Personal Meaning of Age: Age Identity and Life Satisfaction in Older Persons
This thesis explores personal meanings of age in the context of the changing age structure of American population, correlating age identification in older persons with life satisfaction, measured by Liang's version of the Life Satisfaction Index A and Cantril's Self-anchoring scale. Informed by Symbolic Interaction and Labeling theories, the thesis suggests that "old" may be a stigmatized identity in American society, and therefore detrimental to life satisfaction. Basic assertions of Activity, Disengagement, Socioenvironmental, and Modernization theories are discussed throughout the thesis to provide furthur insight into the issue of life satisfaction. Thirty-one persons between the ages of 66 and 1 02 from three institutions in a small town/rural community were interviewed. Results showed that perceiving good personal health is positively related to Liang's version of the Life Satisfaction Index, and defining oneself as "old" negatively affects Cantril's Self-anchoring scale but has no effect on the version of the Life Satisfaction Index. Also, requiring a high level of care increases likelihood of defining oneself as "old". A substantial majority of respondents did not identify themselves as "old" and most had negative connotations of being "old" in general, suggesting that they may be denying their age to escape a negative stigma. Different definitions of life satisfaction and time referents inherent in the two measures of life satisfaction may account for the fact that age identity related to one and not the other.
© Copyright 1989 Julie E. Gillmor