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Older adults' narration and understanding of their experiences of being vitally engaged in living Terrett, Marianna Joy 2012

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OLDER ADULTS’ NARRRATION AND UNDERSTANDING OF THEIR EXPERIENCES OF BEING VITALLY ENGAGED IN LIVING by Marianna Joy Terrett M.A., The University of British Columbia, 2004  A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in The Faculty of Graduate Studies (Counselling Psychology)  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver) March, 2012  © Marianna Joy Terrett, 2012  ABSTRACT Ten women and men between the ages of 69 and 85 participated in a study that explored how older adults narrate and understand their experiences of being vitally engaged in living. The research question was: How Do Men and Women Seventy Years of Age and Older Narrate and Understand the Experience of Being Vitally Engaged in Living? The purpose was to reveal the strengths that some older individuals possess and learn how they manage to cope with the many losses and challenges of later life while still being able to engage in living full, meaningful, and vital lives. Participants were chosen who were articulate in English, perceived themselves to be living vital lives, and had no cognitive impairment, mental illness, or physical disability that would exclude them from being interviewed for a long period of time. Positive psychology formed the theoretical framework for the study. A narrative inquiry was chosen as the methodology for the study because it is founded on studying individuals indepth, focuses on the whole both in context and in time, and is accomplished through the stories participants tell and the meaning they make of those stories. One or, if needed, two interactive narrative interviews were conducted. The interviews were transcribed verbatim. A holistic-content approach was used to read, interpret, and analyze each participant’s story which resulted in ten individual written narratives. Validation interviews were conducted with the participants to check the rigor of the individual narratives. A categorical-content approach was used to construct the common themes in living a vital life across all the participants’ narratives which resulted in ten common themes and subthemes therein. This resulted in one written common themes narrative. Validation interviews were conducted with the participants, peer reviewers, and expert reviewers to check the rigor of the common themes narrative.  ii  PREFACE The research in this dissertation involved human subjects and as such, was reviewed and approved by the UBC Behavioral Research Ethics Board prior to the start of the research. The number of the original certificate pertaining to the research in this dissertation is: H09-00317.  iii  TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract ........................................................................................................................................... ii Preface .......................................................................................................................................... iii Table of Contents ............................................................................................................................iv List of Tables ................................................................................................................................ vii List of Figures .............................................................................................................................. viii Acknowledgements.........................................................................................................................ix CHAPTER 1:  Introduction ........................................................................................................... 1  Statement of the Problem..................................................................................................... 1 Theoretical Framework for this Study ................................................................................. 4 Purpose of the Study ............................................................................................................ 6 CHAPTER 2:  Literature Review ................................................................................................ 10  Late Adulthood, Late Adulthood Tasks and the Importance of Meaning Making ........... 10 Major Theories of Adult Development and Aging ............................................................ 13 Research on Successful Aging, Late Adulthood Well-Being and Life Satisfaction ........................................................................................................................ 29 Research on Vitality and Late Adulthood ......................................................................... 44 CHAPTER 3:  Methodology ....................................................................................................... 55  Approach to the Question .................................................................................................. 55 Narrative Epistemology ..................................................................................................... 58 Situating the Reader .......................................................................................................... 59 Criteria for Selection of the Participants ........................................................................... 60 Recruitment and Data Selection Procedures...................................................................... 61 Data Collection Interviews ................................................................................................ 63 iv  Development of Narratives from Transcribed Interviews ................................................. 68 Validation Interviews......................................................................................................... 71 Criteria for the Rigor of the Study ..................................................................................... 72 Presuppositions and Expectations...................................................................................... 73 Ethical Considerations ....................................................................................................... 76 CHAPTER 4:  Results ................................................................................................................. 78  Individual Narratives Overview ........................................................................................ 78 Participants’ Biographies ................................................................................................... 79 Outline of Common Meta Themes and Subthemes in Living a Vital Life ........................ 91 Common Themes Narrative in Living a Vital Life ........................................................... 93 Theme One: Good Health ...................................................................................... 93 Theme Two: Satisfying Relationships ................................................................... 94 Theme Three: Staying Active and Involved in Life .............................................. 95 Theme Four: Adequate Finances ........................................................................... 96 Theme Five: Lifelong Learning ............................................................................. 97 Theme Six: Carrying On and Coping With Loss and Life Challenges ................. 98 Theme Seven: Personal Agency ............................................................................ 99 Theme Eight: Having a Purpose, Looking Forward to Things, and Living a Worthwhile Life ............................................................ 100 Theme Nine: Taking Personal and Social Responsibility ................................... 101 Theme Ten: Feeling Fortunate and Grateful ....................................................... 102 Validation Interviews....................................................................................................... 103 Personal Reflections ........................................................................................................ 107 CHAPTER 5: Discussion ......................................................................................................... 109 Theoretical Implications .................................................................................................. 109 v  Implications for Counselling ........................................................................................... 122 Implications for Future Research..................................................................................... 127 Limitations ....................................................................................................................... 129 REFERENCES ............................................................................................................................ 132 APPENDICES ............................................................................................................................. 153 A: Recruitment Poster...................................................................................................... 153 B: Telephone Screening Form ......................................................................................... 154 C: Informed Consent........................................................................................................ 156 D: Orienting Statement .................................................................................................... 158 E: Guide Questions for Validation Interviews................................................................. 160 F: List of Counsellors ...................................................................................................... 162 G: Individual Narrative Accounts .................................................................................... 163 H: Tangible Representations of Vital Living................................................................... 354 I: Individual Categories and Codes.................................................................................. 363  vi  LIST OF TABLES Table I.1  Don (73 years old)................................................................................................ 363  Table I.2  Elisabeth (69 years old)........................................................................................ 366  Table I.3  Shirley (80 years old) ........................................................................................... 368  Table I.4  Jean (71 years old) ............................................................................................... 372  Table I.5  Art (81 years old) ................................................................................................. 376  Table I.6  John (82 years old) ............................................................................................... 378  Table I.7  Clarence (81 years old) ........................................................................................ 382  Table I.8  Henry (85 years old) ............................................................................................ 387  Table I.9  Margarita (76 years old) ....................................................................................... 391  Table I.10  Helen (72 years old) ............................................................................................. 394  vii  LIST OF FIGURES Figure H.1  Don’s flagship commercial building .................................................................... 354  Figure H.2  Shirley and her father ........................................................................................... 355  Figure H.3  Shirley and her father on Citadel Hill, Halifax, NS ............................................. 355  Figure H.4  Jean in her Red Hat Society outfit ....................................................................... 356  Figure H.5  Art in front of: the Tantalus Mountain Range (Brohm Lake area); the Hollyburn Fir; and the big rhododendron bush near his home .............................................. 357  Figure H.6  John as an infant being held by his mother .......................................................... 358  Figure H.7  John’s hiking boots .............................................................................................. 358  Figure H.8  The cabin Clarence helped build .......................................................................... 359  Figure H.9  The view from Clarence’s cabin .......................................................................... 359  Figure H.10  Henry playing his cello ........................................................................................ 360  Figure H.11  Margarita holding her tennis racquet ................................................................... 361  Figure H.12  Helen, travelling the world................................................................................... 362  viii  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Older Adults’ Narration and Understanding of Their Experiences of Being Vitally Engaged in Living: A Narrative Study is dedicated to 10 vital living men and women—Art, Clarence, Don, Elisabeth, Helen, Henry, Jean, John, Margarita, and Shirley—who wholeheartedly committed to this research process. Your stories are inspirational. I would like to thank the women and men who reviewed the common themes narrative and then met with me. You were very generous. I am very grateful for the inspiration, support, guidance, skill, and incredible work ethic of my supervisor, Dr. Judith Daniluk. She is a “rock!” I feel especially fortunate that Dr. Daniluk encouraged me to do better and be better throughout the research process. It is a gift that I will always treasure. I would also like to acknowledge the support and advice of my committee members, Dr. Marla Buchanan, Dr. Marv Westwood, and Dr. Carl Leggo. Thank you for your enthusiasm and optimism. My mother, Anne, has always told me stories—spellbinding stories. The influence she had, and continues to have, on my life is profound. It is important for me to acknowledge and thank the men and women who have enriched my life—great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and older friends—by sharing their stories with me. I have felt the love and presence of Mary—my grandmother—throughout the research process, especially during the most difficult times. Members of the younger generations—my nieces, Rebecca and Katerina and my son’s fiancee, Yvonne—have also shared their stories with me and encouraged me to do what I love. Finally, I am very blessed to have the love, support, help, and understanding of my family—my husband Andrew, and my children, Luke and Anni—to pursue my dreams. They are compelling storytellers and a critical source from which I draw strength to live a vital life.  ix  CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION I delight in conversing with the very old. They have gone before us on a road we too perhaps must take, and I think we should inquire of them what sort of road it is, rugged and difficult, or smooth and easily traveled. - Socrates in Plato’s The Republic Statement of the Problem The baby boomer generation is about to swell the population of older adults like no other time in history and older adults are forecast to live significantly longer than previous generations (Brown, 2002; Hartman-Stein & Potkanowicz, 2003; Lynn & Adamson, 2003; Thompson & Foth, 2003). Increased life expectancy and a decline in fertility (Munnell, 2004) mean that baby boomers are impacting the North American age profile more than any other age group (Needham et al., 2005). By the year 2030 the most significant bulk of the population will be over 65 years of age. The number of adults aged 85+ is expected to quadruple in the first half of this century (Hetzel & Smith, 2001). In light of the demographic realities of our aging population and increasing life expectancies, an important challenge for society is to be aware of and understand how older adults achieve and maintain vital and satisfying lives. As the population of adults over 65 swells during the next thirty years, it is incumbent upon the field of Counselling Psychology to address the needs and issues of older adults—particularly in terms of enhanced quality of life. This is the focus of this research. Research reveals that the longer people live, the greater the number of losses and challenges they must face and the more vulnerable they are to having a diminished quality of life (Baltes & Baltes, 1998; Bukov et al., 2002; Lang et al., 2002). Adults in old age are in the position of having to balance gains and losses. As they enter later adulthood (85+) this becomes even more difficult as losses compound and dramatically outweigh gains (Baltes & Baltes). It is not surprising then that, to date, the study of older adults has overwhelmingly been approached from a negative or deficits lens rather than from a positive or benefits lens (Coleman, 2002; 1  Hurd, 1999; Katz & Marshall, 2003; Morell, 2003; Pfeiffer, 1999; Wray, 2003). Most of the literature on aging focuses on the health problems, social deficits and lifestyle challenges that are associated with growing old. In turning to the developmental literature, only a handful of researchers and theorists have addressed the issue of positive aging in later life. In my study, however, I addressed aging from a strengths versus deficits perspective. Specifically, through the lens of positive psychology, I examined how men and women over the age of 70 construct vital lives. The overarching question that guided this research was: How do men and women seventy years of age and older narrate and understand the experience of being vitally engaged in living? In chapter two, I critiqued the pertinent literature on adult development, positive psychology, aging well or successfully, and vitality in-depth. For now, I have presented a brief overview and synthesis of four relevant theories/models of psychosocial lifespan development, what we know about vital living in later life, the factors associated with vital living, and the limitations of the current literature. Overall, lifespan psychosocial theorists and researchers studying adaptive aging (e.g., Baltes, 2003; Baltes & Carstensen, 2003; Erikson & Erikson, 1997; Erikson et al., 1986; Levinson, 1978, 1996; Vaillant, 2002) postulate that the mastering of lifespan developmental tasks are necessary for aging well and vitally. The above theorists also posit that there needs to be a dynamic interconnection between the older individual and society for vital aging to occur. These same theorists propose that being vitally engaged in life, what Erikson and Erikson refer to as maintaining a grand-generative function, is essential for achieving integrity and wisdom. According to Erikson and Erikson, integrity is the achievement of a sense of life “coherence and wholeness” (p. 65) in the face of significant physical, cognitive, emotional, and social losses that are inherent in the aging process. According to Baltes and Carstensen, Erikson and Erikson, Erikson at al., Levinson and Vaillant, achieving integrity is 2  considered to be the major developmental task for older adults to master in order to adapt, grow, and live vitally. These theorists, to lesser or greater degrees, also posit that relational involvement is key for development, growth, and vital living in late adulthood. Baltes, and Baltes and Carstensen propose that older individuals who are able to maximize gains (positive goals, events, results) and minimize losses (negative goals, events, results) appear to age more successfully and vitally than individuals who are unable to balance losses and gains. In order for individuals to live vitally engaged lives in their seventies, eighties, nineties and beyond, they must “reflect vital reaction to change, to disease and to conflict” (Vaillant, 2002, p. 15). According to Vaillant, six protective factors predictive of healthy and vital aging are: never having smoked or having stopped when young; having an adaptive coping style or using mature defenses; having not abused alcohol; maintaining a healthy weight; having a stable marriage; doing some exercise; and more years of post secondary education. Underscoring these protective qualities are four personal qualities essential to aging vitally: future orientation (being able to hope, anticipate and plan); being capable of gratitude and forgiveness; the capacity for love and empathy; and wanting to be in a relationship with others (Vaillant). The above theorists and/or models provide some indication that, to lesser or greater degrees, older adults can balance the losses and gains inherent in aging and live vital, satisfying, and fulfilling lives. They also suggest developmental tasks and dispositional factors that may be necessary to live vitally in late adulthood. However, more research is needed to determine and understand what it means to live vital and satisfying lives in late adulthood. Much of the lifespan developmental research on late life development and vital living was done with younger adults, including college students and young and middle-aged adults. More research regarding late life development and what it means to live vital and satisfying lives as older adults needs to be done with individuals over the age of 70. There is still a significant gap in the literature and in 3  professional training programs regarding the psychological strengths of older adults and how these strengths potentially aid individuals in living vital lives. We need to know more about what members of the older generations consider important, or even essential, to vital living. Theoretical Framework for this Study Consistent with a strengths versus a deficits focus, positive psychology formed the theoretical framework for this research. Positive psychology is the study of positive subjective experience or emotions, positive personal character traits, and societal and/or governmental virtues and the institutions that model civic virtues (Fredrickson, 2001; Gable & Haidt, 2005; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000; Seligman et al., 2005). Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi define positive psychology in the following way: The field of positive psychology at the subjective level is about valued subjective experiences: well-being, contentment, and satisfaction (in the past); hope and optimism (for the future); and flow and happiness (in the present). At the individual level, it is about positive individual traits: the capacity for love and vocation, courage, interpersonal skill, aesthetic sensibility, perseverance, forgiveness, originality, future mindedness, spirituality, high talent, and wisdom. At the group level, it about the civic virtues and the institutions that move individuals toward better citizenship: responsibility, nurturance, altruism, civility, moderation, tolerance, and work ethic (p. 5). The aim of positive psychology is to study the “full spectrum of human experience” (Gable & Haidt, p. 105) by acknowledging that human suffering exists and focusing on positive mental health. Seligman et al. (2005) credit the work of various people for contributing to the theoretical framework upon which positive psychology was founded (e.g., Deci & Ryan, 1985; Erikson, 1963, 1982; Jahoda, 1958; Maslow 1954, 1962; Rogers, 1951; Ryff & Singer, 1996; Vaillant, 4  1977). Gable and Haidt also include William James (1902), and Cowan’s (2000) work as contributing to the theory of positive psychology. Proponents of positive psychology seek to understand and nurture the factors that create flourishing individuals, institutions, communities and societies (e.g., Cameron et al., 2003; Easterbrook, 2003; Fredrickson, 2001; Gardner et al., 2001; Kahneman et al., 1999; Murray, 2003; Vaillant, 2002). This fits so well with the notion of vital living in later life. According to Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, there is a paucity of research in psychology about “what makes life worth living” (p. 5). Under the umbrella of the term positive psychology, researchers have gathered together pertinent theory and research clarifying what constitutes a well-lived or worthwhile life (e.g., Fredrickson, 2001; Peterson & Park, 2003; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Peterson and Seligman (2004) have developed the CSV (Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification), a description and classification of virtues and dispositional strengths that contribute to human flourishing. In the CSV, Peterson and Seligman noted and classified the following six virtues and 24 character strengths that are endorsed by almost every culture worldwide: 1. Wisdom and knowledge—Creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, perspective 2. Courage—Authenticity, bravery, persistence, zest 3. Humanity—Kindness, love, social intelligence 4. Justice—Fairness, leadership, teamwork 5. Temperance—Forgiveness, modesty, prudence, self-regulation 6. Transcendence—Appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, religiousness (in Peterson & Seligman, p. 412). Baltes and Staudinger (2000) and Vaillant (2002) suggest that the above individual strengths and virtues evolve over a whole lifespan. Proponents of positive psychology propose that positive psychology illuminates qualities that are life enhancing and bring joy and meaning to life such as 5  “hope, wisdom, creativity, future mindedness, courage, spirituality, responsibility, and perseverance” (Seligman & Csikzentmihalyi, 2000, p. 5). Purpose of the Study In this study I hoped to learn how older adults manage to cope with the many losses and challenges of later life while still being able to engage in living vital and satisfying lives. The purpose of this study was to explore how adults aged 70 and older narrate and understand their experiences of being vitally engaged in living. Ryan and Frederick (1997) defined subjective vitality as feeling alive, being full of energy and being alert. Furthermore, vitality is “energy that is perceived to emanate from the self” (p. 535). Ryan and Frederick reported that the Chinese concept of Chi is, in part, “a vital force or energy that is the source of life, creativity, right action, and harmony” (p. 532). In ancient Japanese culture, vitality was the energy and power called upon to activate physical and mental health (Ryan & Frederick). The English Oxford Dictionary defines the adjective vital as: “1 absolutely necessary; essential. 2 essential for life: the vital organs. 3 full of energy; lively.” Based on the work of the theorists and researchers discussed in this chapter—Baltes and Baltes (1998), Carlsen (1991), Erikson, Erikson and Kivnick (1986), Levinson (1978, 1996), Vaillant (2002)—for the purpose of this study Ryan and Frederick’s definition of subjective vitality, which includes the third dictionary definition, was used to guide this enquiry. By adopting a positive psychology lens in this study, I hoped to reveal the strengths that older individuals possess and to discover ways in which older adults’ lives can be vital, satisfactory, and meaningful. The overarching question that guided this research was: How do men and women seventy years of age and older narrate and understand the experience of being vitally engaged in living?  6  A qualitative study incorporating narrative interviews and researcher journaling was an appropriate/fitting method of inquiry for addressing this research question (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Janesick, 2004; Josselson, Lieblich & McAdams, 2003; Kvale, 1996; Lieblich et al., 1998; Mishler, 1986; Riessman, 1993; Rubin & Rubin, 2005; Wenger, 2003). By facilitating what Ellis and Bochner (2000) refer to as a personal, collaborative, and interactive relationship between researcher and participant, a relationship that revolves around how meaning infuses the human experience, a narrative method was especially appropriate for this study (Josselson et al.). As well, narrative research comprises holistic, in-depth study of certain individuals in a context that is social and is situated in a specific time-space context (Josselson et al.; Kvale; Randall & Mc Kim, 2008; Rubin & Rubin). Narrative research facilitates the detailed and thorough telling and understanding of an individual’s personal narrative or story or experience (Josselson et al.; Lieblich et al.; Riessman, 1993). Bruner (1987) pointed out that through narration we “segment and purpose-build the very events of a life” (p. 15). The narrative approach was well-suited for both learning about how some older adults live vitally while managing and coping with the many losses and challenges that are a part of everyday later life, and how they make meaning from their experiences of being vitally engaged in living. In chapter 3, I addressed in-depth what narrative research is, what it provides and why it was commensurate with the purpose and question of this study. This study was informed by the experts on aging themselves—older adults who perceived themselves as experiencing the phenomenon of vital involvement in life (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Kvale, 1996; Mishler, 1986; Rubin & Rubin, 2005; Warren & Karner, 2005). Surprisingly, the voices of older adults have seldom been included in the literature on aging (Higginson & Carr, 2001; Fry, 2000; Sastre, 1999; Wilhelmson et al., 2005). As Wilhelmson et al. and Fry point out, there is a large body of literature dealing with the importance of quality of 7  life among older adults, yet the voices of the subjective ‘experts’ are missing in that literature. There is a scarcity of literature and research that actually asks older adults themselves what contributes to or constitutes vital engagement in life and how they are managing to live vital and satisfying lives in the face of the many losses and challenges that typically occur in the later decades of life (Carr & Higginson; Fry; Sastre; Wilhelmson et al.). Therefore, as suggested by Socrates so many centuries ago, in this study I asked the experts—older adults themselves—about their perceptions and experiences of living vital older lives. I sought to understand the participants’ lived experiences from their viewpoint. I explored how older adults identify themselves as, and make meaning of, being vitally engaged in living. During the process of interviewing and researcher journaling, I co-constructed the components, factors or qualities implicated in living vitally. Through the process of listening to older adults narrate their stories of living vitally I began to know what, for the participants, constitutes living vitally in later life. How individuals experience and make meaning of living vital and satisfying lives is relevant throughout any stage of life. However, this may be particularly important in older adulthood (Erikson & Erikson, 1997) as women and men attempt to achieve a balance between the losses and gains of later life (Baltes & Baltes, 1998; Vaillant, 2002; Wilhelmson et. al, 2005). By asking older adults how they understood and experienced living vitally, I hoped to add their voices and perspectives to the developmental, gerontological and counselling psychology literature. The findings from this study have the potential of providing insights into working with the older adult population from a strengths rather than a deficits perspective. Nelson (2002) suggests that elders who are coping well psychologically and emotionally even as they face the inevitability of greater physical and social losses, provide hope for all generations that they, too, will be able to face life’s challenges with grace and courage. Randall 8  and Mc Kim (2008) suggest that aging needs to be examined from the perspective of “actively growing old” (p. 4)—a “growth-focused” (p. 5) perspective. They believe that a perspective of actively aging has been “left largely unexamined” (p. 5). While in her seventies, Betty Friedan (1993) wrote in The Fountain of Age: “We have barely even considered the possibilities in age for new kinds of loving intimacy, purposeful work and activity, learning and knowing, community and care” (p. 87). It is my hope that the findings from this research will begin to illuminate some of these possibilities.  9  CHAPTER 2: REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE In this review of the literature I present an overarching picture of the developmental issues, challenges, and tasks during the stage of late adulthood. I identify and clarify what is considered to be necessary for vital involvement in life, well-being, and life satisfaction in late and later adulthood. In the first section I examine how late and later adulthood has been defined chronologically and developmentally. An overview of late and later adulthood developmental tasks, changes and challenges is then presented, and the primary reason that it is important to find meaning and value in one’s life in old age is illuminated. In the second section I summarize the primary theoretical models of lifespan development and research findings on late and later adulthood development, and identify some relevant differences in the developmental tasks and trajectories of adult women and men. In the third section I summarize important research findings on successful aging, notably the components or predictors associated with life satisfaction and/or dissatisfaction in late adulthood. In the final section I describe subjective vitality and summarize the findings from the limited literature on vitality in late adulthood. Late Adulthood, Late Adulthood Tasks and the Importance of Meaning Making Examining the research on how women and men 65 years of age and older understand their experiences of living a vital life must begin with a description of the phenomenon of late adulthood as posited by theorists and researchers. According to the World Health Organization (2008), most developed nations accept the definition of older person as being the chronological age of 65 or older. At present, the United Nations’ definition of older person is 60+ years. Erikson and Erikson (1997), Levinson (1978), and Vaillant (2002) propose that late adulthood begins in the seventh decade (early or mid-sixties) and lasts until the mid-eighties. Later adulthood begins around age 80 according to Levinson (1978), at 85 according to Baltes and Baltes (1998), and in the late 80’s according to Erikson and Erikson (1997). However, it is 10  important to note that a chronological definition of old age is rarely an accurate indication of a person’s psychological, biological and/or social age—indices which are considered the fundamental determinants of the older adult’s vital engagement in living (Baltes and Baltes, 1998; Vaillant, 2000). Moving away from chronological age, Aiken (1995), defines old age as the stage of life when there are more losses than gains, when “capacities and opportunities decline rather than expand” (p. 2). The developmental literature indicates that late adulthood is indeed characterized by the experience of physical decline and the increasing likelihood of death and serious illness among spouses, partners, siblings, friends and peers (Erikson & Erikson, 1997; Levinson, 1978; Vaillant, 2002). Several theorists concur that a definition of old age must also include the unique characteristics of older individuals, including the diversity of both psychological and physical qualities, the meaning of old age depending upon one’s cultural or societal attitudes and expectations, and the older individual’s attitude toward life and aging (Aiken; Baltes & Baltes; 1998; Erikson & Erikson; Vaillant). While acknowledging late adulthood as a distinctive time of both decline and fulfillment, several prominent researchers and theorists (Baltes, 2003; Baltes & Carstensen, 2003; Erikson & Erikson, 1997; Levinson, 1978, 1996; Vaillant, 2002) have suggested that later life is also potentially a time of growth, change, and development. Levinson and Vaillant proposed that in order to grow personally in late adulthood, it is necessary for the individual to acknowledge that his or her generation is no longer the dominant one and to pass on power to the next generation. According to Langle (2001), an important task of the older adult is to deal with the process of aging emotionally and cognitively, which includes experiencing aging within one’s own realm of understanding. This includes having developed the maturity to “actively let go” (Langle, 2001, p. 214) and find the courage to face unchartered waters. It is necessary to 11  perceive and understand the world differently in old age through aging lenses that transform the way of “being-in-the-world” (Heidegger, cited in Langle, p. 212). In late adulthood, the individual has moved closer to death and is more connected to the process of dying and thus needs to find a way to focus more within him or herself (Erikson & Erikson, 1997; Levinson, 1978; Vaillant, 2002). Langle suggests that the most profound task and gain of late adulthood may be to “dwell on oneself” (p. 214) or to discover one’s inner world. The older adult’s discovery of his or her inner world requires being open to change, letting go of preconceived ideas, and making adaptations to their characteristic patterns of being, doing and living. Based on his longitudinal research on adult development, Levinson (1978) identified another major developmental task of late adulthood as being the creation of a new balance of involvement with self and society. From this perspective, if the older adult can reinvent or recreate his or her “self-in-world” (p. 36), late adulthood can be as unique and fulfilling as all the other life stages (Erikson & Erikson 1997; Friedan, 1993; Levinson; Vaillant, 2002). Recreation of self-in-world requires the older person to reflect upon and comprehend anew, his or her life context in order to develop different attitudes regarding her or his level of engagement or disengagement in living (Langle, 2001). Maintaining a grand-generative function is another major task of late adulthood that has been identified by Erikson and Erikson (1997) and Vaillant (2002). Older adults need to maintain a vital involvement in living; they need to take care of the generations that precede them or, according to Kotre (1984), “to invest one’s substance in forms of life and work that will outlive the self” (p. 10). According to Vaillant, this stage requires the older adult to “take other people inside” (p. 139). In later adulthood, an individual’s grand-generative function can be maintained by modeling for the younger generations and for his or her peers “wisdom and personal nobility” (Levinson, p. 39). According to Levinson, the older adult needs to reach the 12  ultimate involvement with his or her ‘self,’ come to terms with it, and prepare to face dying and death. From this perspective, finding meaning and value in one’s life in order to come to terms with death is imperative for psychosocial development in late adulthood (Erikson & Erikson, 1997; Langle, 2001; Levinson, 1978; Vaillant, 2002). According to these theorists, viewing life as being and having been meaningful and valuable underpins one of the primary developmental tasks of late adulthood—the attainment of a sense of integrity regarding the older adult’s entire life. From this perspective the mastering of integrity is essential for the attainment of wisdom (Baltes & Baltes, 1990; Erikson & Erikson; Levinson; Vaillant). Integrity and wisdom are the “strengths of old age” (Erikson & Erikson, p. 5). Erikson and Erikson and Vaillant postulated that in order to attain integrity the older adult must live with vitality and consciousness/mindfulness, build and sustain tactful and insightful relationships, and be able to adapt and be open to change. According to these researchers, the major developmental task of later adulthood is for the individual to come to terms with or make peace with the personal process of dying. This includes preparing for his or her death through finding new meaning in life and death, generally, and one’s own life and death, specifically. In later adulthood the individual continues to grow and develop through the integration of all aspects of his or her life and by personally responding to existential issues and questions such as meaning in life (Langle). Major Theories of Adult Development and Aging In this section, I discuss the major theories and models of adult development and aging, synthesize the findings, and critique the strengths and weaknesses of the theories/work of Baltes (2003) and Baltes and Carstensen (2003), Carlsen (1991), Erikson (1982), Erikson and Erikson (1997), Vaillant (2002), and Levinson (1978, 1996). 13  Erikson (1982) and Erikson and Erikson (1997) developed a psychosocial theory of human lifespan development based upon the life historical data of approximately 50 healthy American children born in 1928 and the first half of 1929. The data came from the Guidance Study of the Institute of Human Development during the 1940’s. Erikson continued to prospectively study both the children and their parents through more than five decades. Based upon the analysis of the life historical data over more than fifty years, Erikson (1982) first proposed eight major stages (infancy to old age) of psychosocial development spanning from infancy to old age. Erikson and Erikson (1997) subsequently added a ninth stage to the life cycle specific to the eighth and ninth decades. Erikson proposed that each developmental stage involved a struggle between two contrary dispositions—syntonic and dystonic. Syntonic tendencies are the positive characteristics or dispositions that support personal development, encourage purpose and goal setting, honor self-respect, and celebrate industriousness. Syntonic dispositions protect us when we are faced with and/or challenged by the dystonic or negative dispositions that undermine personal growth and discourage purposefulness, self-respect and commitment. According to Eriksonian theory, there must be a balance between the two contrary dispositions in order for healthy psychosocial development and growth to occur. Erikson found that psychosocial strengths emerge from the struggles of syntonic and dystonic tendencies, especially during the following three stages of life: hope (infancy), fidelity (adolescence), and care (adulthood). Erikson and Erikson (1997) posited that stage eight (old age) involves a balance between integrity and despair or disgust creating the strength of wisdom which they describe as “informed and detached concern with life itself in the face of death itself (p. 61)”; “coherence and wholeness” (p. 65); and “integrality, a tendency to keep things together” (p. 65). Erikson and Erikson proposed that in the final stage nine (old age in one’s eighties and nineties), the dystonic 14  elements of despair/disgust have primacy and power in a person’s life. In the ninth stage the following events are theorized to occur: personal autonomy and independence are significantly challenged; the individual’s pride and confidence are shaken; and hope and trust, the foundation upon which psychosocial health rests, no longer provide the strong support they did in previous stages. In this final stage of development Erikson and Erikson suggested that facing down despair and disgust with “faith and appropriate humility” (p. 106) may be the only way to achieve integrity and wisdom. Erikson’s (1982) and Erikson and Erikson’s (1997) research findings are empirically grounded and provide a framework for understanding psychosocial development throughout the lifespan. Erikson suggested that throughout a series of stages, psychosocially healthy adults are engaged in life within a widening social perspective. With regard to older adults, this means that while their social realm (friends and acquaintances) may be narrowing, their social perspective is widening beyond the self to include interest, concern and action in relation to others in the world. According to Erikson, development and growth are possible even in the eighth and ninth stages. He was the first social scientist to conceptualize the phenomenon of adult development as one of growth rather than decline—a perspective which fits well with the focus and underlying assumptions of my research. A major criticism of Erikson’s theory is that it doesn’t include a feminist perspective (Caffarella & Olson, 1993; Gilligan, 1986; Tennant, 2000; Vander Ven, 1999). Gilligan and Vander Ven are also critical of Erikson’s theory because it doesn’t consider a constructivist perspective and doesn’t acknowledge how cultural factors and social values might potentially impact individual functioning. Smith-Osborne (2007) and Vander Ven also note that stage theory is somewhat limited by its rigid view of development and growth as unfolding sequentially and of one stage of life following another in a predictable pattern.  15  My study is informed by the research and theory of the Eriksons (1982, 1997) in a number of important ways. Erikson’s psychosocial theory of the human life cycle includes the eighth and ninth stages, old and older age, respectively. Adults living in their eighth and ninth stages of life are the focus of my study. Erikson also conceptualized adult development as growth rather than decline. He posited that progress is possible into one’s seventies, eighties and nineties through the achievement of the tasks of the last stages of the life cycle. Vital living older adults may be mastering the work/tasks that Erikson suggested are necessary for healthy psychosocial aging. Also inherent in Erikson’s theory is the conceptualization of vital living older adults possessing positive personal traits of character and having positive subjective experience or emotions, all of which are consistent with the assumptions/tenets of positive psychology. My research is informed by the theoretical framework of positive psychology. Through the “Study of Adult Development at Harvard,” Vaillant (2002) has been able to empirically study Erikson’s research and theory, and to build upon it. Vaillant’s (2002) Harvard Medical School prospective research integrated three cohorts of men and women who were studied continuously for six to eight decades (from childhood to old age). The research examined the basic components of adult development and looked at the health and happiness of hundreds of individuals from a variety of backgrounds. The first sample consisted of 268 male Harvard graduates born around 1920 who were studied for nearly sixty years or until their deaths. The participants received questionnaires every two years, provided reports of physical exams every five years, and were interviewed approximately every 15 years. Their wives and children also participated in the research by providing details of their own lives and observations about their husbands or fathers. The second research sample (1939) consisted of 456 inner city youth who were studied at ages 14, 17, 25, 32 and then re-interviewed at age 47 (1975). Afterwards, they responded to biennial questionnaires until the year 2000 when they were between the ages of 68 16  and 74. They provided reports of physical exams every five years. The third research sample was from the Stanford Terman Study (1922) which consisted of 672 gifted children most of whom were born between 1908 and 1914 and were studied for almost eighty years by Lewis Terman and colleagues. The participants filled out questionnaires every five years and were interviewed in 1940 and 1950. In 1987, Vaillant re-interviewed a representative subsample of 90 women from the Terman study. Vaillant (2002) conceptualized his model of adult psychosocial development as a revision of Erikson’s theory using the term developmental tasks rather than stages. He concluded that adult psychosocial development consists of six adult life tasks that are generally sequential in nature, must be mastered in order and, similar to Erikson and Erikson (1997), reveal a broadening of social perspective over time. With regard to age, these tasks parallel Erikson’s developmental stages. According to Vaillant (2002), adult psychosocial development evolves through the mastering of six developmental tasks. The first life task is development of an identity or a sense of an individual’s self. The second life task is intimacy or learning how to build close reciprocal and enduring emotional bonds with a life partner. The third life task is career consolidation which requires the growth of personal identity in order to develop a social identity within the world of work. The fourth life task is generativity which, according to Vaillant, requires the individual to give him or herself away or to selflessly guide the next generation. Vaillant proposed that generativity can only be realized when a person has mastered the first three life tasks. He suggested that the potential for one’s seventies to be a satisfactory and fulfilling time was tripled if the task of generativity was mastered. Keeper of the meaning is the fifth developmental task proposed by Vaillant and involves teaching about the past in meaningful ways. Vaillant suggested that it can only be mastered if an older person develops an ever-widening social radius that extends out of his or her immediate community. The sixth life 17  task posited by Vaillant is integrity. He asserted that it can be acquired only through reflection upon, and acceptance of, an individual’s life cycle as it has unfolded. Vaillant’s (2002) research findings are empirically grounded, and similar to Erikson and Erikson (1997), provide a “road map” (p. 50) for understanding adult psychosocial development and making sense of our personal selves as well as the selves of others. Like Erikson and Erikson, Vaillant acknowledged that adaptive psychosocial development in late adulthood requires that the older adult find a balance between independence and dependence, seeks to give deeper meaning to his or her life, and achieves a sense of integrity by reviewing his or her life and accepting or coming to terms with the good and the bad. Consistent with Erikson and Erikson, Vaillant suggested that older adults who have not continued to grow “beyond” (p. 50) themselves (e.g., generative, conscientious, locally and globally, and spiritual reflection) may be overwhelmed by the substantial losses of old age. The significance of Vaillant’s research and expansion of Erikson’s theory in light of my study is that Vaillant’s work also views human development as lifelong growth, incorporates a lens of positive psychology, and highlights the importance of late life development. By illuminating and adding the task of ‘Keeper of the Meaning’ to his theory of adult psychosocial development, Vaillant clarifies what Erikson implied: the necessity of becoming both wise and just in late adulthood. In other words, in the seventh and eighth decades, individuals grow through preserving their culture and its institutions—the “conservation and preservation of the collective products of mankind” (Vaillant, p. 48). Becoming concerned for a social world that radiates beyond their immediate circle of friends, family and community may be indicative of vital living for older adults. However, Vaillant’s expansion of Erikson’s theory of human development has been criticized because the sample group was not representative of society as a whole (Gilligan, 1993). Gilligan noted that Vaillant choose to use all-male research samples at 18  the theory-building stage of his research of human development and they were drawn from a privileged group (male Harvard graduates) both socioeconomically and educationally. As well, similar to Erikson, Vaillant’s conceptualization of adult psychosocial development is limited by not including feminist and constructivist perspectives and or the influence of cultural factors on human development (Smith-Osborne, 2007). Building on the work of the above-mentioned theorists, Baltes (2003) and Baltes and Carstensen (2003) adopted a social gerontology perspective focused on lifespan development. These theorists added another dimension to lifespan development by widening the focus of the “theoretically normative outcome that has seriously limited our understanding of successful ageing” by proposing a process-oriented meta-model for the process of adaptive aging referred to as the selective optimization with compensation (SOC) model. The SOC meta-model was based on research done at the Max Planck Institute of Human Development in Berlin as well as a review of relevant research and literature. The theorists looked at work on socioemotional selectivity theory and the concepts of interindividual variability and intraindividual plasticity (Baltes, 2003; Baltes & Carstensen, 2003). As well, they reviewed the literature on successful development in the following areas: biological, social and psychological systems; sports, leisure, job and family domains; and social integration, self-actualization and cognitive performance tasks. In their SOC meta-model, Baltes and colleagues (2003) posit that every process of human development involves a concurrence and reciprocity of three processes of behavioral regulation: selection, optimization, and compensation. From this perspective, growth is conceptualized to occur through the balancing of gains (desirable goals or outcomes) and losses (undesirable goals or outcomes). Based on the assumption that throughout life individuals seek to maximize gains and minimize losses the process of selection involves the narrowing of the number of areas 19  (domains and goals) that resources (physical, emotional, social, environmental) are allotted too. The process of optimization involves enhancing resources and reserves. This may occur specific to existing goals or domains or may require investing in new life areas consistent with the developmental tasks and stages of late adulthood. The process of compensation involves either finding new resources to attain the same goal or creating new goals in the face of loss of goalrelevant means. For example, an older adult who has less energy and strength and has difficulty gardening, may still maintain a garden by: growing more perennials and less annuals and having fewer flower beds (instances of selection); working in the garden in the morning when s/he has more energy and working for shorter stretches of time (compensation); and developing more upper body strength through weight training and more flexibility through stretching exercises to increase strength and fitness (optimization). The SOC meta-model of adult development is consistent with developmental lifespan psychology. In their model of adaptive aging, these theorists agree that adaptive adult development occurs through the mastery of pertinent tasks. However, they propose a broader perspective on adaptive aging by highlighting the heterogeneity of human aging and the diverse ways in which mastery can occur—taking into consideration cultural factors, personal factors, and age/life stage (whether an individual is in late or later adulthood). Baltes and Carstensen (2003) theorize that not only does successful psychosocial development occur through the mastery of tasks/goals during an individual’s lifespan, but in addition, diverse norms must be operationalized in order to evaluate whether or not an individual’s goals or outcomes have been attained. Therefore, their meta-model broadens lifespan developmental theory by allowing for more variability in successful psychosocial development based on heterogeneity and plasticity— two findings indicative of the aging process (Baltes & Carstensen).  20  With regard to lifespan developmental theory, Baltes and Carstensen (2003) note that two factors are most pertinent for adulthood and late adulthood: both losses and gains are inherent throughout the entire lifespan, and in particular with advancing age, as biological, cognitive and relational resources decline, the balance between gains and losses shifts toward more losses. They theorize that cultural factors, personal factors, and where an individual is situated along the continuum of the lifespan determine what constitutes gains and losses. The theorists assert that the dynamic interplay of selection, optimization and compensation readily functions to enhance the successful development or growth in older individuals given the depth of personal and environmental resources and reserves upon which they have to draw. Baltes and Carstensen suggest that using the processes of selection, optimization and compensation enables older adults to achieve their goals or outcomes even as they are experiencing accumulating physical, emotional and social losses. However, as resources diminish and individuals become frail and vulnerable, more environmental resources are needed for older adults to maximize goal and outcome mastery. The work of Baltes (2003) and Baltes and Carstensen (2003) is important to understanding vitality and satisfaction in later life in a number of ways. Contrary to most gerontological research these theorists propose that there is much fluidity in later life. The literature on aging suggests that vitality and aging well depends on an individual’s ability to be open to change. By acknowledging personal goal mastery as an adaptive outcome, Baltes and Carstensen acknowledge the individuality and uniqueness of every aging adult and the heterogeneity of the aging population. Theoretically then, it is possible and likely that vitality and satisfaction will be experienced by older adults in many diverse ways. This process-oriented approach focuses not only on outcomes, but also on goals and strategies. Their approach may potentially offer a framework against which older adults’ varied strategies for developing and 21  maintaining vitality and successful aging may be illuminated. While Baltes and Carstensen acknowledge that both losses and gains are inherent in the aging process and that losses unbalance gains in older age, they also propose that “old age holds the potential to be a time when the accumulated knowledge and expertise of a lifetime is invested in the realization of a distilled set of highly meaningful domains and goals” (p. 96). The capacity to lead vital and satisfactory lives in late adulthood may potentially hinge on the ability to distill what is most meaningful to be accomplished for each individual person. The research and meta-model proposed by Baltes (2003) and Baltes and Carstensen (2003) informs my study in three significant ways. First, as social gerontologists, these theorists studied older adults while some other theories of later life (e.g., Erikson, 1982; Eriksons 1997; Levinson, 1978, 1996) have been based on speculation or the extrapolation of findings from younger populations. Second, unlike the majority of social gerontologists whose work underscores the negative aspects associated with aging (decline and loss), their research illuminates adaptive aging. The model of selective optimization with compensation proposed by Baltes and Carstensen may help provide information on the adaptive process of successful aging. This is particularly relevant to my research because living vitally as an older adult is an adaptive process. Third, in their SOC meta-model these theorists propose that human aging is inherently heterogeneous and adaptive aging cannot be measured according to normative standards. It is possible and likely then, that vital living older adults are a heterogeneous population. While there may be commonalities in the way in which older adults experience living vitally, there will also be unique individual differences—perhaps based on culture, personal and situational factors (e.g. health, family, partnered, divorced, widowed, single), social circumstances (e.g., where they live, engagement with others), and resources (e.g., character/disposition traits, finances, education)  22  and age/life stage (Baltes & Baltes, 1990). What is missing from the work of Baltes and Baltes and Carstensen are constructionist and feminist perspectives. I now turn to the research and developmental theory of Levinson (1978, 1996). In 1967, Levinson and his colleagues formed a research team with the primary goal being “to create a developmental perspective on adulthood in men” (Levinson, 1978, p. x). From 1968 to 1970, the research team conducted intensive biographical interviews to collaboratively “construct the story of a man’s life” (Levinson, p. 14). The sample included 40 men aged 35 to 45 years: 10 industry hourly workers; 10 business executives;10 university biologists; and 10 writers of novels. All the participants were born in America and were, at the time of the study, living in the area between New York and Boston. They came from varied social backgrounds: 15% from disadvantaged urban or rural environments; 42% from stable blue collar or lowermiddle-class environments; 32% from middle-class environments; and 10% from wealthy environments. Over a period of two to three months, one to two hour, audio-recorded biographical interviews were conducted at weekly intervals. Each participant was interviewed five to 10 times. Most of the participants were re-interviewed approximately two years later. Each participant’s life was examined in detail. As well, most of the participants’ wives were interviewed once. Based on their findings from this study of the lives of men, Levinson et al. (1978) proposed the idea of seasons (periods or stages) making up the life cycle. Change appears to occur within each season and movement from one season to another requires a time of transition. They found that the individual life structure for men unfolds in a fairly orderly way throughout the adult years through an age-linked sequence of eras—each with its own distinctive biopsycho-social attributes. Men’s lives undergo major changes as they move from one era to the 23  next. As well, the lives of men are altered within each era. Levinson identified relationships with significant others in the external world as the major elements that make up men’s life structure. Although Levinson’s (1978) initial study was limited to men, he subsequently studied the life cycle development of women (Levinson, 1996). In their study of the seasons of a woman’s life from adolescence to the mid-forties, Levinson and colleagues (1996) adopted a biographical approach and method. Through intensive interviewing, life stories were gathered from 45 women, aged 35 to 45 years: 15 homemakers from the greater New Haven area; 15 women with corporate-financial careers from the New York City area; and 15 women with academic careers from the New York-Boston Corridor. The researchers met weekly with the women in the study for a series of eight to ten one and one-half to two hour, taped interview sessions. In Levinson et al.’s (1996) study of the seasons of a woman’s life, the researchers found that the female life cycle evolves through the same age-linked sequence of eras as does the male life cycle. These researchers concluded that the development of women and men is similar and different in certain fundamental respects and that there is great diversity in the lives of both genders. Men and women differ in “concrete life experiences” and the “timing of specific events” (p. 5). The developmental eras that Levinson et al. (1978, 1996) identified as being relevant to both women and men include: pre-adulthood (0-22 years); early adulthood (17-45 years); middle adulthood (40-65 years); and late adulthood (60 plus years). Throughout the lives of men and women periods of building and maintaining a life structure alternate with transitional periods promoting growth and development. However structure building-maintaining and transitional periods were found to function rather differently for women and men based on their different life circumstances, life courses, and ways of traversing developmental periods. Women were found to have different external and internal resources, reserves and restrictions with which to work on developmental tasks. 24  Specific to the late adult transition, while Levinson et al.’s (1978, 1996) studies spanned only the periods of early adult transition to middle adulthood, these theorists offered a “provisional” (p. 34) perspective on adulthood during the period from 60 to 85 years. They hypothesized that the necessary tasks for both women and men during this period include the completion of mid-life tasks and preparing for old age. The transition to this life stage was considered to be one of significant development and to represent “a major turning point in the life cycle” (p. 62). According to Levinson et al., beginning in one’s early sixties there is a fundamental change in the character of living socially, psychologically and biologically. If the tasks of late adulthood are undertaken and completed, the era or “season” (p. 34) of late adulthood can be experienced as satisfactory, vital, and fulfilling. In this season of a man’s or woman’s life the body declines and the experience of illness, impairment, diminishing vitality, emotional disturbances and loss of family members, friends, and peers increases. The late adulthood transition affords the opportunity for men and women to learn to cope with the loss or diminishment of a variety of mid-adulthood capacities. According to Levinson, this can only be accomplished through the dismantling or modification of the previous life structure. He theorized that through the re-creation of youthfulness and vitality in age appropriate ways, individuals in late adulthood can begin to relinquish their control and reinvent relationships with their inner selves and with society in novel ways. Finally, according to Levinson (1996), development for both sexes is “a process of evolution” (p. 20) that embodies both positive and negative growth—what Levinson refers to as “growing up” and “growing down” (p. 21). He coined the term adolescing to refer to growing up which suggests positive growth, and the term senescing or growing down, to refer to movement toward old age, negative growth and decay. Levinson postulated that the processes of adolescing and senescing occur throughout the human life cycle. Childhood is mostly a time of positive 25  growth and adolescing, while early and middle adulthood is a time when positive and negative growth, adolescing and senescing, exist together, albeit uneasily. In old age, although the process of senescing is ubiquitous, Levinson hypothesized that in seeking to achieve integrity, wisdom and meaning in life, and to come to terms with death, older adults may be doing some “vitally important adolescing” (p. 21). He suggested that older women and men may be compelled to reach their developmental potential by the certainty of approaching death. Levinson’s (1978, 1996) research and theory regarding the life cycle and adult development is rooted in the work of Freud, Jung and Erikson. However, in his theory of adult development, Levinson conceptualizes adulthood more deeply and complexly than his predecessors. His theory is informed by both the nature of the individual and of society. Levinson’s theory is relevant for my study because his holistic picture of adult development is congruent with the concept of vitality and adaptive living predicated on an integration of one’s life. Levinson (1996) studied “and individual life in its complexity, at a given time” and delineated “its evolution over time” (p. 4). This seems particularly relevant to the understanding of how vitality and living well evolves through the life cycle, especially in old age. In examining the lives of both women and men Levinson et al. added important information to the literature in terms of the commonalities and differences inherent in female and male life cycles. On the basis of Levinson’s claims that the development of women and men is similar and different in certain fundamental respects and that there is great heterogeneity in the lives of both genders, it seems important to ensure that my sample includes an equal number of men and women to highlight potential gender differences in the experience of living vitally in later life. I have some concerns and questions regarding Levinson’s developmental theory. One concern is that Levinson’s sample for both his study of men and, later, women were only aged 35 to 45 years and thus he could offer only a provisional perspective on later adulthood (60 to 85 26  years). There also appears to be a major flaw in Levinson’s comparative study on gender which saw an 18 year gap between his study of men and his study of women. One would expect that the cultural expectations and lives of women would be very different from 1978 (Levinson’s initial study of men) to 1996 (Levinson’s study of women) because socially and culturally so many things happened (e.g., women’s liberation movement, impact of the Vietnam War). It seems as if Levinson did not consider the social context of the historical era (late 1970s to mid to late 1990s) to be a very important factor. As well, the dynamics of the family changed considerably from the 1960s to the 1970s to the 1980s to the 1990s to now. Is it even possible to equate age 60 for males in 1978 to age 60 for females in 1996? Could women who were in their 60s and 70s in 1978 dismantle or modify their previous life structures? It seems that this was not at all typical for older women in that era. Levinson did not deconstruct the historical context as a factor influencing his findings. Finally, Levinson suggested that individuation throughout the life cycle was common to both men and women, something Gilligan (1986; 1993) and Caffarella and Olson (1993) argue is not the case. Mary Baird Carlsen (1991), in her work Creative Aging: A Meaning-Making Perspective, added a further dimension to continued growth and development in late adulthood by linking the process of creativity to lifelong aging. Carlsen explores the creative potential of late adulthood which seems particularly relevant to my study and therefore worthy of review. Drawing upon her own work (research, observing in retirement homes/facilities, therapeutic work) and the research of others, Carlsen concluded that creativity is resource for healing and vitality that can be tapped into as one ages. Through observation Carlsen (1991) found that the outer and the inner person may be somewhat at odds. She noted that, when individuals appearing to be in various stages of physical decline were introduced to new ideas, they became more engaged and livelier. They evidenced 27  curious and inquisitive attitudes and outlooks and appeared open to ideas and questions. Carlsen saw individuals who were mindful, a quality identified as necessary for creativity (Langer, 1989). Carlsen suggests that people are “creative meaning-makers” (p. 31) and that the first principle of creativity is that “this creativity of meaning-making is a handling and a manipulating of the varying crisis experiences that life can throw our way” (p. 31) and that from crisis we can grow and develop. She noted that a second principle of creativity is that our freedoms are born of our limits. In order to age creatively individuals must work with all the limitations, losses, disappointments, challenges life throws at them and continue to live meaningful and fulfilled and exciting lives. Carlsen summarized some findings from the 1988 presidential address to the American Psychological Society by Bonnie Strickland that linked creative living behaviours and states of minds and identified enhancing creative behaviours and attitudes. She highlights explanatory styles (optimism), hardiness (incorporates individual’s capacity for control, commitment and response to challenges), constructive thinking (information processing that involves integration of affective and intellectual states and moving beyond typical or stereotypical ways of responding to different and more constructive solutions) as necessary for creative and vital aging. Carlsen views mindfulness or what she describes as a combination of cognition and emotion while being alert and aware that leads to more flexible thinking, looking at things in new ways and having different perspectives, all of which lead to the enhancement of feelings of personal control as integral to creative and vital aging. Carlsen summarizes some important qualities of creative, older individuals from the research of John A.B. McLeish including: having a sense of control over personal standards and moving forward until the end of life; being open to what life brings them and being open to and flexible about things that are more complex and difficult as well as simpler things; they respond rather than react, are curious and inquisitive by life and its happenings and can let go and go with 28  the flow spontaneously; and, they demonstrate dialectical thinking or the capacity to have and savour two contradictory ideas at the same time. Carlsen’s constructivist approach to aging informs my research because it addresses the importance of creative aging and meaning-making as potentially a requirement for vital living. In summary, the work of Erikson and Erikson (1997), Baltes (2003) and Baltes and Carstensen (2003), Carlsen (1991), Vaillant (2002) and Levinson (1978, 1996) informs my study by viewing late life development as adaptive—having growth potential—and requiring the achievement of specified tasks in order for older individuals to live successful and vital lives. The research and models proposed by these theorists focuses on the strengths rather than the deficits that older individuals possess. Drawing upon personal strengths and activating ways to maximize gains and minimize losses, may enable men and women in late adulthood to live well and vitally. This is relevant to my study and its underlying theoretical framework of positive psychology. The work of these theorists also informs my study by addressing how older adults make meaning of living vital and satisfying lives. Having looked at late adulthood, late adulthood tasks, the importance of meaning-making in late adulthood and major theories of adult development and aging, I now turn to the research and literature on successful aging, and late adulthood well-being and life-satisfaction. Research on Successful Aging, Late Adulthood Well-Being and Life-Satisfaction In this section, I will look at and synthesize pertinent research and literature that defines successful aging, and conceptualizes what predicts late adulthood well-being and lifesatisfaction. Included in this review of the literature are quantitative studies (Bassett et al., 2007; Nygren et al., 2005; Rowe & Kahn, 1987, 1997; Ryff & Keyes, 1995; Takkinen & Ruoppila, 2001), qualitative studies (Knight & Ricciardelli, 2003; Stanford, 2006), mixed method studies  29  (Fry, 2000; Steverink et al., 2001), and pertinent reviews of the salient literature (Crowther et al., 2002; Depp & Jeste, 2006; Ranzijn, 2002; Vaillant & Mukamal, 2001). Rowe and Kahn (1987, 1997) founded the concept of successful aging based on a consolidation and analysis of data from the Longitudinal MacArthur Successful Aging Study—a study of 1,189 fairly high functioning women and men aged 70 to 79. Participants first participated in one intensive 90 minute interview between May, 1988 and December, 1989, then underwent a second interview between 1991 and 1992 for the purpose of determining the components involved in aging successfully. Rowe and Kahn conceptualized and differentiated between usual aging and successful aging. They defined usual aging as the normal losses or declines of aging, including minimal cognitive and physical losses, and still being actively involved in living. The researchers conceptualized the process of successful aging as involving minimal probability of disease and disability, high physical and cognitive capacity, and active involvement in life. Contrary to the views long supported in the psychological and gerontological literature suggesting that later life is mostly a time of diminishing physical, psychological, and social functioning, Rowe and Kahn (1987, 1997) found, for the older adults in their study, declining health and functioning was not inevitable. The researchers noted the diversity in the ways their participants experienced the aging process, and identified the following factors as being necessary for aging well: absence of disease, disability, and risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, or smoking; maintaining mental and physical functioning; and being actively engaged in living, including having relationships with other people and being involved in productive activities. The concept of successful aging as defined by Rowe and Kahn (1987, 1997) has been criticized in the literature (e.g., Baltes & Baltes, 1990; Friedan, 1993; Knight & Ricciardelli, 30  2003; Ryff, 1989b; Sullivan & Fisher, 1994; Vaillant, 2002; Wilhelmson et al., 2005) for being too limiting, too exclusive and too politically correct. This definition of successful aging has also been criticized based on its lack of attention to diversity among older adults. Although Rowe and Kahn noted the importance of the heterogeneity of the aging population in terms of the factors associated with successful aging, the notion of individual difference and diversity has generally not been well addressed in the literature on aging (Abraham & Hansson, 1995; Faber et al., 2001; Knight & Ricciardelli; Wilhelmson et al.). Building on Rowe and Kahn’s (1997) definition of successful aging, Crowther, Parker, Achenbaum, Larimore, and Koenig (2002) reviewed the literature on well-being and spirituality in later life and proposed an important addition to Rowe and Kahn’s definition of successful aging – positive spirituality. Positive spirituality “involves a developing and internalized personal relation with the sacred or transcendent that is not bound by race, ethnicity, economics, or class and promotes the wellness and welfare of self and others” (p. 614). Positive spirituality draws upon qualities of both spirituality and religion. Crowther et al. investigated the relationship between psychological and physical health and positive spirituality to determine if there was a link between positive spirituality and health, and if the combination of positive spirituality and health had an impact on aging well. In their review of the literature on well-being and spirituality, Crowther et al. found that positive spirituality appears to predict improvement in subjective well-being (e.g., Ellison, 1991), reduce levels of depression and distress (e.g., Williams, Larson, Buckler, Heckmann & Pyle, 1991), and be related to a decrease in morbidity and increase in longevity for older adults (e.g., Levin, 1996). Positive spirituality may well be an important dimension of vital living for some if not all of the participants in my proposed study. I now turn to the work of Vaillant and Mukamal (2001) who examined the concept of successful aging by reviewing the literature on health in old age. In their two-part review of 31  successful aging, these researchers focused attention on the intertwined tri-dimensional aspect of their conceptualization of successful aging which includes change, development or maturation as well as decline. In the first of their two-part review these authors examined selected findings of the last 15 years which looked at the mental and physical health of older adults including findings from The Berlin Aging Study (Baltes & Mayer, 1999) and the MacArthur Study of Aging (Rowe & Kahn, 1998). From these in-depth reviews, Vaillant and Mukamal found that living longer resulted in fewer years of disablement rather than more. As well, they found that although older adults may have been regarded by their physicians as “chronically ill” (p. 840) and been taking numerous medications, two out of three of the adults in these studies did not view themselves as ill. Based on their review of the literature on successful aging Vaillant and Mukamal concluded that if individuals reach the age of 75 years, aging successfully generally appears to surmount social class effects. Vaillant and Mukamal noted that between the ages of 70 and 95 there was a noticeable shift in the ways in which the participants in these studies coped. Similar to Crowther et al. (2002), serenity (faith, acceptance and interdependence) and spirituality appeared to help these older adults cope with the challenges of aging. A reliance on humour and the ability to view themselves as better off than others who were more disabled were also related to more effective coping. Vaillant and Mukamal also identified having a post secondary education (appearing to reflect attributes of being able to be planful and practice selfcare) and a close family structure (relationship connection) as the major psychosocial predictors of aging well for the participants in these studies. Vaillant and Mukamal’s (2001) heuristic model of successful aging was founded on findings from the Longitudinal Study of Adult Development at Harvard University (reviewed under major theories of adult development and aging). The study prospectively followed two socially heterogeneous cohorts of male adolescents—a college cohort and an inner city cohort— 32  until the participants became great-grandfathers. All participants were male, born in the United States, and Caucasian. To define successful aging or well-being in old age, Vaillant and Mukamal selected six domains or areas of function consisting of physician-assessed objective physical health and absence of irreversible physical disability, subjective physical health, length of active life, objective mental health, subjective life satisfaction, and social supports. By using these domains, the authors were able to classify older people along a continuum, one end being happy-well, the other end being sad-sick. Individuals who performed well in all six domains until age 80 were considered to be happy-well; those who were physically disabled and psychologically and socially unhappy were considered to be sad-sick. Based on their research on successful aging, Vaillant and Mukamal identified seven protective factors that individuals have at least some level of control over. Having an adaptive coping style (utilization of mature defenses, e.g., sublimation, humor, altruism, suppression), at least one close relationship, and a post secondary education were protective factors similar to what the authors found in their review of the pertinent literature. However, they also identified never having smoked or having stopped at a young age, no alcohol abuse, a healthy weight, and some exercise as controllable protective factors for aging well. Another review of the literature on successful aging was undertaken by Depp and Jeste (2006). These researchers reviewed 28 large English-language quantitative studies of individuals over 60 years of age to find definitions and identify predictors of successful aging. The majority of the studies included in this review included large samples of older adults living in the community. Based on their review of the various definitions of successful aging used in these studies, Depp and Jeste concluded that aging well could be defined as the absence of physical and cognitive disability or impairment along with social and productive functioning and lifesatisfaction/well-being. They identified a number of significant factors that were correlated with 33  successful aging including age (being young-old), not smoking, absence of physical disability, and absence of arthritis and diabetes. More exercise/physical activity, more social contacts, better self-rated health, absence of cognitive impairments and depression, and fewer medical issues/problems were found to be moderate predictors of successful aging. Surprisingly, and in contrast to some other studies (e.g., Steverink et al., 2001; Vaillant, 2002), in their literature review Depp and Jeste found that education level, marital status, gender and socioeconomic status were generally not related to successful aging for the participants in these studies. In the various studies reviewed by Depp and Jeste (2006) the range of participants considered to be aging successfully was broad—from 0.4%-95%. Across the literature the mean ratio of participants considered to be aging successfully was found to be 35.8% (SD: 19.8). This suggests that approximately one-third of the participants in these studies were considered to be living well, despite the challenges of the aging process. However, this also suggests that approximately two-thirds of older adults in these studies were not coping well with aging. As the population of adults 65 and older swells in the coming years, it seems all the more urgent that researchers like myself focus our attention on learning more about how older adults create and maintain vital and satisfying lives. I now turn from strictly quantitative studies to a quantitative and qualitative study that adds to the literature on living well in later life—Steverink, Westerhof, Bode and DittmannKohli’s (2001) investigation into the relationships between personal experience of aging, individual resources (physical and material, social and psychological), and the subjective wellbeing of 4,034 individuals in Germany (51.2% men and 48.8% women) aged 40 to 85 years. The following three hypotheses guided their investigation: (1) the personal experience of aging is multidimensional and multidirectional; (2) having a deeper store or a higher level of resources is related to feeling more positive about growing older; (3) feeling more positive about the aging 34  process aids people in making good decisions resulting in experiences of greater subjective wellbeing. Data was gathered by means of personal interviews and questionnaires. Variables included the personal aging experience, physical and material resources, social resources, psychological resources and subjective well-being. With regard to the personal experience of aging, Steverink et al. (2001) found it to be a multidimensional phenomenon including: physical loss (e.g., health and vitality); constant growth and personal development; and social losses (e.g., not being needed, decreased respect from others). The researchers also found the experience of aging to be multidirectional, characterized by both positive (growth) and negative experiences (loss and decline). Steverink et al. found that younger age, better subjective health, higher socioeconomics, less social isolation, higher educational level, and having hope contributed to participants experiencing the aging process as a time of growth rather than physical and social decline. For the participants in their study, the above resources had a stronger impact on personal aging than actual age. The researchers found that participants who were married tended not to experience aging as a social loss, having or not having a spouse was not related to physical decline or continuous growth. Based on their findings, Steverink et al. (2001) concluded that subjective well-being or the positive experience of aging consists of a number of different dimensions including personal, social and physical domains and includes both positive and negative experiences. These authors suggested that personal experiences of aging for the participants in their study is related to how happy individuals are in terms of positive and negative affect. In another of the few mixed-methods studies examining the quality of life of older adults Fry (2000) gleaned a more in-depth picture of older adults’ needs for “human agency, mastery, and control” (p. 364) in order to age well and have a good quality of life. In her quantitative and qualitative study of 331 men and women over the age of 58 years, living in Vancouver and 35  Victoria, B.C., Fry examined participants’ views of what constitutes a satisfactory quality of life. Data were obtained from participants by means of responses to a questionnaire in which they were asked to report their priorities and concerns about their quality of life in the present and for the future. Data were also obtained from in-depth interviews with 37 older adults, purposively selected from the larger cohort of 331. Fry (2000) found that the emergent themes from the in-depth interviews corresponded to the themes identified in the factor analysis of the data from the questionnaire. One of the most striking findings was that the majority of participants reported needing empowerment in their lives, including autonomy, control and independence in decision making to pursue their desired life-style including control with regard to end-of-life physician-assisted suicide. According to Fry, the participants reported feeling empowered when they: had their achievements and contributions to society acknowledged; were challenged and had opportunities for stimulating activities and experiences; were treated with dignity and respect by younger generations; felt appreciated and remembered by significant others in their lives; and felt free to express their fears and worries about what their quality of life would look like in the future. The right to privacy was also found to be important to quality of life and psychological well-being for the participants in Fry’s study. Fry’s (2000) study is relevant to my research because it explores how living well in late adulthood is connected to older individual’s belief systems, values, hopes, dreams, expectations, concerns, fears and reassurances that their voices will be heard and attended to. It takes into account the subjective experiences of the experts on aging—older adults. I now look at a study by Taakinen and Ruoppila (2001) that makes explicit the importance of meaning-making as a component of adaptive functioning in old age. According to Frankl (1963), “a will to meaning” is a universal human attribute. Seeking meaning in life is 36  relevant to my study because according to some of the literature on aging (e.g., Battista & Almond, 1973; Langle, 2001) the search for meaning appears to be especially important in late adulthood. Theorists and researchers on aging including Baltes (2003), Baltes and Carstensen (2003), Erikson and Erikson (1997), Erikson et al. (1986), Friedan (1993), Langle (2001), Levinson (1978, 1996), and Vaillant (2002) posit that as older adults are faced with the many challenges and losses inherent in the aging process, they are compelled to reflect on the meaning of the lives they have lived and what is in store for them in the future. Takkinen and Ruoppila (2001) analyzed findings from the Evergreen Project, a longitudinal, multidisciplinary study of Finnish men and women born in 1910 (N = 285) and 1914 (N = 382). Their goal was to examine the relationship between meaning-making and well-being in later adulthood. Participants were interviewed and underwent medical examinations. In 1997 selected participants (N = 78) from both cohorts underwent an intensive interview and 55 participants (37 women and 18 men) were included in this study. The authors conducted an interview, had participants respond to a questionnaire and measured meaning in life through the application of the life-line drawing. Overall, Takkinen and Ruoppila (2001) identified that for the participants in their study meaning in life was: important to subjective well-being; could be sustained even in the midst of objective changes such as losses and gains in functioning; and was related to life satisfaction, an absence or decrease in depression, and diminished feelings of loneliness. I now turn to Ranzijn’s (2002) review of the literature which reveals a number of ways in which the field of positive psychology is well positioned to illuminate the potential of older individuals and help them to realize their potential. In his paper, Towards a Positive Psychology of Ageing: Potentials and Barriers, Ranzijn pointed out the need for the development of a positive psychology of aging and cited a growing body of literature that relates relevant attitudes and dispositional qualities to psychological and physical well-being in individuals in late 37  adulthood (e.g., Benyamini et al., 2000; Levy et al., 2000; Vaillant, 2000). The field of psychogerontology abounds with conflicting views regarding the abilities and potentials of older adults (e.g., Baltes & Staudinger, 1996; Hultsch et al., 1999; Ryff & Keyes, 1995). Based on his review of the literature, Ranzijn (2002) suggested that overall, older persons have greater life satisfaction relative to the younger generations. He identified the following ways in which life satisfaction might be understood by older adults: increased freedom from family, work and financial responsibilities; ever-growing memories, life experiences, and abilities; and a greater appreciation for and understanding of the profoundness and fragility of human existence. According to some proponents of positive psychology (e.g., Dittman-Kohli, 1990; Ikels et al., 1992; Van Tilburg, 1998) these are the building blocks for what Vaillant (2002) refers to as ‘Keeper of the Meaning’ or conscientious citizens and wise conservationists or wise and just older adults. In his review of the literature on the potentials of, and barriers to, aging positively Ranzijn (2002) noted how many older people, while physically frail, are engaged passionately with family and community life (Ranzijn & Grbich, 2001). He noted how older adults are survivors who have lived long lives and overcome many challenges, due to their ability to adapt to change (e.g., Baltes &Staudinger, 1996; George & Clipp, 1991; Rapkin & Fischer, 1992; Ryff & Keyes, 1995). In contrast to prevalent views of older adults as being dependent and frail, on the basis of his review of the literature Ranzijn suggested that many older individuals are “the mainstays of their communities and are supporting younger generations rather than needing to be supported” (p. 83). In his review of the literature, Ranzijn also found strong support for an increased capacity for regulation of emotions in older adults (Strongman & Overton, 1999) which appears to help people in late adulthood become more content and accepting of life.  38  Adding to the work done by Takkinen and Ruoppila (2001) on meaning in life as an important component of aging well, Nygren, Alex, Jonsen, Gustafson, Norberg and Lundman (2005) focused on the following four concepts related to aging well—resilience (personal strength aiding in overcoming adversity), sense of coherence (positive way of viewing the world and one’s life), purpose in life (finding meaning in life), and self-transcendence (opening up inwardly, outwardly and temporally). These concepts embody the ways in which individuals, in this case individuals aged 85+, were able to manage adversity and maintain physical and mental health and strength. In their study which was part of the Umea 85+ study, Nygren et al. looked at the relationship between these four factors and the perceived physical and mental health in 125 Swedish men and women aged 85 years or older. Each participant ranked themselves on the Resilience, Sense of Coherence, Self-Transcendence and Purpose in Life scales as well as responding to a Health Survey questionnaire. Overall, Nygren et al. (2005) found that later life participants who were living and coping well showed either greater or the same levels of purpose in life, resilience, sense of coherence and self-transcendence as did their younger-aged cohort. The authors also found that all four phenomena were interconnected and related to inner strength. This led them to suggest that interventions could be created for the elderly, including individuals aged 85+, to improve overall mental and physical health and to increase coping skills. Contrary to much of the literature on aging Nygren et al.’s findings indicate that advanced age is not always correlated with increased fragility and decline. Rather, some individuals in later adulthood appear to be imbued with or have the potential to enhance qualities of resilience, coherence, purpose in life and selftranscendence which, according to the researchers, are qualities of inner strength. Nygren et al.’s findings provide a positive perspective on psychological and physical health in later life.  39  I now look at a quantitative study by Ryff and Keyes (1995) that tested a theoretical model of psychological well-being which incorporated six dimensions (autonomy, environmental mastery, personal growth, positive relations with others, purpose in life, and selfacceptance) and examined “the replicative consistency of age and sex differences on the various indicators of well-being” and compared “the relationships between the theory-based dimensions of well-being and three prominent indicators from prior research (i.e., happiness, life satisfaction, depression)” (p. 720). The authors used empirical data from a nationally representative sample of 1,108 adults, 25 years old and older, with an average age of 45.6 years. 59% of the participants were female. Respondents were divided into three age groups to facilitate analyses. Young adults (n = 133) were 25 to 29 years old. Midlife adults (n = 805) were aged 30 to 64. Older adults (n = 160) were 65 and older. Each adult was interviewed by telephone for approximately 30 minutes. The authors found that confirmatory factor analyses with the data supported the six dimensional model, with a single higher order factor as being a better fit over other alternatives including a single-factor model. As well, Ryff and Keyes (1995) found that the data supported the replicative consistency of both sex and age differences regarding the six dimensions of psychological well-being. On the dimensions of Purpose in Life (believing one’s life is purposeful and meaningful) and Personal Growth (continuing to grow and develop as a person), the respondents who were 65 years old and older scored significantly lower than did the younger age groups. With regard to Environmental Mastery (managing one’s life and world) both of the older age groups scored significantly higher that the youngest age group. There were no age differences noted on the dimensions of Self-Acceptance (viewing oneself and one’s past positively) and Autonomy (feeling a sense of self-determination). The oldest age group scored higher than both of the younger age groups on the dimension of Positive Relations With Others. 40  Ryff and Keyes also found a moderate to strong association between the dimensions of SelfAcceptance and Environmental Mastery and scales of happiness, life satisfaction, and depression. They noted that the other four dimensions of psychological well-being showed weaker associations with the scales of happiness, life satisfaction and depression. I now turn from looking at quantitative research studies and literature to an in-depth qualitative study by Knight and Ricciardelli (2003) in which the researchers asked the experts themselves—adults aged 70 to 101 years of age—for their personal perceptions of successful aging and what they viewed as being essential criteria for aging well. Sixty urban Australian participants (42 women and 18 men) between the ages of 70 and 101 years (mean age = 80.05 years) living in their homes alone (18.33%) or with a spouse (33.33%) or in retirement communities (26.67%) or in residential care facilities (21.67%) were studied. None of the participants had dementia. Physical abilities ranged from total independence to almost complete physical dependence. Participants were interviewed individually for one to two hours and were asked what they believed successful aging included. Through in-depth content analysis of the transcripts two of the most frequently occurring themes identified in the majority of previous literature on successful aging (e.g., Havighurst, 1961; Maddox, 1968; Morgan et al., 1991; Rowe & Kahn, 1987, 1997), health and activity, were identified by Knight and Ricciardelli (2003). Six other themes emerged from the data as being essential for successful aging: personal growth; happiness; close personal relationships; independence; appreciation for life; and having lived a long life. These themes have also been noted in the literature by other theorists and researchers as being relevant to successful aging (e.g., Meeks & Murrell, 2001; Ryff, 1989a). Generally, the older adults in this study stated that they had accepted their aging and were happy being the age they were. As well, they appeared to have a sense of purpose in life and considered it important to be physically, socially and mentally active to the best of their abilities. 41  I now turn to Stanford’s (2006) phenomenological study on thriving in late and later adulthood. In her study Stanford examined how 13 women (aged 75-91) thrived in late and later adulthood. Thriving was defined as “doing well and being happy” (p. 885) in late life. After analyzing data from multiple interviews, projective inventories and focus groups, Stanford identified the following six common themes expressed by these older women who self-defined as thriving: vital engagement and service; life-long learning; appreciation of fundamental life factors including family, friends, health, and a secure financial situation; valuing responsibility and honesty; maintaining a positive attitude; and reliance on faith/spirituality. When reflecting on why they saw themselves as thriving, the participants attributed their ability to thrive in later life to childhood or present life experiences. These women intentionally sought to thrive and believed that facing and dealing with life’s challenges encourages thriving. A surprising finding that emerged from Stanford’s study was the large number of life-long challenges (personal and health related), traumas, and losses in the participants’ lives. These aging women were found to be very resilient and appeared to use challenges and traumas to transform their lives, supporting Frankl’s (1984) hypothesis that finding meaning in unbearable situations can aid individuals to overcome adversity. This finding regarding older women’s ability to overcome major life challenges lends support to Vaillant’s (2002) proposal that positive aging reflects positive reaction to the challenges and losses inherent in adult development. I turn now to a recent Canadian study by Bassett, Bourbonnais and McDowell (2007) focused on how and why some older adults manage to live long and keep well by remaining active and engaged in late and “late” late adulthood. Bassett et al. reported findings from the third wave of the Canadian Longitudinal Study of Health and Aging (CSHA). The authors analyzed responses made by 2,783 healthy Canadian respondents aged 75 to 104 years to the question: “What do you think makes people live long and keep well?” (p. 115). In response to 42  this question Bassett et al. uncovered 24 separate themes that they grouped into three major categories: personal factors (e.g., positive attitude, autonomy, sense of self, etc.); relationships with others (quality and quantity of relationships); and system influences (e.g., financial resources and support from social services). Overall, Bassett et al. (2007) concluded that Canadian older adults, even as they are faced with decline and loss, “make sense of their lives as active, moral, cognitively and socially engaged individuals” (p. 123) and are informed consumers with regard to aging. According to the researchers, older adults take a majority of responsibility for their longevity and well-being including being responsible for personal qualities of attitude, determination and motivation, while also viewing themselves as being connected within relationships. The participants in Bassett et al.’s study appeared to lead purposeful lifestyles and work consciously to build social support and financial security—factors that they felt helped account for successful aging. Bassett et al.’s (2007) study seems especially informative to my study because of the researchers’ focus on the factors older adults feel are important contributors to successful aging in later life. In their study Bassett et al. did what researchers on successful aging rarely do, they summarized older Canadian adults’ experiences and perceptions of aging well in their own words. In my study I also intend to include the voices of my late adulthood participants. With regard to the studies on successful aging, late adulthood well-being, and lifesatisfaction, there appears to be sample bias which may mean that the findings are not representative of all older adults who are aging well. These studies do not include a representative sample of later life adults who have financial or diversity challenges. For example, do individuals who have no families and are poor fair as well as those who have adequate finances and close family relationships? Are they living vital lives? Generally the elderly, especially older women, are among society’s poorest members. 43  In summary, in this review of the relevant literature on aging successfully, most theorists and researchers conceptualize the capacity to age well as multi-directional (encompassing loss and growth) and multi-dimensional (encompassing psychological, personal, physical, and social domains). While Rowe and Kahn (1987, 1997) conceptualized high physical capacity and minimal probability of disease and disability as being necessary for aging successfully, other theorists and researchers (e.g., Baltes & Baltes, 1990; Depp & Jeste, 2006; Knight & Ricciardelli, 2003; Ranzijn, 2002; Vaillant & Mukamal, 2002) disagree. These theorists and researchers view aging successfully as being as diverse and unique to each individual as is the heterogeneous late adulthood population, however, their samples are not necessarily inclusive of the older adult population. Finally, it is evident upon reviewing the literature on successful aging that the use of selective optimization with compensation (Baltes, 1990) may be important with respect to vital, active and meaningful aging (Bassett et al., 2007; Knight & Ricciardelli; Nygren st al., 2005; Ranzijn). Having reviewed the relevant literature on successful aging, late adulthood well-being and life satisfaction, I now turn to the research and literature on vitality and late adulthood. Research on Vitality and Late Adulthood In this section I critique the research and literature on vitality. Specifically I look at and crystallize the small amount of work on vitality and late living adults. Included in this review of the literature is a conceptualization of subjective vitality (Ryan & Frederick, 1997) and a synthesis of the research and literature on vitality and older adults (Erikson, Erikson & Kivnick, 1986; Kasser & Ryan, 1999; Minicuci, Mazari, Maggi, Noale, Senesi, & Crepaldi, 2005; Murrell, Salsman, & Meeks, 2003; Penninx, Guralnik, Simonsick, Kasper, Ferrucci, & Fried, 1998).  44  Erikson, Erikson and Kivnick (1986) in their work Vital Involvement in Old Age, added another dimension to the phenomenon of vitality by concentrating on how vitality is achieved in old age through development and growth. Because it uses psychosocial development to focus on vitality and engagement and older adults, Erikson et al.’s work seems especially relevant to my study and therefore is worthy of review. In 1981, Erikson and colleagues conducted two openended interviews with 29 surviving parents of children who were subjects of the longitudinal Berkeley Guidance Study. Participants range in age from 75 to 95 years. Interview questions addressed later life and early life experiences. For over half a century, life-historical information had been gathered on these individuals and their children. They were interviewed initially in 1928, then in 1945 or 1946 and 1968. Overall, Erikson and colleagues (1986) found that vitality emerged from the strengths (e.g., hope, will, purpose, competence, fidelity, love, care, and wisdom) that are developed throughout every life stage. Vitality and vital engagement in late adulthood for the participants in this study appeared to be generated by older adults’ challenging themselves to consolidate their whole lives by balancing each psychosocial theme to the extent possible given their life circumstances. Erikson et al. concluded that it is through this effort and challenge that growth occurs in later life, resulting in an integrated identity and heightened awareness of self, family, community and the world. Through this process, a lifelong sense of effectiveness, a critical resource in late life, is revalued and hope is regenerated. Adaptation to, and gracious acceptance of, new limits on activity were also found to be important to vital living for the participants in this study. Based on these findings Erikson and colleagues proposed that when older adults know that they are valued, needed and wanted, they are inclined to possess more vitality, energy, and capacity to care for both themselves and others. They found that the family is often not only an important source of caring for older adults, but also a major source of vitality. Erikson et al.’s 45  work informs my work because it addresses the importance of adaptive lifespan development as a potential prerequisite for vitally engaged living for old and older adults. It is possible, even likely, that the older vital living individuals in my study will not only have mastered previous developmental tasks and be in the process of achieving or having achieved late and later life developmental tasks, but will also derive their sense of vitality from knowing that they are valued by their families and society. I now turn to the work of Ryan and Frederick (1997) for an overall view and understanding of subjective vitality. In a series of six studies, these researchers examined the phenomenon of subjective vitality, defined as a conscious “positive feeling of aliveness and energy” (p. 529). In their studies of vitality, Ryan and Frederick hypothesized that subjective vitality was a dynamic reflection of both biological and psychological well-being and assumed that both somatic and psychological components would influence subjective vitality. Generally the sample population for these studies consisted of male and female college/university students. In the six studies the researchers looked at the following: (1) the relationship between subjective vitality and psychological states and factors related to physical health and efficaciousness; (2) different indexes of physical health and well-being; (3) the relationship between subjective vitality and the Big Five personality traits; (4) the correlation between experiences of pain and lower levels of subjective vitality; (5) the relationship between somatic factors and treatmentrelated motivations and subjective vitality; and (6) the influence of common physical symptoms on subjective vitality. Overall, the findings from Ryan and Frederick’s (1997) research support the hypothesis that subjective vitality is related to elements that support growth and agency. Specifically, subjective vitality was shown to be positively related to self-actualization, self-esteem, mental health, and self-determination. Less vitality was related to indexes of intrapsychic distress. When 46  individuals felt more vitality, they were more motivated. However, when they felt that external factors were controlling them, they felt less vitality. In conclusion, psychological and physical well-being appeared to be associated with feelings of subjective vitality. Although the participants involved in Ryan and Frederick’s (1997) research on subjective vitality were college/university students and thus, not representative of older adults with regard to age, findings from this research inform my study in a number of important ways. Ryan and Frederick’s definition of subjective vitality will be used to guide this inquiry. Building on Ryan and Frederick’s previous studies, Kasser and Ryan’s (1999) study looked specifically at older adults residing in a nursing home for the purpose of examining the relationship between perceived autonomy, relatedness, lower distress, higher well-being, and subjective vitality. The primary purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which autonomy and relatedness affected the well-being and health of residents in this nursing home. Kasser and Ryan hypothesized that health and well-being would be supported by higher personal autonomy, perceived support for autonomy from the nursing home community and friends and family, as well as quality rather than quantity of perceived emotional support. One, or if needed two interviews were conducted with 50 female and male residents aged 70 to 99 years. As well, the participants completed survey items. The length of time the participants had spent living in the nursing home ranged from half a month to 99 months. Measures of autonomy, relatedness, and outcome were administered. Overall, Kasser and Ryan (1999) found that vitality, life satisfaction, greater well-being, and fewer depressive symptoms were associated with the participants’ perceptions of being supported to be autonomous by family, friends and the nursing home staff. There appeared to be a relationship between vitality and both having choices and social relationships. In addition, participants who chose to come to the nursing home of their own free will (autonomously 47  motivated), and felt that they were more in control of their daily life, described themselves as having more vitality. Kasser and Ryan also found that vitality appears to be “a central marker of organismic well-being” (p. 949). In these researchers’ study, participants’ subjective vitality varied based on psychological health, life satisfaction, subjective physical health, depression, and anxiety. My study may potentially be informed by Kasser and Ryan’s (1999) work because of their focus on the predictors of subjective vitality in an older and more vulnerable population. Numerous studies have been conducted on what the requirements for physical health care should be for late and later life adults; however, the requirements for positive psychological care in this population has not been studied to the same degree. Penninx, Guralnik, Simonsick, Kasper, Ferrucci, and Fried’s (1998) examination of emotional vitality among disabled older women examines the relationship between positive psychological states and vitality and also addresses an important issue missing from the previously reviewed literature—whether or not individuals who are experiencing chronic illness and/or physical disability are able to sustain emotional vitality. Penninx et al. examined the relationship between chronic illness/physical disability and emotional vitality for 1002 community living, moderately to severely disabled but cognitively intact older women living in the Baltimore city area who had participated in Women’s Health and Aging Study (WHAS). For the purpose of this study, emotional vitality was defined as “having a high sense of personal mastery, being happy, and having low depressive symptomatology and anxiety” (Penninx et al., p. 1). In-depth interviews and physical examinations were conducted to gather information on participants’ levels of emotional vitality, demographics, health status, and social context. Overall, Penninx et al. (1998) found that 35% of the participants in their study were emotionally vital. They found that emotional vitality for these wo