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Communication Across the Life Span

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Edited By Jon F. Nussbaum

As we grow up and grow old, embrace new experiences, try new roles, and adopt new technologies, our senses of time, space, connection, and identity are fundamentally explored through communication. Why, how, with whom, and to what end humans communicate reflect and shape our ever-changing life span position. And while the «life span» can be conceived as a continuum, it is also one hinged by critical junctures and bound by cultural differences that can be better understood through communication.
The chapters in this collection, chosen from among the invited plenary speakers, top research papers, and ideas discussed in San Juan, explore the multiple ways communication affects, reflects, and directs our life transition. Capturing the richness and diversity of scholarship presented at the conference, chapters explore communication technologies that define a generation; communication and successful aging; stereotyping and family communication; sexual communication and physiological measurement; life span communication and the digital divide; and home-based care contexts across the world, among others.
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Chapter Four: Communication and Successful Aging

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← 34 | 35 →CHAPTER FOUR

Communication and Successful Aging

JESSICA GASIOREK, CRAIG FOWLER, AND HOWARD GILES



According to a recent report from the United Nations (2015), adults aged 60 or over constitute the fastest growing segment of the world’s population, and global life expectancy is currently 70 years. By 2050, the number of people aged 60 and over is projected to more than double, and the number of people aged 80 or over to triple. Given that more people are living longer lives than ever before, it is important to understand how to optimize the process of growing older. This chapter focuses on the role communication can play in people’s experiences of successful aging. In what follows, we first provide some background on the concept of successful aging, and then summarize the major tenets of a program of research we have undertaken that examines how individuals’ communicative practices predict and contribute to their attitudes toward aging. We then discuss how our proposed theoretical model could be extended to formally incorporate the effects of messages about age and aging that people encounter—which we term “environmental chatter”—on their attitudes about aging. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of this theoretical extension and suggestions for future research addressing these issues.

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