D. Park, R. Morrell, & K. Shifren

Document Type


Publication Date

January 1999



Place of Publication



How and why does the character of decision making change in the later stages of normal, healthy adulthood? How might the weaknesses be offset and the strengths exploited, more than is customary today, particularly in medical contexts? The plan of the chapter is as follows: First, we discuss the special nature of decision making. Particular attention is directed to characteristics that make it especially difficult to even discuss notions like age-related "declines," a topic of traditional importance in gerontology. We then address a concept that appears to have considerable significance for discussions of age differences in decision making—decision modes. The remaining and most extensive sections of the chapter are identified with elements of what is arguably the most central mode, "analytic" decision making. In each of those sections, we first sketch the basic decision theoretic concepts. We then discuss plausible as well as documented age differences in how and how well people approach the given activities. We also consider the practical challenges and opportunities those differences represent.