Rediscovering internal strengths of the aged: The beneficial impact of wisdom, mastery, purpose in life, and spirituality on aging well

Monika Ardelt, Scott Landes, Kathryn R. Gerlach, Leah Polkowski Fox

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

Abstract

What explains aging and dying well? Previous research primarily examined the effects of objective life conditions (e.g., physical health, finances, socioeconomic status, age, social relationships) on older adults’ subjective well-being, whereas their internal strengths have often been ignored. Applying theories of life-long psychosocial growth and the life course principles of life span development and human agency, and using a sample of 144 older community residents, nursing home residents, and hospice patients (aged 56+) living in North Central Florida, this study investigated the effects of older people’s psychosocial strengths (their wisdom, mastery, purpose in life) and spirituality on subjective well-being and death attitudes. Wisdom was defined and operationalized as a combination of cognitive, reflective, and compassionate personality characteristics. Results of hierarchical regression analyses showed that, contrary to situational theory, internal strengths of the aged had a stronger effect on greater subjective well-being and less death fear than on objective circumstances.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPositive Psychology
Subtitle of host publicationAdvances in understanding adult motivation
EditorsJan Sinnott
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherSpringer New York
Pages97-119
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

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Keywords

  • aging
  • spirituality
  • wisdom
  • mastery
  • purpose in life

Cite this

Ardelt, M., Landes, S., Gerlach, K. R., & Fox, L. P. (2013). Rediscovering internal strengths of the aged: The beneficial impact of wisdom, mastery, purpose in life, and spirituality on aging well. In J. Sinnott (Ed.), Positive Psychology: Advances in understanding adult motivation (pp. 97-119). Springer New York.