BASE-Publications: Abstracts

Content and function of the self-definition in old and very old age

Alexandra M. Freund & Jacqui Smith (1999)

Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 54, P55-P67

Spontaneous self-definition was investigated in a heterogeneous sample of N = 516 participants of the Berlin Aging Study, aged between 70 and 103 years. The content of the self-definition revealed that old and very old persons view themselves as active and present-oriented. The self-definition also reflected an inward orientation, and central themes of life-review, health, and family. Participants generated more positive than negative evaluations in their self-definition, but the ratio of positive to negative evaluations was less favorable for the oldest old (greater than or equal to 85 years) than that of persons aged 70 to 84 years. Older individuals with more health-related constraints reported fewer and less rich self-defining domains (i.e., a less multifaceted self-definition). Positive emotional well-being was associated with naming more and richer self-defining domains. Multifacetness, however, did not buffer against the negative effect of low functional capacity on subjective well-being.