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Societies 2017, 7(2), 8; doi:10.3390/soc7020008

Examining Supportive Evidence for Psychosocial Theories of Aging within the Oral History Narratives of Centenarians

1
Psychology Department, Upper Iowa University, Fayette, IA 52142, USA
2
Psychology Department, Loras College, Dubuque, IA 52001, USA
3
Gerontology Department, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA
4
Human Development and Family Science Department, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74074, USA
5
Oklahoma Oral History Research Program, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Stephen Katz
Received: 28 February 2017 / Revised: 12 April 2017 / Accepted: 14 April 2017 / Published: 19 April 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Perspectives on Aging Futures)
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Abstract

Oral history provides researchers opportunities to assess narratives and compare them to existing theories of aging. Oftentimes the discussion of psychosocial theories of aging does not include the oldest-old. The purpose of this study was to assess evidence of psychosocial theories of aging within oral history narratives from a subsample of 20 centenarians from the Oklahoma 100 Year Life Oral History Project. Analysis utilized seven theories: Activity Theory, Continuity Theory, Disengagement Theory, Theory of Gerotranscendence, Modernization Theory, Selective Optimization with Compensation (SOC) Theory, and Socioemotional Selectivity Theory (SST). Researchers used content analysis to assess each oral history narrative and noted Activity Theory and Gerotranscendence had the most evidence. Most centenarians described how they were extremely active well into older adulthood. Common themes across oral history narratives indicated that centenarians maintained a preference for activity such as formal work. Centenarians also reported a readiness for death and little fear of it. In addition, increased time spent reflecting on spirituality and religion indicated changes in self-discovery. Identification of Disengagement and Socioemotional Selectivity were sparse in the transcripts. It is possible that to reach such longevity, centenarians relied on their communities and support networks to achieve this status. It is also possible that centenarians outlived individuals in their social networks who were emotionally fulfilling. Further qualitative work should assess evidence of psychosocial theories among other long-lived older adults. View Full-Text
Keywords: oral history; psychosocial theories; centenarians; aging; narrative oral history; psychosocial theories; centenarians; aging; narrative
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Heinz, M.; Cone, N.; da Rosa, G.; Bishop, A.J.; Finchum, T. Examining Supportive Evidence for Psychosocial Theories of Aging within the Oral History Narratives of Centenarians. Societies 2017, 7, 8.

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