Adjustment to Aging, Subjective Age and Age Representation: Assessing a Nationally-Diverse Population of Older Adults

Sofia von Humboldt, Isabel Leal, Filipa Pimenta, Georgeta Niculescu

Abstract


Aim: This research sought to analyse older adults’ conceptualization of adjustment to aging (AtA), subjective age (SA) and age representation (AR), adding a cross-national comparative perspective to aging well. Method: Questionnaires were completed, assessing participants’ background information. Semis-structured interviews were performed, addressing three core areas: SA, AtA and AR. Complete information on 231 older adults aged between 74-102 years (M = 83.1; SD = 6.692) from four different nationalities, was available. Data was subjected to content analysis. Results: Seven categories were identified to contribute to AtA: ‘accomplishment, personal fulfilment and future projects’, ‘occupation, profession, autonomy and leisure’, ‘health status, physical and intellectual functioning’, ‘valorisation of time and age’, ‘family, social and interpersonal attachment’, ‘stability, quality and financial situation’, and ‘sense of limit and existential issues’. Five categories were identified for SA: ‘with congruence’, ‘without concern’, ‘with apprehension’, ‘young-at-heart’ and ‘good enough’. For AR, eight emergent categories were found: ‘future investment’, ‘reconciliation with life’, ‘present challenge’, ‘regret about the past’, ‘dynamic life’, ‘with contentment’, ‘as an opportunity’ and ‘with dissatisfaction’. Conclusion: This research contributes for a better understanding of what defines AtA, SA and AR in older adults. Moreover, interventions and communication approaches in clinical practice and program development in health care context should focus on shared perceptions of aging well.

Keywords


adjustment to aging; subjective age; age representation; aging well; older adults; content analysis