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Life Events and Stress - Future Directions

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With its long history, life events research has progressed a great deal and provided important information from both theoretical and practical perspectives. The study of life events in late life has produced promising results and findings that challenge conventional stereotypes about the vulnerability of older persons. Conceptual sophistication about aging and the life course is evident in the attention that has been paid to the different occurrence of, and reactions to, life events in later life.

However, research on life events and aging has lagged behind that of the broader field in terms of methodology. For example, few studies of life events in older adults have utilized longitudinal assessments and frequent individualized interviews to avoid problems of retrospective recall. While sophisticated methods have been developed and applied to the study of life events in psychiatric and medical disorders in younger people, little is known about how life events may trigger relapse or recurrence of these disorders In the elderly. Studies of older adults should borrow heavily from methods that have been refined in studies of younger persons.

A particular need is for more clinically relevant research on life events and aging, with the goal of promoting an empirically based practice of clinical geropsychology. Evidence to date suggests that older adults respond well to cognitive-behavioral or psychoeducational intervention programs that teach specific skills in coping with life events and chronic strains, and that research on life events provides valuable information for clinicians designing and implementing such intervention programs. However, interventions for bereavement in older adults have shown disappointing results to date, serving an example of an area in which clinicians need better research information to improve clinical practice for older adults.

YURI JANG WILLIAM E. HALEY

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