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The Handbook of Lifespan Communication


Edited By Jon F. Nussbaum

The Handbook of Lifespan Communication is the foundational scholarly text that offers readers a state of the art view of the varied and rich areas of lifespan communication research. The fundamental assumptions of lifespan communication are that the very nature of human communication is developmental, and, to truly understand communication, change across time must be incorporated into existing theory and research. Beginning with chapters on lifespan communication theory and methodologies, chapters are then organized into the various phases of life: early childhood, adolescence, emerging adulthood, middle adulthood, and older adulthood. Top scholars across several disciplines have contributed to chapters within their domains of expertise, highlighting significant horizons that will guide researchers for years to come.
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Chapter Twenty: Health Care Interactions in Older Adulthood

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The United States Census Bureau (2010) reported that in the past decade or so, the older adult population (individuals aged 65 and older) grew at a faster rate than the general population. One of the most significant segments of the population, the Baby Boomer generation (children born 1946–1964), began entering “old age” when they turned 65 in 2011. By 2031, the entire cohort will be in their golden years with the early-born Boomers reaching the age of 85. While some media and scholars assert that this generation of aging people will be among the wealthiest, healthiest, most independent, and active in history, others wager that Baby Boomers will tax the health care system by demanding more services to treat a multitude of ailments, chronic illness, and a longer lifespan (Wister, 2005).

What is certain, however, is that one of the largest groups of the world’s population is now considered to be “old age,” and, regardless of whether or not they are generally healthy, older adults spend more time interacting with health practitioners or within the health care system than any other age group (Hartman, Catlin, Lassman, Cylus, & Heffler, 2008). Moreover, health care interactions are not limited to the health care setting. A significant portion of older adults’ everyday talk with friends and family members is centered on health-related issues (Nussbaum, 1989). Family members are often involved in aging loved ones’ later-life care, and familial bonds are a...

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