Life Satisfaction and Aging

The continuity theory proposed by the researcher Havighurst, is focused on “the relationship between life’s satisfaction and activity as an expression of enduring personality traits.”

According to the research, “Personality is considered an important factor in determining a relationship between the many roles we play in life and life-satisfaction.” Neugarten & Associates present three ideas on personality that are fundamental to the belief about the aged individual. They are:

  • With normal aging, personality remains consistent with men as well as women.
  • Personality tends to influence role activity in the aged individual’s life.
  • Personality can also influence life satisfaction regardless of role activity.

The complexities of aging with its numerous predictable and unpredictable events that occur in the elderly individual’s lifetime, have gerontologists concluding that “aging is a random process of change.” They also state, “There are still numerous aspects of adult development to be explored. For example, there is development regarding love, compassion, creativity, and wisdom that can yield specific patterns about the aging process.” Life satisfaction is strongly dependent on attitudes related to its connection with autonomy and independence.

As we continue to age, we are constantly confronted with the possibility of eventually having to depend on others. Undergirding this notion is the awareness that 1) there will come a time when the elderly may have to rely on others for personal or professional advice, and 2) the reverse may also occur when there will be others who will come to rely on you for medical and/or financial assistance.

Case Study: Her name was Jennie! Jennie attained the remarkable age of 100 before the winter holidays. There were numerous celebrations of her birthday by friends, family and staff at the nursing home where I had been employed. She was delighted and surprised because little had been done on previous occasions. She always explained it away by the fact it was so near to Christmas. Aside from rheumatic aches, difficulty breathing at times although she was a non-smoker, periodic falls and limited energy, she considered herself reasonably healthy. She woke on numerous nights with a sense of bodily urgency and then found it difficult to fall asleep again. At those times she would sip a shot of brandy that was hidden from staff. Jennie once claimed, “Getting old is like a one-horse shay – everything falls apart.” Jennie had a large network of acquaintances and an attentive family.

Although she was acquainted with the anguish of grief and loss, Jennie would never allow herself to mourn indefinitely. She once stated at a monthly residents’ meeting, “I haven’t got much time left to be depressed.”

Why have I portrayed this glimpse of Jennie? In my opinion, Jennie had already reached that singular moment in her life, with all her aches and pains that accompanied her into old age, with an attitude of no regrets. She had that unbreakable belief that there is more to be accomplished. Jennie was the proverbial optimist despite her advanced age. She “left us” at 103 with numerous grandchildren and close family members gathered around her bedside for one last and loving goodbye to a unique person.

Currently, there are numerous programs being introduced through education to rectify the public’s distorted impressions that old age is perpetually grim with associated illnesses.

The assumption still prevails that growing old is a downhill projection. Unfortunately, there are many who still believe this. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Rehabilitation then becomes a realizable part of care for the aged. It is, in fact, the key for returning the aged individual to what has been documented as a “wellness continuum.” Rehabilitation involves strengthening of weakened muscles, increased range of motion to the extremities, locomotor skills, etc.

According to the researcher Farquar, approximately 86% of the aged population have or will eventually experience various chronic conditions while 95% of these same individuals will still be able to live and thrive in their communities. Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Gray Panthers, an advocate organization for the aged states, “The image of the poor and sick old has been continuously emphasized by the mass media despite the fact that it does not reflect the real world of the aged.”

In truth, the aged continue to be active and achieve self-satisfaction with their lives. In other words, they are productive and useful!

The practical value of the wellness concept, mentioned earlier, with all its proven implications for the aged, begins with a desire for continuous intellectual and spiritual growth and an abundance of healthy opportunities for change. Yes, even Jennie, at 103, achieved her desire for satisfaction in life and then some.

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