Sample Syllabus for DEP 4404: Psychology of Aging

This is not the correct syllabus for the current semester.

Instructor: Dr. Robin Lea West

Office: 15c Psychology

Phone: – 392-0601, ext. 240


Office hrs: MF after class by arrangement or by appointment




Course requirements:

Three unit exams, 40 points each = 120 points

Two final essays, 20 points each = 40 points

Group project (4-7 students), 25 points

Class participation, 15 points

Unit I: Introduction to Aging Concepts and Research; Physical Aging; Death, & Dying

Jan. 10 Introduction to aging and life span issues (ch.1)

Jan. 12 Attitudes and stereotyping (pp. 323-330)

Jan. 19 Research (ch. 1)

Jan. 24 Physical changes (ch. 2)

Jan. 29 Health and function (ch. 3)

Feb. 2 Death, dying, and bereavement (ch. 13)

FEBRUARY (Unit I exam)

Unit II: Cognitive Aging; Intervention; Dementia

Feb. 9 Cognition (ch. 6)

Feb. 14 Memory (ch. 7)

Feb. 19 Intelligence (ch. 8)

Feb. 23 Intervention and everyday cognition

Feb. 28 Dementia (pp. 123-144)


MARCH (Unit II exam

Unit III: Personality; Mental health, Life Satisfaction and Coping; Social Aging


March 23 Mental health (pp. 115-123; pp. 145-150)

March 26 Personality (ch. 10)

March 30 Social cognition (ch. 9)

April 4 Coping and optimal aging (ch. 5)

April 9 Relationships (ch. 11)

April 13,16,18,23 PRESENTATIONS

APRIL (Unit III exam)

April 25 Discuss final

Final: MAY

Course Objectives:

–Students will know what features characterize the normative aging process.

–Students will know that age-related change is multidimensional and multidirectional.

–Students will understand that aging processes are affected by genes, sociocultural context, individual differences, and plasticity.

Course Policies:

–Be prepared to give your full attention to the class and the person speaking (Dr. West, fellow student, or visitor). No one will be permitted to use a cell phone, read a newspaper, or talk with friends once class begins. Do not arrive late or leave early as it disrupts the class.

–To be fair, there will be no extra credit opportunities or special consideration offered to any individual student. If you are having difficulty in the class, talk to Dr. West right away about how to improve your study habits.

–Students are encouraged to study together and discuss course requirements, however, with the exception of the group project, all work must be your own. Although you may study together, students are expected to complete exams without special notes or assistance from other students. The content of your final essays cannot be copied from any other source or person; it must be original material, written in your own words. Students in one section should not discuss their presentations with students from other sections (past or present).

–Classroom participation in the form of comments, questions and discussion is strongly encouraged. For this to work, you must protect the rights of fellow students. Make sure that you are recognized before speaking, restrict your remarks to topics of direct relevance to the class, and give your peers your full attention when they are speaking. In this way, we can learn from each other.

–No makeup exams will be given without an official written explanation from a medical/legal professional. If you are sick, you must see a doctor who will verify your visit in writing. If a makeup exam should be necessary, it will be mainly essay questions and it will be administered during finals week only.

Undergraduate Coordinator: W. Keith Berg

Psychology Department Chair: Martin Heesacker

My lecture notes are copyrighted material, developed by me. You may not sell taped recordings or written notes on my lectures without my express permission, nor may you earn money by giving this material to anyone else who plans to sell it or reproduce it.


Details on group project requirements will be on the website by the end of January.

Late Life in Literature: How is the aging process represented in novels and short stories? Are books about seniors common? Do the books convey stereotypes, sentimental portrayals, or realistic views of aging? What features of the aging process tend to be emphasized in fiction? How do past books about seniors vary from more current books? Does the portrayal of seniors vary in different genres or vary as a function of the author’s background?

Aging in Europe/Asia: Who is the typical elder in Europe/Asia? How is this population changing? What issues are related to demographic change in Europe/Asia? What is life like for elders in other countries? What social services are offered in other countries? What are family relationships like in other countries?

Elder Abuse: What constitutes elder abuse? How prevalent is abuse? How can we control or stop abuse? What factors are associated with abuse? What are the legal issues?

Caregiving: Who are the caregivers? What is typically involved in the caregiving role? What problems do caregivers have? What characteristics of patients make caregiving especially difficult for an Alzheimer’s patient? What techniques can caregivers use when working with patients? What services are available to support caregivers?

Lifelong Learning: What is lifelong learning? What kinds of programs exist for seniors to continue to be educated? How are these programs evaluated? What are the advantages and disadvantages associated with participation in such programs?

Medication Issues

What kinds of medications do seniors typically take? Are seniors taking too many medications? What physical, financial, social, and cognitive problems are related to medication use for seniors?

Baby Boomers: How do baby boomers differ from other generations? What will the boomers be like as retirees? How does the baby boom population affect its generation and future generations (e.g., social, economic, medical effects)?

Retirement: What is the typical age of retirement and what factors affect retirement age? What difference does retirement make in people’s lives? What factors are associated with life satisfaction in retirement? How does retirement differ as a function of ethnic group, gender, socioeconomic status?


Your grade will be determined by adding up your total points, as follows:

A = 90% – 100% 180-200 points
B+ = 85% – 89% 170-179 points
B = 80% – 84% 160-169 points
C+ = 75% – 79% 150-159 points
C = 70% – 74% 140-149 points
D+ = 65% – 69% 130-139 points
D = 60% – 64% 120-129 points
E(F) = less than 60% below 120 points


Final essays will be graded on organization, quality and accuracy of evidence, application of content from all sections of the course (you must include material from all 3 units of the course), logic and coherence of the arguments, and clarity of writing. You are not expected to do any special research to write these essays. You can use material from the text, readings, and class.

Make sure your response is well organized with an opening paragraph that introduces the theme of your essay and your main points. Your entire essay should be well organized, with details carefully selected to match your main points. You will lose points for a disorganized, vague, or confusing response. Your final paragraph should sum up your essay and provide a conclusion that is clearly supported by the rest of the essay.

Each essay can be no longer than 3 double-spaced, typed pages. Make sure that you provide broad coverage of the course material in your two answers (you will lose points if you repeat yourself — no more than 10 lines of text should overlap between your two answers). Refer to known statistics as you write. Document each characteristic you list in essay 2 or each main point in essay 1 by indicating where you found the information (text chapter #, article name, class notes). Late papers will lose 3 points per day.


Essays will not be accepted by email. You must submit a typed paper copy of your two essay questions and put your responses in Dr. West’s mailbox in room 114 Psychology Building.

1. Should we dread aging?

Answer yes or no (no fence-sitting allowed!). Make sure that you carefully take one side or the other and all of your arguments support the side you have chosen. Defend your response with material from the course. It is your job to convince me of your point of view, using logical thinking and research evidence. It is possible to argue both sides of this issue but for this assignment, you must choose one side and wholeheartedly defend it, with an organized and well-written response.

2. Describe a “typical” older adult, aged 70.

This question requires a detailed description of the likely characteristics of an older person. Make sure that your description is specific (not vague generalities) and be careful that your “typical” person is not experiencing atypical problems (e.g., Alzheimer’s, clinical depression). Feel free to say that your person is a man or a woman, or that he/she is a boomer, or he/she is living alone, etc. – you can specify things if it will help you to talk about that person’s characteristics, given the age. Just don’t specify something that is atypical, e.g., if your person is a man, he should not be living alone because that is not typical for older males.