Psychology: Posts

February Authors of the Month: Peter G. Coleman & Ann O'Hanlon

Peter G. Coleman & Ann O'Hanlon are our Routledge Psychology Authors of the Month for February! Read our exclusive interview and learn more about the new edition of their book Aging and Development.

"Aging of course is accompanied by loss but it is in the process of adjustment and adaptation that older people often show their best qualities, demonstrating a resilience which often exceeds younger people’s expectations of old age."

We were very pleased to be invited to contribute a second edition of our book on Aging to the Routledge series of ‘International Texts in Developmental Psychology’. It is precisely the developmental perspective on aging that we wish to strengthen. Too much writing about aging tends to dwell on the negatives and psychological texts in particular have concentrated on decline in cognitive functioning, dementia, and mental health disorders such as depression. There is a contrasting positive tradition of thinking about aging which emphasises the potential of the later years of life for continued emotional and spiritual growth and development of new social possibilities. Current research supports this perspective, showing for example that satisfaction with life in most western societies peaks in the later years.

Aging of course is accompanied by loss but it is in the process of adjustment and adaptation that older people often show their best qualities, demonstrating a resilience which often exceeds younger people’s expectations of old age. Of course not all older people are equally resilient – in fact variation increases markedly with age – however understanding better how positive developments and successful adaptations occur provides clues for helping those who find the experience of aging more difficult.

In our second edition we have been able to capitalise on a much expanded research base established since our first edition thirteen years ago. In particular there has been a huge expansion in literature on the last decades of life, as a result of a new generation of longitudinal studies coming to fruition which have followed people into their eighties, nineties and becoming centenarians. Theories and research on emotional aspect of aging have also shown a marked increase, very welcome in light of the previous emphasis on cognitive decline, and more often than not demonstrating older people’s enhanced capacity to regulate their emotions well.

Of recent Routledge psychology books we have particularly enjoyed Patrick Rabbitt’s ‘The Aging Mind. An Owner’s Manual’ (2015), an insightful and witty analysis of common experiences of aging by one of the pioneers in research on aging who is now an octogenarian himself. One of us admits a personal bias since he was his tutee half a century ago! His book may not emphasise as much as we do the positive character of aging but it certainly provides an example of a wise product of age and experience.

Peter Coleman is intending to write more in the future about people’s own accounts of aging, using their own words as can be found in personal correspondence and other autobiographical accounts of later life.

Ann O’Hanlon is currently working on a series of four manuals promoting mental health in the community
Peter G. Coleman is Emeritus Professor of Psychogerontology at the University of Southampton, where he previously held a joint appointment between the medical school and social sciences. He has pioneered teaching on developmental aspects of aging within the UK, and made numerous research contributions to the field, including on the functions of reminiscence and spirituality in later life. He earlier obtained Masters and PhD qualifications at Oxford and London universities and then worked for five years at a research institute on aging in Nijmegen, The Netherlands before taking up a position in Southampton.
Ann O'Hanlon is a psychologist and CBT therapist, who works clinically in both the NHS and privately through TheICanCentre which operates on both sides of the Irish border (including Belfast, Newry and Dundalk). She pursued postgraduate clinical studies at Queens University, Belfast. Previously she conducted Masters and PhD studies in Southampton and subsequently was a researcher and teacher for five years each both at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin and the Institute of Technology in Dundalk.

Aging and Development

  • Aging and Development

    Social and Emotional Perspectives, 2nd Edition

    By Peter G. Coleman, Ann O'Hanlon

    The psychology of aging usually focuses upon cognitive changes, with a particular focus on dementia and other forms of cognitive decline. But getting older is about more than simply changes to the brain and related health issues. Changes to our social and emotional lives are also hugely significant…

    Paperback – 2017-02-14
    International Texts in Developmental Psychology

International Texts in Developmental Psychology

The International Texts in Developmental Psychology series is designed to embrace the emergence of new areas and developments in the field from a global perspective, providing state-of-the-art, higher level introductions to major topic areas. Each volume is written by a specialist who combines empirical data and a synthesis of recent research to deliver cutting-edge science in a format accessible to students and researchers alike.

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