Brain and Cognitive Changes in Late Adulthood

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Khadijah Richardson

Describe fluid and crystallized intelligence, with respect to the cognitive functioning of adults as they age. Describe how professionals can use this information to support positive adjustment for aging adults.

Fluid intelligence reflect how well the hardware of the nervous system is working, and how it affects reasoning (Broderick and Blewitt, 2015). Fluid intelligence includes things like processing speed and inhibitory mechanisms and is likely to decline n middle adulthood. When fluid intelligence declines it can make a huge difference in the adult’s life because it is difficult to store information. Crystallized intelligence are skills and information we have acquired throughout our lifetime (Broderick and Blewitt, 2015). Crystallized intelligence includes languages learned or skills learned to play an instrument (Broderick and Blewitt, 2015).

According to Kensinger (2009), crystallized intelligence retains stability throughout the human life span and adults as they get older are skilled at word definition, utilizing a general knowledge of the world to answer questions relying on this knowledge, recognizing errors in spelling, and utilizing skills they have gained from past jobs or experiences. The process involved with fluid intelligence concerns the skill to record and manipulate new data and these processes are usually interrupted by aging healthy (Kensinger, 2009).

According to Kay 2005, “as people age, measure of crystallized intelligence which is retained information as measured by vocabulary subtests increase. Measures of fluid intelligence which is the ability to manipulate information as measured by subtest like digit-symbol substitution decrease with age”. Fluid intelligence is also referred to as the mechanics and crystallized intelligence is referred to as the pragmatics of cognition (Kay, 2005).

Professionals can use the information on crystallized and fluid intelligence to help support a positive adjustment for adults who are aging. This information will allow the researcher or therapist to know and understand what exactly is going on with an individual. Some different illustrations that professionals could use are problem solving, playing chess and working memory. Our book states that when middle adults are solving familiar, everyday problems or problems in their areas of expertise, the crystallized resources at their disposal often help them to be more effective than younger adults. Also younger adults may have the edge in games that require speedy responding but older adults often outperform younger ones on memory games such as jeopardy and even chess. There are numerous activities that older individuals should be doing that will help maintain their memory.


Broderick, P. C., &Blewitt, P. (2015). The life span: Human development for helping professionals (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn& Bacon

Kay, J. (2005). Crystallized Intelligence versus Fluid Intelligence.Psychiatry: Interpersonal And Biological Processes, 68(1), 9-13. doi:10.1521/psyc.

Kensinger, E. A. (2009). How emotion affects older adults’ memories for event details. Memory, 17(2), 208-219.doi:10.1080/09658210802221425

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