Aging as a life-span development


Baltes, Paul B. (1987). Theoretical propositions of life-span developmental psychology: On the dynamics between growth and decline. Developmental Psychology, 23(5), 616.

The concern with an ongoing, developmental dynamic of positive (gains) and negative (losses) change has spurred new research in life-span work. One example is the attempt to specify a general process of adaptation that would represent the lifelong nature of development as a gain / loss relation. Some of this work (M. Baltes, 1987; Baltes et al., 1984; Dixon & Baltes, 1986) has outlined a theoretical framework that is aimed at making explicit the dynamic relation between gain and loss in development. In Table 2, what is described for the case of cognitive aging is perhaps a prototypical change mechanism of „successful aging“ — selective optimization with compensation. The process of selective optimization with compensation has three features, each indicative of a gain / loss relation:

(a) continual evolution of specialized forms of adaptation as a general feature
of life-span development;
(b) adaptation to the conditions of biological and social aging with its increasing
limitation of plasticity; and
(c) individual selective and compensatory efforts dealing with evolving deficits
for the purpose of life mastery and effective aging.