Despite evidence of the contrary, old age is still generally regarded as a period of cognitive decline. A higher stage of cognitive development towards dialectical thinking in late adulthood, which is related to older adults' tendency to reflect on the knowledge they have gained through their life-abilities and about what they have achieved or accomplished in their lives, brings to mind a transcendental level of thought. As a developmental psychologist, I am interested in promoting healthy and optimal development through the life cycle. Narrative inquiry allows me to explore how older adults can calculate a higher level of cognitive development as dialectical thinking by thinking about the knowledge they have gained through their life experiences and about what they have accomplished. This approach typically focuses on the lives of individuals as told through their own stories. Wisdom is a kind of transcendental thinking — wisdom is life experience that a person has and it enables a person to judge matters excellently and to give advice on important and uncertain life issues. The findings in this study emphasize that the development of wisdom is not only determined by a certain level of cognitive, personal and social skills, but also by practical experience in solving life problems. Although this research study has pointed out specific shortcomings in the cognitive functioning of older adults, it also shows that it is possible to achieve the benefits of transcendental thinking and wisdom as the person gets older.
Late adulthood, Cognitive functioning, Transcendental thinking, Wisdom, Narrative inquiry
Social and Cultural Perspectives on Aging
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session
Petro van der Merwe
University of South Africa
Petro van der Merwe is currently an Associate Professor in Department Pshychology at UNISA. Her main academic and research interests concern the promoting of healthy optimal development through the life cycle and the important role that Emotional Intelligence (EI) can play in an educational context. She has published in local and international accredited journals and presented a variety of papers in South Africa and abroad with the emphasis on this research theme. The caring role of the educator with particular emphasis on a positive, sensitive and understanding approach is the main conern of this presenter. In the light of this, the invitational and friendly climate has to be emphasised to ensure that the person - as a person-in-totality - feels valued.