Other Free Encyclopedias » Medicine Encyclopedia » Aging Healthy - Part 4 » Optimization Selection and Compensation - Basic Assumptions Underlying The Soc Model, The Model Of Selection, Optimization, And Compensation

Optimization Selection and Compensation - Basic Assumptions Underlying The Soc Model

age aging developmental social genetic age resources life goals

There are a number of basic assumptions underlying the use of the SOC model as a model of successful aging. Life-span psychology holds that development comprises developmental trajectories of growth (gains e.g., the acquisition of language) and decline (losses e.g., decline in health in old age). A person’s internal and external resources are, at each point of life, finite. Very broadly, resources can be defined as personal or environmental characteristics that support a person’s interaction with his or her environment.

There are age-related changes that occur in the availability and efficiency of resources. The ratio of gains to losses becomes less positive with age because resources are replenished less often and drawn upon more exhaustively with increasing age. This reduction in resources occurs because: (1) advantages of evolutionary selection decline across the life span; (2) the need for culture (i.e., in the Vygotskian tradition, a set of socially constructed behaviors, beliefs, and objects) increases across the life span; and (3) the efficacy of culture decreases across the life span—particularly in old age. Each of these points is discussed below.

Life expectancy has only fairly recently extended into old age. Because evolutionary selection benefits decrease with age, there is less effective genetic material, mechanisms, and expressions for developing or maintaining high levels of functioning. In addition, most modern cultures do not provide the same richness of opportunities to older persons as are provided to younger members of society. This is in spite of the fact that cultural opportunities are especially needed by older adults to compensate for biologically based decreases in functioning. Moreover, due to reduced resources, older adults can make lesser use of supportive environmental conditions. Because of these factors, the balance of growth and decline becomes less favorable with increasing age. Thus, in old age, individuals have to allocate more of their resources to the maintenance of functioning and providing resilience against losses, rather than into processes of growth.

The (pro)active role of the individual in successful aging. How do people efficiently use their resources to promote continued growth and the maintenance of functioning in the face of losses when approaching old age? People not only react to environmental demands, but they also shape their environment to fit their needs. One important way in which individuals play an active role in their development is by choosing, committing to, and pursuing a set of goals (e.g., wanting to stay healthy). What kinds of goals a person selects is in part determined by sociocultural, biological, and phylogenetic factors. The lesser the influence stemming from these factors, the more degrees of freedom a person has to develop and choose his or her goals (and ways of pursuing them). In old age, there are fewer normative age-related expectations about the goals a person ought to pursue. This relative greater social freedom in old age gives more weight to goal selection and goal pursuit as processes of developmental regulation. On the other hand, old age is also characterized by diminishing resources that might limit the degree to which a person is able to shape the environment according to his or her goals. Thus, in old age it seems particularly crucial to wisely select the goal domains on which to focus one’s resources.

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