Renowned researcher for adult development and aging receives award for innovative book

Manfred Diehl, a Colorado State University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, is an expert in the field of adult development and aging. Incorporating decades of his research as well as the research of co-author Dr. Hans-Werner Wahl of Heidelberg University in Germany, the two published the book “The Psychology of Later Life: A Contextual Perspective.”

This book has received the 2021 Gerontological Society of America (GSA), Richard Kalish Innovative Publication Award, a prestigious award that recognizes insightful and innovative publications in the behavioral and social sciences on aging and life course development. The award is presented at the GSA Annual Scientific Meeting, which is taking place virtually from November 10-13.

Headshot of Manfred Diehl and Hans-Werner Wahl

Manfred Diehl (left) and Hans-Werner Wahl (right) co-authored an award-winning book on adult development and aging.

“Coming from the GSA, this award signifies that the book we published is highly recognized by experts in the area,” said Diehl. “It is a great recognition of the quality, content, and innovation of the book. Getting this international recognition is a big deal to us.”

A unique outlook on aging

Cover of book written by Diehl and WahlThe book, “The Psychology of Later Life: A Contextual Perspective,” gives a new outlook on adult development and aging through three specific lenses: the lifespan development context, the social and physical environmental contexts, and the historical‑cultural context. Diehl and Wahl truly consider the whole process of aging, including people’s real-life experiences. By touching on these important contexts, readers can better understand how adult development and aging unfolds and how it is shaped by a multitude of influences.

“In the real world, people grow up and grow older,” said Diehl. “And this happens in different contexts that shape our development too, such as getting an education, starting to work and pursuing a professional career, or having a family.”

The book can serve as a resource to researchers and psychologists in applied areas who are encountering middle-aged and older adults in their practice, and who may have never taken a course on these age groups. The book covers cognitive functioning, personality development, motivational and emotional development, and well-being for individuals in middle to late adulthood. The book also presents evidence on the behavioral plasticity in adult development and aging as well as opportunities to apply behavioral interventions to optimize healthy aging.

Four decades of friendship and research success

The professional relationship between Diehl and Wahl goes back to the 1980s. Both were part of the same cohort of young scholars in Germany. Diehl ventured to the United States to get his Ph.D. whereas Wahl remained in Germany where he became of professor of psychology at Heidelberg University. In 2005, their paths crossed again as the two collaborated on a paper introducing a new theoretical concept into social gerontology, the concept of awareness of age-related change. Their paper received an award from the GSA in 2008, and they knew this partnership could work for a greater good. Through the next decade, their collaboration intensified and became more focused as they pulled together some of their research, secured funding, pursued grant and book ideas, and finally, wrote this award-winning piece.

“Both Hans-Werner and I are greatly honored by this recognition and really grateful that colleagues were willing to nominate us and saw the value in the book,” said Diehl. “That in itself is very rewarding.”

Diehl and Wahl began work on the book in the summer of 2017, and it was published in May 2020. “The Psychology of Later Life: A Contextual Perspective” can be found on the website for the American Psychological Association.

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.