Positive ageing: views of the past, present, future and self and their associations with wellbeing in older adults
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 01:36 authored by Susan Jean Ferguson
The aim of this thesis was to investigate psychosocial resources associated with wellbeing in older adults, particularly those related to perceptions of specific time periods. The novel contribution of the thesis is its examination of positive psychology constructs in the context of older adulthood and the integration of these with developmental theories, particularly Eriksonian theory, and with other related emerging areas such as the self-compassion and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy literatures. More specifically, this thesis explored the relationships of questionnaire measures of views of the future (optimism and hope), the past (accepting the past and ego integrity), the present (acceptance and experiential avoidance), the self (self-compassion), and other resources (perceived health, social support, finances and education) with both hedonic wellbeing and eudaimonic wellbeing among older adults. Hedonic wellbeing was conceptualised as positive and negative affect, and eudaimonic wellbeing as either purpose in life or the presence of a sense of meaning in life. The thesis includes four quantitative papers based on four separate cross-sectional surveys of older adults. Participants were all aged from 65 to 97 years. The first study examined optimism and wellbeing in older adults and explored the role of two potential mediators; the second study considered whether self-compassion was related to wellbeing; the third study explored whether accepting the past, which has been shown to be associated with depression in older adults, was also associated with positive aspects of wellbeing. The final study made a novel contribution in directly comparing the effects of a positive psychology construct (hope) with an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy concept (experiential avoidance) in predicting different aspects of wellbeing, and was also unique in exploring whether hope or experiential avoidance were associated with positive outcomes such as positive affect and meaning in life in older adults. The key findings were that views of the future, whether measured as hope or optimism, were associated with higher scores on positive aspects of hedonic wellbeing (positive affect) and eudaimonic wellbeing (purpose or meaning in life). Having a positive and accepting view of the past was also associated with both positive affect and meaning in life, as was having a positive attitude to the self (measured by self-compassion), which was also associated with greater ego integrity. On the other hand, self-criticism and being non-accepting of the past were associated with higher negative affect and with lower meaning in life. The findings for accepting the present were mixed. Avoidance of emotions and thoughts occurring in the present was strongly associated with higher negative affect, but not with more positive aspects of wellbeing. Acceptance as resignation to present events was not related to wellbeing. Implications of these findings for interventions with older adults are discussed, and suggestions for future research are presented.