Accentuation principle

life course principle that states the strength of interconnection between early life events and current developmental outcomes is dependent upon the availability and use of psychosocial resources.

Activity Theory

theoretical assumption that holds disengagement as a development pathway by which the older individuals pursue increased life activities that may have been put on-hold or never attempted earlier in one’s human life course

Adaptive capacity

Ability to achieve a higher level of everyday functioning for continued developmental growth or gains


individual developmental experience linked to chronology

Age-as-a-Leveler Hypothesis

notion that regardless of status as persons reach older adulthood they are viewed negatively and held in low esteem by those who are younger in society

Age-Stage Principle

life course principle that maintains that the age and stage during which individuals encounter certain life events create differential trajectories and patterns in human development


set of beliefs, attitudes, social institutions, and acts that denigrate individuals on the basis of chronological age

Agentic generativity

internally oriented and self-affirming behaviors contributing to satisfaction that one’s life and/or work will outlive the self


refers to advanced glycation end products which result from the binding of proteins with glucose molecules in the presence of oxygen

Aging Clock Theory

concept of a biological “timed” death whereby gradual decline in biological function and health reflects a sequential process due to the counting down of external factors

Autoimmune Theory of Aging

theoretical notion that human aging results in the accumulation of anti-bodies (B-cells) which attack and destroy normal cells in the body


progressive deficiency in the human body’s immunity to respond and tolerate disease that occurs with increasing age


help produce anti-bodies which help fight infection or infectious agents in the body

Balance Theory of Wisdom

Sternberg’s theoretical conceptualization of wisdom whereby three interconnected processes including interest, the environment, and time contribute an application of knowledge toward the common good

Berlin Wisdom Model

theoretical model which view wisdom as a complex and dynamic system of expert knowledge that contributes to sound judgment and advice concerning life matters

Biopsychosocial model

Framework for studying human aging and development across three sources including physical, mental, and social wellness


the timing and pattern of events and transitions that unfold within the cultural environment in historical time.


collectively and socially shared experiences with those born at or around the same birth year.

Communal generativity

externally or community-oriented behaviors involving social engagement as a way of ensuring that one’s life and work will outlive the self


Human adaption or resilience as noted through the awareness and recognition of developmental loss, adjustment of incongruent goals to in relation to loss, and timing and use of resources to meet expected goals in the presence of loss


Stable and embedded continuum of development

Continuity Theory

theoretical notion that developmental behaviors in later adulthood are an expression of one’s core personality attributes


a biological process by which proteins bind with glucose molecules in the presence of oxygen which results in collagen fibrils often noticeable in symptomatic features of aging such as skin and nail discoloration, enlarged appearance of the nose and ears, stiffness of joints and cartilage, and reduced renal functioning.

Culture compensation

Concept that the older the person; the greater is their need for  supportive cultural resources for continued functioning

Cycle of control

life course principle that maintains that human life course development involves both internal (within-person) and external (between-others) processes of control relative to the individual trajectory of development

Developmental Adaptation Model

Theoretical model emphasizing the interconnection between distal or early childhood development and proximal or development present experiences and psychosocial resource use as essential for individual coping strategies and late-life development


Age/stage developmental progression


Assumption that human development unfolds within an age-stage orientation

Disengagement Theory

theoretical assumption suggesting that it is socially expected and developmentally normative for individuals to withdraw or disengage from typical social roles in late adulthood

Ecological model of development

established by Brofrenbrenner who theorized that individual human development, beginning in childhood and across the life-span, is embedded within five systems: the microsystems, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem.


Self-awareness integrated within one’s persona, life pursuits, and perceived realities

Epigenetic principle

Assertion that human development is genetically predetermined relative to sequential timing, alterations, and interaction with the socio-cultural context

Error catastrophe

the theoretical assumption that biological aging results from the accumulation of errors, which reach catastrophic levels, pertaining to normative cellular functioning and reproduction necessary to protect against disease and genetic mutations


system involving cross-over effects in which the social experiences of someone else (e.g. parent who interacts with a co-worker outside the home) carryover and act as agent(s) (e.g. parent-work) influences of individual developmental change or stability.

Explicit (objective) wisdom

wisdom as an attribute of personality involving thinking, interpreting, or managing the challenges and issues of life

Extrapersonal interests

competing interests imposed by something other than the person

Fourth Age

Refers to the development of persons 85 years and older

FOXO gene

referred to as the “longevity gene”

FOXO Gene Theory

the theoretical view that a set of genes known as FOXO operate to control the onset, rate, and progression of cell division and death.

FOXO3A gene

genetic variation of the FOXO gene grouping associated with lower prevalence of common age-associated diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and dementia.

Free radical

also known a pro-oxidants which rob cells of energy and contribute to the deterioration and eroding of the cell membrane

Generative action

Pursuit of socially engaged activities with the next generation such as creativity, learning, or teaching/mentoring

Generative commitment

Goal-driven behaviors and actions to demonstrate care for the next or future generation

Generative concern

demonstrating a sense of interest, care, and concern toward the next or future generation(s)


Discipline of study or approach that views aging as a “disease” that can be can be “prevented,” “delayed,” or “cured” through medical means of intervention(s)”

Gerontological imagination

A contemporary integrative paradigm that relies on use of interdisciplinary inquiry to understand human aging processes


Discipline of study or approach that views aging viewed as a “process” involving the interplay between physical, mental, and social processes


Developmental outcome in very late life whereby persons experience an altered perception of time, decreased self-centeredness, and reduced interest in material possessions and superficial social relations

Gompertz Equation

a statistical equation specifically used to understand programming timing of survival and death within individuals, as well as the exponential component(s) of mortality risks between persons or populations

Hayflick Limit

also referred to as “replicative senescence which suggest that normal human fetal cells have the ability to divide and replicate approximately 40-60 time before death

Human agency

individual motivation and will to act, make decisions, and seek control over meeting personal goals across the course of life.

Implicit (subjective) wisdom

wisdom as a characteristic of empathy/compassion, reflection and introspection, and cognitive and intellectual abilities

Inoculation Hypothesis

the idea that older adults representing racial and ethnic minority groups become immune to the effects of ageism due to lifelong exposure to discrimination, prejudice, and stereotyping


Between persons or across groups or populations of people

Interpersonal interests

competing interests among or between groups of individuals


Within the individual persons

Intrapersonal interests

competing interests within the individual

Linked-lives principle

life course principle that maintains that individual human development is directed and influenced by core group of persons with whom the individual is affiliated starting at birth


the cultural context and system in which the individual lives relative to customs, rituals, beliefs, ideologies, and policies.


Potential to maintain basic levels of everyday functioning in the presence of on-going developmental losses


system of social internconnections between members within the individual’s immediate social environment and those within other social institutions (e.g., local businesses, school, church, etc.)


system consisting of persons within one’s immediate environment(s) who the individual has direct interaction including family, friends, and neighbors.

Modernization Theory

theoretical notion that increasing urbanization, advanced social policies, and innovative technological advancements reduces the value and relevance of older adults as contributing members of society

Multiple Jeopardy Hypothesis

intersectionality of more than one socially-defined status, such as age, gender, race, or SES, by which bias and discriminatory practices are held against older adults

Ninth Stage

Psychosocial concept of development after age 90 in which persons strive to remain interdependent rather than dependent on others

Normative aging

aging with expected and anticipated losses with various levels of functioning and performance


Facts, quantitative counts, or input/outputs


Developmental history across the biological, psychological, and socio-cultural lifetime of the human organism and species

Optimal aging

Age-related changes contributing to gains or improvements in functioning


Efficacy of practice or rehearsal to attain or sustain desired goal(s) of everyday functioning

Oxidative Stress Theory

also known as the Free Radical Theory which involves the loss of an electron which creates a molecular imbalance and chain reaction leading to the erosion of the cell membrane and process of oxidative damage


the historical unfolding and timing of human experience and life events.


Ability of to react internally to various external stimuli or environmental interactions

Plasticity ratio

Difference between the expected proportion of developmental gains versus losses experienced

Primary/Normative aging

Aging as involving universal, acute, and gradual changes or losses that are normatively expected

Programmed Aging

also referred to as “cellular aging” which adheres to the assumption that human aging is genetically and sequentially pre-determined

Random Error Aging

also referred to as “molecular aging” which considers human aging to be due to fate or chance environmental exposures that contribute to potentially lethal and deadly diseases or mutations

Rate of Living

conceptual idea that different organisms age at varying rates due to required use of metabolism or energy to support cellular and molecular processes

Regulation of loss

Organizing and maintaining lower levels of functioning when full recovery developmental potential(s) may no longer be fully possible


Capacity to adapt successfully to developmental challenges that threaten everyday functioning

Secondary aging

also referred to as pathological aging which entails encountering the onset and living with progression of chronic disease and/or long-term disablement

Secondary/Pathological aging

Non-normative, chronic, and progressive age-associated losses that result in living with illness, disease, or disablement


Goals and preferences in the later half of life that are elective and time specific versus those that evolve from loss-based experiences

Selection neutrality

Reproductive fitness and evolutionary pressure to activate genes in the protection against illness, disease, or psychological decline that is less effective during the second or later half of life


reduced cellular division and growth leading to cell death and deterioration in the functioning of complex biological systems (e.g., cardiovascular, respiratory, endocrine, etc.) and eventually to death of the organism

Situational imperatives

life course principle that suggests that the timing as well as type of individual choice or decision needed to be made relies on activation of human agency


Emotion, belief, perception, and self-expression

Successful Aging Model

Conceptual notion that human achieve success in aging if they are able to avoid disease and disability, maintain cognitive and physical functioning, and remain socially engaged with life.


help initiate immune response and serve to destroy antigens


a protective sheath covering the active DNA of a chromosome

Telomere shortening

the shrinking of telomeres which occurs after each cell vision leaving the active part of DNA of a chromosome exposed resulting in damage in the form of illness and disease

Terror Management Theory

theoretical concept that views defense mechanisms as a source of protection against potential risk or threat of anxious feelings and fear of the unknown including the realities of aging or inevitability of mortality

Tertiary aging

aging with progressive and multiple simultaneous losses which shut down biological functioning near the end of life and contribute to an organism’s eventual death

Tertiary/Terminal aging

Multiple disabling and life-threatening conditions that emerge simultaneously near the end-of-life initiating the dying process and leading to death


refers to the experience in which the individual may expect life events to happen (on-time) versus encounter anticipated change within life experience (off-time)


long-standing patterns of developmental stability vs. change which serve as indicators of risk (Inequality) and safety (equality) across the course of life


a genetic information transfer (DNA to mRNA)


Points along the individual life course trajectory considered to be normative moments of developmental change (Ex. Graduation from high school, marriage, retirement)


mRNA copy of DNA which is followed by mRNA leaving the cell nucleus where protein is synthesized

Turning points

dramatic transitions marked by substantial and sometimes “traumatic” change in one’s life course development (e.g., divorce, unemployment, accidents)

Wisdom in 3-D Model

theoretical conceptualization of wisdom as a beneficial developmental resource consisting of cognitive, reflective, and affective processes


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Successful Aging by Alex Bishop is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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