DESCRIPTION OF ADULT INTELLECTUAL DEVELOPMENT IN THE 21ST CENTURY
Introduction The purpose of this paper is to describe adult intellectual development as a field of discipline in the 21st century. The paper begins with an examination of the graying of the American population during this century and discusses the relevance of the discipline for the continuing shift in the age distribution as the 21st century progresses. Adult Intellectual Development is then defined as a field of inquiry and its foundational framework is briefly delineated. There is also some discussion of seminal work in the field. Finally, the paper discusses a few areas of research that are likely to become increasingly important as the century develops.
Baltes, Lindenberger and Staudinger (1998) report that projections for the year 2030 (the year when the last of the baby boomers turn 65), show dramatic changes in the age distribution of the United States. In this regard, the authors state that even the first decade of the 21st century is experiencing a growth of older adults as a major political and economic force which will only increase as the century unfolds. This increase will place major strains on social security, other pension systems, health care costs, and the costs of other human services. Indeed, the most rapidly growing segment of the American population, according to Baltes et. al is that of people 85 years of age or older which is expected to increase 400 percent from 1995 to 2050.
A key question here is: Is the United States prepared to meet the changing age distribution of the American population in the 21st century? Clearly, one way to prepare ourselves is to refine and elaborate on our models of adult development as this will provide a general context in which we may better understand how to meet the needs associated with the shift in the age distribution. One area of research into adult development is intellect.