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Forum explores cultural differences in the psychology of aging

USC Professor Bob Knight

On a magnitude unthinkable to most Americans, China is rapidly undergoing a total transformation due to the aging of its population.

Accordingly, as part of the Gerontological Society of America’s ongoing initiative to increase collaborations between the United States and China, USC Davis School of Gerontology Professor Bob Knight was one of only four American faculty members sent to the Sino-U.S. Forum on the Psychology of Aging in April.

“Like the rest of the world, East Asia is experiencing population aging. Many nations there have also experienced rapid economic development and social change, including varying degrees of Westernization,” Knight said. “These changes have disrupted traditional patterns of care for older adults and pose critical challenges for these countries.”

Though psychology as a science is fairly new to China and psychological practice even more so, officials and experts from all hemispheres are recognizing how important the field is, especially where it dovetails with gerontology.

“The focus on aging is even more recent and less developed yet. From the China side, collaboration can help develop these critical areas of research and practice,” Knight said. “From the U.S. side, it provides a great opportunity to explore cultural differences in psychology of aging.”

Organized by the Gerontological Society, Beijing Normal University and Tianjin Normal University, the forum was founded to advance the dual causes of psychology and gerontology in China, revealing universal similarities regardless of nationality or culture.

“The great majority of psychological disorders are similar across cultures, with some differences in prevalence rates and a few that are more specific,” Knight said. “As we have had more international research in psychological science over the last few decades, it has been somewhat surprising that most psychological processes are the same around the world.”

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