of aging. Age normative, history normative, and non-normative influences on development. The biopsychosocial model.

Readings: Preface and Chapter 1

Audio-visual: "Caring for the Aging Society"; "Myths and Realities of Aging/Growing Old in a New Age"

5/18 - Research Methods in Gerontology. The importance of "cohort"; Age differences vs. age changes. Research designs to explore aging issues. Age by treatment interaction. Behavioral plasticity.

Readings: Chapter 2

Audio-Visual: Taped interviews with 83 & 100 year old.

5/19 - Test #1 (first part of class)

5/19 - The Biology & Physiology of Aging

5/20 Primary vs. secondary aging; life-style and longevity

5/21 (use it or lose it). Decline vs. dysfunction. Theories of aging; the search for immortality; life span vs. life expectancy. Rectangular survival curve.

5/26Sexuality and aging - the interaction of physiological and psychological factors.

5/27 Readings: Chaps. 3 & 4 (pp. 136-139 also to be covered in last unit.) Also, Chap. 9, p. 348.

Audio-visual: "Towards Immortality~; "How The Body Ages"; "Maximizing Physical Potential"; "Sexuality and Aging".

5/28 - Test #2 (first part of class)

5/28 - Information Processing: Perception, Attention and Memory Implications from the laboratory to life. The aging driver. Human factors and aging.

Exercise: Debate: Should driver license renewal be different for the elderly?

Readings: Article by Dr. Smither and other handouts

6/1 - Learning and Memory Across Adulthood Revisiting age by treatment interactions


6/3 Creating cognitive prosthetic environments ; Information processing and adult cognition.

Readings: Chapter 5.

Audio-visual: "Memory: The long and short of it"; Interview with B.F. Skinner; "Learning, Memory and Speed of Behavior"

6/4 - Intelligence, Creativity and Wisdom Across Adulthood Intellectual behaviors and aging: myths and realities. Intelligence and everyday life: implications for adult education and lifelong learning.

Readings: Chap 6; 7, pp. 240-247; 254-264; 8, pp. 284-289.

Class visit/discussion: members of LIFE at UCF (tenta.)

Audio-visual: "Intellect, Personality and Mental Health"

6/8 - Test #3 (first part of class)

6/8 - Psychosocial Aspects of Aging

Personality and aging: change or stability? Stages and

6/9 traits: reviewing the major studies. Charting the life course over generations.

6/10 Ingredients of successful aging: role of adaptation. The empty nest: when life begins? Grandparenthood;

6/11 aging parents and the "sandwich generation"; widowhood; Psychosocial aspects of retirement, identity continuity.

Readings: Chap. 11; 12, pp. 455-462; 10, pp. 363-380; 13, pp. 506-513; 9, pp. 351-356; 8, pp. 298-300, 304-317.

Audio-Visual: "Successful Aging, Part II"; (I,P & MH) "Personality"; "Social Roles and Relationships".

Note: Final Papers due June 15

6/15 - Psychopathology and Aging

Drugs, alcohol and aging: Abuse or misuse.

6/16 Depression and suicide in the elderly. Elder abuse. Alzheimer's Disease and related memory disorders:

6/17 etiology, diagnosis and treatment.

Readings: Chap. 12, pp. 445-455; 463-485; 4, pp. 136-139; 13, pp. 514-525.

Audio-visual: ~Drugs and the Elderly"; "Depression and the Elderly"; "Waves of Stone"; "Losing it All".

6/18 - Test #4 and review for comprehensive final (review materials to be given out in class)

6/22 - Comprehensive Final Exam (last 1 1/2 hrs. of class)

DEP 3464 - Psychology of Aging

Evaluation Guidelines

1. Unit Tests: As noted on the syllabus, there will be four unit tests covering materials presented in class and from assigned readings from the text. These tests will be a combination of different objective items (multiple choice, true/false, matching, and/or identification). You will be provided with samples of tests given in previous terms. The unit tests will constitute 40% of the final grade, each test comprising 10% of that total.

2. Journal: Each student will keep a journal in which entries will be placed at least six times regularly spaced over the semester (the first is due 5/18 and then each week after that). These entries are to note instances in which you encounter some event which has relevance for your understanding of aging. This may be a personal experience (past or current) involving your interaction with an older adult, or someone whose comments reflect understanding, or lack of such, regarding aging. The event may be something which you read, see or hear in any of a wide variety of media (newspaper, magazine, radio, TV, movies, the WEB, etc.). Your journal entry should do two things: 1) it should describe the event/experience; and 2) it should contain your personal evaluative comments on how this informs you about one's understanding - or misunderstanding - of the aging process. Your entries and comments should be concise while adequately describing the event and its significance. Your entries do not have to be literary masterpieces, but they should clearly communicate your observations and evaluative comments. Your entries tie your observations and comments to the terms and issues covered in the particular unit we are covering. It is assumed that your journal entries will "mature" over the term as your own knowledge of aging increases. Journals are to be typed/word-processed and limited to not more than two pages, double-spaced. They may be submitted directly by e-mail to my UCF address: "". Journals will be judged on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory +/- basis, across a range from U, S-, S, S/S+ and S+. "Satisfactory" is defined as being 1) concise; 2) clearly communicative; 3) knowledgeable in terminology; and 4) insightful. Criteria 3 & 4 will be weighed more heavily as the term proceeds and will distinguish between S and S+ evaluations. Journals will constitute 25% of your grade (an average of S+=23-25; S/S+=20-22; S=17-19; S-=14-16 and U = 13 or less).

3. Comprehensive Final Exam: As noted in the syllabus, the comprehensive final exam on June 22 after the last unit test and some period for review. At least half of the final will involve identification of the key terms, theories and contributors as highlighted throughout the term. A summary of those terms will be provided during the review session in the last class. The remainder of the test will be objective in format and will sample a subset of the previous unit test materials. In essence, the comprehensive final should be an opportunity for you to improve (or at the very least, maintain) the level of performance on your unit tests. The final will constitute 15% of your final grade.

4. Final Paper (20 % of final grade)

a. Critical Review Option: This option provides you an opportunity to explore in detail some course topic of special interest to you. Your review will involve a critical analysis of the topic, citing relevant research, and relating this to whatever cross-cutting issues are appropriate to your topic. It should also integrate into the paper appropriate reference to your text and/or class material. You should have a minimum of ten library-based references from primary sources including journal articles (you may include but should not be limited to book chapters). Your topic should be submitted for feedback no later than June 1 and "drafts" may be submitted up to one week prior to the due date . Copies of papers from previous terms will be available on library reserve as "models". It is expected that papers will be 8-10 pages long, typed and double-spaced. The final version of your paper is due no later than June 15.

b. Case Study Option: This option is described in detail on the attached sheet. It is expected that your case study will be written in an integrated manner, and not simply a direct expansion of the suggested outline. An especially important part of your paper is your "concluding summary" wherein you tie your case study observations to relevant course content, including appropriate cross-cutting issues. Of course, these "concluding summary" comments do not have to come at the end of your paper, but could instead form an organizing framework for the entire case study. Copies of case studies from previous terms are available on reserve as "models". You may submit drafts of your case study up to one week prior to the final due date for feedback. Your final version is due no later than June 15.

5. Class Attendance and "Make-up Test" Policy/Expectations:

Although class attendance carries no specific weighting in your grade, it is important for you to know that your instructor values and expects your attendance in class. The instructor has enough ego invested in the course to feel that what is presented is important. It is also very clear that you can not make any contribution to class discussion if you are not there. Attendance will be taken each class period. When final grades are calculated, students who are on the "borderline", and have attended regularly, will be given the benefit of the doubt; those who have not, will not. Plan your time accordingly.

Since unit test dates are announced well in advance on the syllabus, you are expected to be present for the tests, and no "make-ups" are allowed, unless there is a documented emergency and/or arrangements are made in advance. My phone number is listed on the syllabus and has "voice mail" so a message can always be left if I am not in my office.


The most important thing is to communicate with me!!


DEP 3464 - Psychology of Aging

Course Objectives and Means of Evaluation

Objective #1: Identify and use the basic vocabulary in gerontology and the psychology of aging, including "memorable" terms, theories, and key contributors.

Evaluation: Each unit test will include the identification of key terms, theories and contributors. In addition, other objective (typically multiple choice) items will include usage of these terms in the context of general information. The comprehensive final will have an identification section of at least 70 terms, theories and contributors. Knowledgeable use of the acquired vocabulary will be evaluated in the context of the other evaluation measures used with the other course objectives, including your journal entries.

Objective #2: Describe and illustrate four cross-cutting issues as they apply to the biological, psychological and social aspects of aging.

Evaluation: Each unit test will include specific questions requiring description and illustration of at least one of the cross-cutting (recurring) issues as it applies to the subject matter of that unit. Additional evaluation of this objective will occur in the context of the journals and final paper options.

Objective #3: Analyze four real-life problems/issues related to aging (e.g., driving restrictions, changing retirement age, sexuality, intergenerational conflict, life-long learning or retraining, etc.) drawing upon appropriate theories and data to support your conclusions.

Evaluation: Each unit test will include multiple questions requiring analysis of an issue/problem related to aging. More extensive analysis would also be evaluated in the context of the final paper.

Objective #4: Critically review one major area iu aging relating it to appropriate cross-cutting issues, theories and data.

Evaluation: The final paper will represent a critical review of a topic of your choice, or a detailed case study. It is viewed as a cumulative product in which the vocabulary of gerontology is used in a knowledgeable manner, and the cross-cutting issues are addressed in detail, along with relevant reference to either 1) the research pertaining to your topic for the research paper option; or 2) appropriate text/class material and/or research.

Objective #5: Increase personal awareness of issues in aging and the aging process

Evaluation: Each student will keep a journal in which notation and evaluative comment will be made of events occurring regularly during the term (including personal experiences and interactions, material read/heard/seen in the media, etc.) which heighten personal awareness of issues in aging and the aging process. The case study option also provides another opportunity to increase personal awareness of issues in aging.

DEP 3464 - Psychology of Aging


Cross-Cutting Issues

1. Age differences vs. age changes : The importance of cohort.

Separating the effects of age from the effects of cohort. How is our understanding of "aging" affected by the culturally-determined, history-effected, characteristics of the specific "aged" population we are studying? How is the methodology used to collect information/data influencing what we know and infer?

2. Plasticity of behavior.

What are our assumptions about the ability of behavior to be changed, especially among older adults? What are the implications of these assumptions for our expectations for older adults, in terms of physical, cognitive and social behaviors? What evidence is needed to support our assumptions about "plasticity"?

3. Primary aging vs. secondary aging.

What aspects of behavioral change that we observe are due to the inevitable effects of the aging process itself, and what are due to other effects (disease, disuse, misuse and abuse) over which there may be individual or societal influence (eg. life-style, attitudes)? How true is the dictum "use it or lose it"? What evidence do we need to evaluate the difference between primary and secondary aging? How might our understanding of that change with each succeeding cohort?

4. Behavioral decline vs. behavioral dysfunction.

Even if there are inevitable changes in behavior associated with aging, what is the functional significance of these changes in terms of the ability of the individual to maintain independence of behavior? What are the contextual determinants of being "functional" from the standpoint of physical, cognitive and social functioning?

5. Continuity vs. discontinuity of behavior.

To what extent does behavior, especially personality and cognitive style, really change over time? To what extent is aging to be viewed over a life-span perspective? Are changes in physical functioning associated with changes in personality and cognition? What evidence do we need to be adequately informed on this issue?

DEP 3464 - Psychology of Aging


Psychological Assessment of Older Adults

Suggested Format for the Detailed Case Study/Final Paper Option


Case Study Option: Write a psychosocial history of an older friend, family member, or acquaintance who is at least 75 years old. This will entail the person's history, strengths, and weaknesses as they relate to his/her current challenges/issues of aging. Your case history should include appropriate "Personal Characteristics" and "Informal Support System Characteristics" included below. You should not identify the individual by name, and generally should protect confidentiality while providing descriptive information.

The paper should clearly and knowledgeably utilize terms that have been covered throughout the course as you write your paper. Either within the context of the psychosocial history, or in a concluding section, you should clearly identify and evaluate the various cross-cutting issues and themes in aging that are reflected by this history. You should pay particular attention to life-span development, and how earlier patterns of behavior and attitudes are reflected in current behaviors and patterns of adaptation. You should also definitely address the issues of primary vs. secondary aging, and clearly point out cohort effects for this individual.

Your paper should be 8-10 typed pages (double spaced) and will be due no later than the time indicated in the syllabus.


I. Personal Characteristics

1. Demographic Data

Age, Sex, Race, Religion, Socioeconomic Status

Place of Birth and Primary Language

How supported financially

2. Health Status

Self-reported Health Status in comparison to age peers

Any marked changes in health status in past 5-10 years

Effects of health status on daily functioning

Adjustment/coping strategies to deal with changes

3. Functional Data

Ability in ADL (Activities in Daily Living, i.e., doing every day things like bathing, cooking, etc.)

Mental status (cognitive functioning and emotional well- being) based on their assessment as well as your own.

Any changes from previous levels of functioning and means

of adapting to those changes

Home management

Social interactions

Financial management

4. Living Arrangements

Where living and with whom? How long?

Who is available if assistance is needed

Safety and accessibility of living environment

5. Social World

Who makes up "social world" of the individual

Number of friends, how often seen, nature of relationship

Social activities, groups to which person belongs

Any changes in this "social world" in past 5-10 years


6. Personal History


Work History

Marital (family) history; # of children/grandchildren

Relationships with significant others

Areas in which individual has/had interests and finds

or found pleasure

7. Personality Characteristics

Coping styles



Expectations of self, of others, of systems

Ability to utilize resources/services available


II. Informal Support System Characteristics

1. Family

Who is family?

Relationships? Age? Particular situation

Where do family members live?

Who is available to individual and what for?

How willing is family to provide support to individual?

Is family able to provide support?

What is individual's expectations for family support?

What would help family interactions?

Family history with the individual

2. Neighbors/Friends

Who does individual count on for help in the neighborhood?

What kind of support do neighbors/friends provide?

What are their capabilities/limitations to do this?

3. Informal Groups

Church groups


Self-help groups (caregiver support groups, etc.)


III. Other

Include here any other information not covered above that would help in understanding this individual's aging and life-span development.


IV. Concluding Summary

See general suggestions/guidelines noted on first page. Note that a "concluding summary" may not be needed if the cross-cutting issues are integrated throughout the paper.