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Psychol Aging. 1997 Sep;12(3):458-72.

Profiles of psychological functioning in the old and oldest old.

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Center for Psychology and Human Development, Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Education, Berlin, Germany.


Cluster analysis was applied to 12 measures of intellectual, personality, self-related, and social functioning collected in the 1st cross-sectional wave of the Berlin Aging Study (BASE; N = 516). Central questions concerned the number, profile desirability (functional status), and the membership of the subgroups obtained. Of the 9 subgroups extracted, 4 reflected different patterns of desirable functioning (47% of the sample), and 5 reflected less desirable functioning (53%). Relative risk of a less desirable profile was 2.5 times higher for the oldest old (85-103 years) than for people between the ages of 70-84 years and was 1.25 times higher for women compared with men. Relationships with education, health, and mortality suggested underlying systemic differences. Consistent with theoretical propositions about a "4th age" and the incomplete architecture of life span development (P.B. Baltes, 1997) the oldest old appear to have a distinct and less desirable psychological profile.

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