Inquiry into terminal decline: Five objectives for future study

Denis Gerstorf, Nilam Ram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Notions of terminal decline propose that late-life change is primarily driven by processes closely tied to pathology and mortality rather than chronological age. We use the rationales of longitudinal research as outlined by Baltes and Nesselroade (Baltes, P., & Nesselroade, J. [1979]. History and rationale of longitudinal research. In J. R. Nesselroade & P. Baltes (Eds.), Longitudinal research in the study of behavior and development [pp. 1-39]. San Diego, CA: Academic Press) as a framework for organizing research on terminal decline. In doing so, we note that there are relatively robust descriptions of terminal decline across a variety of different domains, as well as the extent of interindividual differences in the levels of function, rates of change, and timing of terminal decline (research rationales 1 and 2). However, there is much more to learn about the interrelations among change in different domains, the underlying mechanisms of change, and the factors that contribute to interindividual differences in change (research rationales 3-5). Needed are new study designs and analytical models that better address the structural, temporal, and causal interrelations that contribute to and protect against terminal decline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)727-737
Number of pages11
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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