Preface

Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, the 2008 President of the American Psychological Association, stated in the preface to the original "Prolonging Vitality" document that he commissioned:

“As a society, we face many challenges, and we depend on science to help. Whether we seek to halt global climate change, cure devastating diseases, reduce crime, end poverty, diminish health disparities, or achieve vitality in old age, advances in modern science are expected to help.

The science of psychology contributes to deeper understanding of these and many other societal challenges. The American Psychological Association is devoting significant resources and energy to bringing the best of psychological science to the forefront. In partnership with other fields of science, solutions will be found.

This booklet is one in a series, examining the insights of psychological science into challenges facing society. Each booklet focuses on a key challenge, provides a sampling of what we currently know, and suggests promising avenues for future research. The published work of scientists is cited, so that readers can learn more on their own.

We indeed face many challenges, and together we can solve them!”

Given the document’s continued relevance and importance in discussions of the growing U.S. older adult population, the American Psychological Association Committee on Aging updated and revised this publication in 2014.

Introduction

Our society is aging. With Americans living longer, the number of older people in the United States is skyrocketing. By 2030, nearly one in five Americans will be 65 or older. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people aged 85 and older are already the fastest-growing age group in the country.

Making sure that longer lives are healthy lives is one of the grand challenges our society faces. Psychologists are working hard to help older adults of today and tomorrow prolong their vitality.

Psychologists are finding ways to help older people live as independently as possible and stay involved in their workplaces and communities. They are identifying ways to support caregivers and offering suggestions for improving the health care system. They are also exploring the ever-growing diversity of older adults.

This booklet offers examples of the many contributions psychologists are making to the field of aging.

Promoting aging in place

For an older person, small problems like minor memory lapses or poor eyesight can escalate into big ones that lead to the loss of home and community connections for those who lose their ability to live independently. Moving into an assisted-living facility or nursing home also can be costly, both to individuals and society.

Fortunately, psychologists are finding ways to help older people remain as independent as long as possible by making sure that they receive the health care they need right in their homes, and that their homes and communities support rather than hinder their independence.

For example, Neil Charness, PhD and his colleagues with the project Center for Research and Education on Aging and Technology Enhancement site at Florida State University and his colleagues at AFrame Digital working on the  Focus on Living Independently in Good Health thru Telehealth project are focusing on the design and use of telehealth technologies. Their work examines new ways by which older patients and healthcare providers can communicate and whether these new approaches achieve the same or better outcomes than traditional face-to-face healthcare. If telehealth technologies are as  effective or even superior to the traditional approaches, then they could be used to better serve an aging population — especially in rural areas, where health care providers are not readily available. One example being tested is the ‘‘MobileCare Monitor,’’ a real-time monitoring system that includes a wireless wristwatch-based system containing sensors to assess a person’s location within a home, vital signs and gait stability (e.g., falls). Combined with the monitor are a manual panic button function and third-party wireless devices. These third-party wireless devices can include a blood pressure cuff, a weight scale or pulse-oximeter. The goal of these and other monitoring devices is to allow older people to stay in their own homes longer and to help them maintain or potentially enhance their well-being.

Although older persons can be reluctant to embrace new gadgets, they are happy to adopt technology if it is easy to use and will help them retain their independence, notes Dr. Wendy Rogers, an engineering psychologist and director of the Human Factors & Aging Laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. One of the many research projects at the lab is an investigation of the acceptability and perceived usefulness of a home-based assistive robot for helping with tasks such as medication management and household chores.

Other psychologists are working to ensure that entire communities support older residents’ ability to age in place.

For example, the Age-Friendly New York City Initiative aims to assist older citizens in staying healthy, active and connected to the community. As a result of such endeavors, communities around the globe are making changes in their infrastructure and developing public-private partnerships to better serve older residents. Such initiatives include, for example, using larger letters on signs and directions, adjusting the traffic lights at pedestrian crosswalks so that they accommodate older adults’ average walking speed, putting cuts in curbs to make it easier to navigate streets and sidewalks, installing better lighting in public places, offering in-store assistance with shopping and providing shuttle buses.

Ensuring the success of such community initiatives requires academic-community partnerships that involve older persons in making changes. For example, Abby King, PhD, and colleagues at the Stanford Prevention Research Center at Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a computerized tool that engages older residents in identifying neighborhood characteristics that affect active living opportunities. Decision makers could use this type of information to build consensus for changes that will help older people stay healthy and independent in their homes and communities.

Further Reading

Buman, M. P., Winter, S. J., Sheats, J. L., Hekler, E. B., Otten, J. J., Grieco, L. A., & King, A. C. (2013). The Stanford Healthy Neighborhood Discovery Tool: A computerized tool to assess active living environments. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 44(4), e41-47. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2012.11.028

Charness, N, Demiris, G, & Krupinski, E. A. (2011).  Designing telehealth for an aging population: A human factors perspective. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Charness, N., Fox, M., Papadopolous, A., & Crump, C. (2013). Metrics for assessing the reliability of a telemedicine remote monitoring system.  Telemedicine and e-Health, 19(6), 1-6. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2012.0143

Mitzner, T. L., Boron, J. B.,  Fausset, C. B., Adams, A. E., Charness, N., Czaja, S. J., Dijkstra, K., Fisk, A. D., Rogers, W. A., &  Sharit,  J. (2010). Older adults talk technology: Their usage and attitudes. Computers in Human Behavior, 26, 1710-1721.

Netherland, J., Finkelstein, R., & Gardner, P. (2011). The Age-Friendly New York City Project: An environmental intervention to increase aging resilience. In B. Resnick, L. Gwyther, & K.A. Roberto (Eds.), Resilience in aging:  Concepts, research, and outcomes (pp. 273-287). New York, NY: Springer Publishing. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4419-0232-0_18

Prakash, A., Beer, J. M., Deyle, T., Smarr, C. A., Chen, T. L., Mitzner, T. L., Kemp, C. C., & Rogers, W.A. (2013). Older adults’ medication management in the home: How can robots help? Proceedings of the 8th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction, 283-290. doi: 10.1109/HRI.2013.6483600

Encouraging older adults to stay active

Staying physically, cognitively and socially active are among the most important things older adults can do to prolong their vitality. Being active and having a sense of purpose is associated with a host of physical and psychological benefits, including better functional health, greater cognitive alertness and higher life satisfaction and psychological well-being.

Findings from research on the effects of physical exercise, in particular aerobic exercise, are quite promising. The benefits are both physical, including improved cardiovascular health, stronger bones and lower risk of falling, and cognitive. For example, Arthur Kramer, PhD, and colleagues at the Beckman Institute, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign showed that 12 months of aerobic exercise increased the size of older adults’ hippocampus, a region of the brain that is important for memory and learning, and improved their memory. Interestingly, older adults who only engaged in stretching exercises did not achieve either of these benefits. 

Engaging in cognitively challenging activities, such as solving complex problems or playing visually demanding video games, also has beneficial effects. Psychologists, including Karlene Ball, PhD, at the Center for Research on Applied Gerontology, University of Alabama at Birmingham and Sherri Willis, PhD, at the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology, University of Washington, have studied whether cognitive training can improve older adults’ memory and reasoning. Overall, the findings from this work have shown that “old dogs can learn new tricks” and that the effects of training or continuous practice also can be maintained over several years with follow-up booster sessions. 

Finally, staying socially engaged and involved, such as maintaining an active network of friends, taking part in clubs or senior programs, or volunteering in one’s community, has a variety of physical, cognitive, and social-emotional benefits. Here the old adage, “It is better to give than to receive” seems to apply.

The most conclusive evidence of the beneficial effects of social engagement comes from Project Experience Corps, a project that started in Baltimore, Md., and has been adopted in many other cities across the United States. Experience Corps places older adults as volunteers in public elementary schools, where they help to meet the needs of both schools and students. Michelle Carlson, PhD, and colleagues at the Johns Hopkins University Experience Corps have shown that volunteering not only improves older adults’ life satisfaction and psychological well-being but also improves their physical health and cognitive functioning, such as memory and learning. Therefore, meaningful engagement in social activities, such as volunteering or mentoring, goes beyond enhancing social interactions and relationships and is good for the body and the mind.

Further Reading

American Psychological Association, Committee on Aging (2012). Life Plan for the Life Span, 3rd edition. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/aging/lifespan.pdf (PDF, 1.96MB).

Ball, K., Berch, D. B., Helmers, K. F. et al (2002). Effects of cognitive training interventions with older adults: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 288, 2271-2281.

Carlson, M. C., Erickson, K. I., Kramer, A. F., et al (2009). Evidence for neurocognitive plasticity in at-risk older adults: The Experience Corps program. The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 64A, 1275-1282. doi: 10.1093/Gerona/glp117

Carlson, M. C., Saczynski, J. S., Rebok, G. W., et al. (2008). Exploring the effects of an everyday activity program on executive function and memory in older adults: Experience Corps. The Gerontologist, 48, 793-801.

Erickson, K. I., Voss, M. W., Prakash, R. S. (2011). Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108, 3017-3022.

Fried, L. P., Carlson, M. C., Freedman, M., et al. (2004). A social model for health promotion for an aging population: Initial evidence on the Experience Corps model. Journal of Urban Health, 81, 64-78.

Hertzog, C., Kramer, A. F., Wilson, R. S., & Lindenberger, U. (2009). Enrichment effects on adult cognitive development. Can the functional capacity of older adults be preserved and enhanced? Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9, 1-65.

Schaie, K. W., & Willis, S. L. (1986). Can intellectual decline in the elderly be reversed? Developmental Psychology®, 22, 223-232.

Smith, G. E., Housen, P., Yaffe, K. et al. (2009). A cognitive training program based on principles of brain plasticity: Results from the Improvement in Memory with Plasticity-based Adaptive Cognitive Training (IMPACT) Study. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 57, 594-603.

Willis, S. L., Tennstedt, S. L., Marsiske, M. et al. (2006). Long-term effects of cognitive training on everyday functional outcomes in older adults. Journal of the American Medical Association, 296, 2805-2814

Supporting older adults in the workforce

On Jan. 1, 2008, the first of the baby boomers reached age 62 and became eligible for Social Security benefits. For many people in this age group, however, inadequate savings and the recent recession mean retirement is a far-off dream.

But according to psychologist and aging researcher Michael Smyer, PhD, at Bucknell University, and founding director of the Sloan Center on Aging & Work, financial factors are only part of the reason  older adults decide to stay in the workforce. Many in this age group work past the traditional retirement age because they want to. Some older workers are motivated by a desire to stay active or to continue workplace social relationships. For others, it is more a matter of the status and self-esteem a job brings. Still others want to pass on their skills and knowledge, a desire the researchers say may be especially important to this generation, and in the best interest of employers.

Employers should keep these motivations in mind if they want to keep these workers and the valuable experience they have to share, says Smyer. Part-time jobs, bridge employment and flexible policies that allow time for volunteering, for example, could meet older adults’ need to give back to their communities while also staying in the workforce. In response to the needs of older workers, some employers are making their work environment ergonomically more aging friendly (e.g., making adjustments to accommodate changes in vision or hearing), which benefits all employees regardless of age. 

Finding ways to keep older people engaged goes beyond helping individual workers. It could also help the economy, which is facing a workforce shortage and brain drain as older workers with many years of experience and special skills retire.

Encouraging career development for all workers — no matter their age — is one way to keep older workers engaged in the workforce, according to Harvey Sterns, PhD, at the University of Akron. In the past, Sterns explains, most employers did not bother to make training available to older workers. Now employers — and older adults themselves — must recognize that lifelong training is beneficial to the organization as a whole. Employers should offer older employees challenging assignments and evaluate them based on their work merits rather than on stereotypes about older people. 

Employers should also make sure that older people can take full advantage of workplace technology, says psychologist Sara Czaja, PhD, scientific director of the Center on Aging at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and the director of the Center for Research and Education on Aging and Technology Enhancement Center. The rapid technological change that has transformed the workplace can threaten older workers’ sense of self-efficacy and their willingness and ability to actively pursue employment opportunities, she and her colleagues warn. Age-related changes in perception, cognitive abilities and dexterity can make use of technology challenging for some older people as many systems are designed without considering the needs, preferences and abilities of older adults. Fortunately, there are promising fixes. For example, an older person whose arthritis makes it difficult to operate a keyboard or mouse may do just fine with speech-recognition software.

Further Reading

Czaja, S. J., & Sharit, J. (2009). Preparing organizations and older workers for current and future employment: Training and retraining issues. In S. J. Czaja & J. Sharit (Eds.), Aging and Work: Assessment and Implications for the Future (pp. 259-278). Johns Hopkins University Press.

Pew Research Center. (2009, May 14). The oldest are most sheltered. Different age groups, different recessions. Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/recession-and-older-americans.pdf (PDF, 168.1KB).

Rothwell, W., Sterns, H., Spokus, D., & Raeser, J. (2008). Working longer: New strategies for managing, training, and retaining older employees. New York, NY: AMACOM.

Shultz, K. S., & Wang, M. (2011). Psychological perspectives on the changing nature of retirement. American Psychologist®, 66, 170-179. doi:10-137/a0022411

Smyer, M. A., Besen, E., & Pitt-Catsouphes, M. (2008). Boomers and the many meanings of work. In R. Hudson (Ed.), Boomer bust? The new political economy of aging. New York, NY: Praeger.

Sterns, H. L., & Spokus, D. M. (2010). Lifelong learning and the world of work. In P. Taylor (Ed.), Older workers in an aging society. Oxford, UK: Elsevier.

Zhan, Y., Wang, M., Liu, S., & Shultz, K. S. (2009). Bridge employment and retirees’ health: A longitudinal investigation. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology®, 14, 374-389. doi: 10.1037/a0015285 

Supporting family caregivers

Family members are a vital source of support and care for older adults with physical, cognitive and mental health problems. In some families, caregiving for an older relative occurs gradually over time. For others, it can happen overnight. Caregivers may be full- or part-time, live with their older relative or provide care from a distance; and may be family members of any age or relation. Family caregivers provide a wide range of services, from simple help such as grocery shopping, to medical care, to 24-hour supervision and care.

The National Alliance for Caregiving estimates that 65.7 million Americans (29 percent of the United States adult population) identify themselves as family caregivers. About 43.5 million adults care for a relative aged 50 or older, and 14.9 million provide care for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.

According to geropsychologist Bob Knight, PhD at the University of Southern California Davis School of Gerontology/Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center, providing elder care is a complex process that has both positive and negative outcomes. The positive benefits of caregiving include enhanced self-esteem and self-efficacy, an increased sense of purpose and strengthened relationships with the person for whom the care is provided or with other family members. Unfortunately, assuming responsibility for the care of older family members also is burdensome and often results in negative changes in caregivers’ physical and emotional health, financial situation and personal relationships (APA, 2011).

Psychologists are not just studying challenges to caregiving, however. They are also developing practical ways to support older adults and their caregivers. At the national level, APA has developed the Family Caregivers Briefcase, a web-based resource for assisting family caregivers through individual and organizational practice, research, teaching, advocacy and community service.

Sara Honn Qualls, PhD, and her colleagues at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs developed an intervention designed specifically for families of older adults. Caregiver Family Therapy (CFT) assists families with recognizing, interpreting and taking action to address symptoms of age-related impairment while continuing to meet the needs of multiple family members. Simply put, CFT works to identify the problem in the family and restructure the family so that members meet the elder’s needs and support each other in caregiving.

Issues of diversity are also becoming increasingly important in the area of caregiving. Dolores Gallagher-Thompson, PhD, of the Stanford University School of Medicine, and her colleagues have demonstrated the effectiveness of a self-paced DVD and workbook developed specifically for Chinese-American caregivers. In the DVD, Mandarin-speaking actors depict effective — and ineffective — ways to handle stressful caregiving situations.  

Of course, older people are not just recipients of care. They also serve as caregivers themselves, providing care to spouses, adult children with disabilities, grandchildren and other relatives and friends who need help. The number of grandparents with custody of their grandchildren, for example, is growing dramatically. When grandparents assume the parental role, they may need support from community service providers to help manage the stress of parenting in late life. Gregory Smith, PhD, at Kent State University and his colleagues across the United States are promoting interventions with grandparents that take a strength-based approach designed to support and enhance the resilience of these caregivers.  

Further Reading

American Psychological Association. (2011). Resolution on Family Caregivers. Retrieved from http://preview.apa.org/pi/about/publications/caregivers/index.aspx

American Psychological Association, Presidential Task Force on Caregivers (2011). APA Family Caregivers Briefcase. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/about/publications/caregivers/index.aspx

Gallagher-Thompson, D., Wang, P. C., Liu, W., Cheung, V., Peng, R., China, D., & Thompson, L. W. (2010). Effectiveness of a psychoeducational skill training DVD program to reduce stress in Chinese American dementia caregivers: Results of a preliminary study. Aging and Mental Health, 14, 263-273. doi: 0.1080/13607860903420989

Hayslip, B., Jr., & Smith, G. (Eds.). (2013). Resilient grandparent caregivers: A strengths-based perspective. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Knight, B. G., & Sayegh, P. (2010). Cultural values and caregiving: The updated sociocultural stress and coping model. The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 65, 5-13. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbp096.

Qualls S. H., & Zarit, S. H. (Eds.). (2009). Aging families and caregiving. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Qualls, S. H. & Williams, A. A. (2013). Caregiver Family Therapy: Empowering families to meet the challenges of aging. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Recognizing older people’s diversity

In recent decades, psychologists have been giving increasing attention to the diversity of the aged population. Personal characteristics, such as age, gender, class, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation, as well as broader attributes of place, culture and migration intersect and can have both positive and negative influences on the physical, psychological and social well-being of older adults. 

According to the 2010 Census, women comprised approximately 57 percent of the population aged 65 and older. At age 85, there were 203 women for every 100 men. Thus, gender is an important issue in late life, particularly for the oldest-old.

About 21.0 percent of older adults were members of racial or ethnic minority populations: 9 percent were African-Americans, and 4 percent were Asian or Pacific Islander. Less than 1 percent were American Indian or Native Alaskan, and 0.6 percent identified themselves as being of two or more races. Approximately 7 percent of the older population was of Hispanic origin. Diversity also exists within each of these broad groups of older adults.

Population projections consistently show that with the aging of the population, the proportion of older adults who are White, non-Hispanic will decline substantially, whereas the proportion of older adults who are Black/African-American, Asian or Hispanic will increase. Psychologist James Jackson, PhD, at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research has investigated cultural and societal influences, such as experienced discrimination, and has shown that they affect the health and well-being of individuals who belong to racial and ethnic minorities. This creates both opportunities and challenges for eradicating health and social disparities commonly found among minority elders.

Between 1.4 and 4 million older Americans are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). Existing research, albeit limited, suggests that older LGBT adults are satisfied with their lives but face discrimination based on their sexual orientation as well as their age. LGBT older adults are a resilient but at-risk population, as they tend to face higher rates of physical and mental distress and exhibit poorer health behaviors when compared to older heterosexuals. Psychologists and other professionals are just now beginning to pay greater attention to LGBT elders’ health, housing, caregiving and social needs. For example, Linda Travis, PhD, is a psychologist conducting training on cultural competence for interdisciplinary health care professionals working in geriatric medicine. Through the Arizona Geriatric Education Center at the University of Arizona, Travis developed a fact sheet on LGBT aging entitled What You Should Know about LGBT Older Adults (PDF, 321KB).

Approximately 20 percent of residents in rural areas are aged 65 or older. Although rural communities differ by their geographic location and population, most older rural residents face similar challenges with regard to a depressed economy and limited health care for prevention, management and treatment of physical and mental conditions. Often characterized as having a strong sense of self-reliance, traditionalism, religiosity and family connection, their psychological and social support needs often go unmet when geographic isolation and resource limitations are prevalent. Thus, policymakers and service providers must consider the interactive roles of culture and environment in the design and implementation of services for older adults in rural areas. 

Further Reading 

Administration on Aging (2012). A profile of older Americans: 2012. Retrieved from http://www.aoa.gov/AoARoot/%28S%282ch3qw55k1qylo45dbihar2u%29%29/Aging_Statistics/Profile/2012/docs/2012profile.pdf

American Psychological Association. (2013). Multicultural Aging Resource Guide. Retrieved from http://preview.apa.org/pi/aging/resources/guides/multicultural.aspx 

American Psychological Association, Committee on Aging. (2009). Multicultural Competency in Geropsychology. Retrieved from http://preview.apa.org/pi/aging/programs/pipeline/multicultural-geropsychology.aspx Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Glasgow, N. & Berry, E.H. (Eds.) (2013). Rural aging in 21st century America. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Jackson, J. S., Brown, E., & Antonucci, T. C. (2004). A cultural lens on biopsychosocial models of aging. In P. Costa & I. Siegler (Eds.), Advances in Cell Aging and Gerontology (Vol. 15, pp. 221-241). New York, NY: Elsevier.

Kimmel, D., Rose, T., & David, S. (Eds.). (2006). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender aging: Research and clinical perspectives. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Whitfield, K., & Baker, T. (Eds.). (2013). Handbook of minority aging. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Transforming the health care system

As previously noted, the number and proportion of older adults are growing rapidly. This will have implications for the provision for health care services. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults currently account for one third of all physician visits and more than one-third of all health care expenditures. In addition, approximately 80 percent of older adults have one chronic medical condition, and 50 percent have at least two which require long-term management. Yet the health care system is unable to meet the needs of today’s older people, let alone the anticipated growth of the population.

All too often, older adults receive poor-quality care for their health problems, both physical and mental. Fragmentation of the health care system is one reason for this poor care. While most health care professionals now recognize the interconnection of physical and psychological factors in their patients’ lives, that understanding is only rarely reflected in the way they practice. Our health care system is predominantly individualistic and individual provider-patient based. Therefore, older patients who have multiple health conditions see different health care providers for each condition, and the providers rarely communicate with each other — or are even aware of each other.

Unless we are creative about how we meet older adults’ physical and mental health needs, they and their families will be underserved, poorly cared for and at risk of increased and unnecessary health care problems.

Evidence suggests that integrated care models, which integrate psychologists and other mental health providers within non-mental health settings such as primary care, senior services and churches, can enhance access to services, improve quality of care, improve health and lower overall healthcare expenditures.  Psychologist, Patricia Areán, PhD, and colleagues at the University of San Diego San Francisco, have found that models that incorporate psychology techniques and psychologists as team members are effective, particularly for underserved populations.

For example, within the Department of Veterans Affairs, several initiatives have advanced integrated care. All Home Based Primary Care programs and Community Living Centers (skilled nursing care facilities) are required to have mental health providers embedded in the teams, as well as within general outpatient primary care programs. As noted by Antonette Zeiss, PhD, co-chair of the APA’s Presidential Task Force that developed “Blueprint for Change: Achieving Integrated Health Care for an Aging Population" (2008) (PDF, 2.44MB) and former Deputy Chief Consultant for Mental Health Services in the VA Central Office in Washington, D.C., psychologists bring critical skills and services to integrated health care teams, including psychological and cognitive assessment, knowledge of normal and pathological aging, knowledge of the effectiveness of psychotherapy and behavioral interventions, research and evaluation skills, and experience in the application of conflict resolution skills to enhance team functioning

Psychologists and other geriatric health care professionals have called for the expansion of integrated health care for older adults to meet the needs of our growing aging population. This call is beginning to be heard. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 places an emphasis on co-location of primary care services in mental health settings, interdisciplinary health care teams, and patient-centered medical homes. In 2012, the Institute of Medicine’s report, “The Mental Health and Substance Use Workforce for Older Adults: In Whose Hands?” highlighted these models in addressing the physical and mental health needs of older adults.

Further Reading

American Psychological Association, Committee on Aging (2009). Integrated Health Care for an Aging Population: A Fact Sheet for Policymakers. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/aging/programs/integrated/IHAP-factsheet-policymakers.pdf (PDF, 1.46MB)

American Psychological Association, Presidential Task Force on Integrated Health Care for an Aging Population. (2008). Blueprint for Change: Achieving Integrated Health Care for an Aging Population. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/aging/programs/integrated/integrated-healthcare-report.pdf (PDF, 2.44MB)

Arean P.A., Ayalon L., Hunkeler E., et al. (2005). Improving depression care for older, minority patients in primary care. Med Care, 43(4), 381-390.

Areán, P.A., & Gum, A.M. (2013). Psychologists at the table in health care reform: The case of geropsychology and integrated care. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice®, 44(3), 142-149.  doi: 10.1037/a00318

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011). Healthy Aging: Helping people to live long and productive lives and enjoy a good quality of life. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/aag/aging.htm#aag

Cherry, D., Lucas, C., & Decker, S. L. (2010). Population Aging and the Use of Office-based Physician Services. Hyattsville, Md.: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Institute of Medicine (2012). The Mental Health and Substance Use Workforce for Older Adults: In Whose Hands? Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

Looking to the future

In response to the unprecedented growth and diversity in the older population in the United States and across the globe, the roles and functions of psychologists are expanding rapidly. Be it through their scientific research, clinical practice, teaching or collaborations with other healthcare professionals, educators or policymakers, psychologists will continue to play a major role in promoting the vitality and quality of life of all older adults.