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.
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