chapter  28
14 Pages

Life Span and End-of-Life Health Communication

ByJoy Goldsmith, Elaine Wittenberg-Lyles, Sandra Ragan, Jon F. Nussbaum

Life span scholars investigate the numerous, inevitable changes that occur as we age. These changes are physiological, biological, psychological, sociological, and even spiritual. Most obvious are the physiological changes that each of us observe as we progress from infancy through childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle adulthood, and older adulthood. We grow taller; we jump higher and run faster. We recover from various injuries rather quickly, and then we notice that our jumps aren’t quite so high and our pace is not so quick. Our hair comes and goes, we begin to develop wrinkles as our skin loses its moisture and smoothness, we experience pains that never occurred before and we actually begin to shrink. Similar positive and negative changes occur in our ability to process and remember information, to communicate eff ectively in a variety of formal and informal social contexts, in our desire to initiate and maintain close relationships, and generally in our motivation and ability to adapt to the multiple environmental contingencies that challenge us as we attempt to maintain our desired lifestyles (Pecchioni, Wright, & Nussbaum, 2005). Surprisingly, these inevitable life changes are often overlooked or ignored by communication scholars and, therefore, are not accounted for in the possible explanations of competent or appropriate interactive behavior. Much worse than ignoring the often predictable change related to normal aging is the stereotypic notion that the aging process is entirely negative, that youth is always preferred over age, and that any sign of aging must be avoided at all costs (Nussbaum, Miller-Day, & Fisher, 2009).