Main Article Content
This article aims to deepen understanding of the informal social relationships of the oldest old by applying qualitative methods. It considers ideas of the fourth age, socioemotional selectivity theory, and gerotranscendence theory from the viewpoint of Finnish community-dwelling nonagenarians. Qualitative life-story interviews were analyzed using qualitative content analysis. Nonagenarians described the significance of social relationships but also social restrictions and loneliness. In addition, the interviewees described the company and help their social relationships provided, and the pleasant and unpleasant emotions they experienced in their existing and past relationships. Our findings indicate that social relationships can contribute to the ability of nonagenarians to live a good life in old age, and that nonagenarians’ successful aging is not necessarily related to voluntary disengagement from social relationships, as suggested by some theories. Rather, our findings indicate a pursuit of engagement with other people to be important for the good aging of the oldest old.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Since 2020 the International Journal of Ageing and Later Life uses a Creative Commons: Attribution license, which allows users to distribute the work and to reform or build upon it without the author's permission. Full reference to the author must be given.
Baltes, P. B. & Smith, J. (2003). New frontiers in the future of aging: From successful aging of the young old to the dilemmas of the fourth age. Gerontology 49(2): 123–135. https://doi.org/10.1159/000067946
Berg, A. I., Hassing, L. B., McLearn, G. E. & Johansson, B. (2006). What matters for life satisfaction in the oldest-old? Aging & Mental Health 10(3): 257–264. https://doi.org/10.1080/13607860500409435
Berg-Warman, A. & Brodsky, J. (2006). The supportive community: A new concept for enhancing the quality of life of elderly living in the community. Journal of Aging & Social Policy 18(2): 69–83. https://doi.org/10.1300/J031v18n02_05
Borgloh, S. & Westerheide, P. (2012). The impact of mutual support based housing projects on the costs of care. Housing Studies 27(5): 620–642. https://doi.org/10.1080/02673037.2012.697554
Bowling, A. & Dieppe, P. (2005). What is successful ageing and who should define it? British Medical Journal 331(7531): 1548–1551. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.331.7531.1548
Carstensen, L. L., Isaacowitz, D. M. & Charles, S. T. (1999). Taking time seriously: A theory of socioemotional selectivity. American Psychologist 54(3): 165–181. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.54.3.165
Cherry, K. E., Marks, L. D., Benedetto, T., Sullivan, M. C. & Barker, A (2013). Perceptions of longevity and successful aging in very old adults. Journal of Religion, Spirituality & Aging 25(4): 288–310. https://doi.org/10.1080/15528030.2013.765368
Cherry, K. E., Walker, E. J., Brown, J. S., Volaufova, J., LaMotte, L. R., Welsh, D. A., Su, L. J., Jazwinski, M., Ellis, R., Wood, R. H. & Frisard, M. I. (2011). Social engagement and health in younger, older and oldest-old adults in the Louisiana Healthy Aging Study. Journal of Applied Gerontology 32(1): 51–75. https://doi.org/10.1177/0733464811409034
Dannefer, D. & Settersten, R. A. (2010). The study of the life course: Implications for social gerontology. In D. Dannefer & C. Phillipson (eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Social Gerontology (pp. 3–19). London: SAGE Publications Ltd. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781446200933.n1
Degnen, C. (2007). Minding the gap: The construction of old age and oldness amongst peers. Journal of Aging Studies 21(1): 69–80. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaging.2006.02.001
Dillaway, H. E. & Byrnes, M. (2009). Reconsidering successful ageing. A call for renewed and expanded academic critique and conceptualizations. Journal of Applied Gerontology 28(6): 702–722. https://doi.org/10.1177/0733464809333882
Elo, S. & Kyngäs, H. (2008). The qualitative content analysis process. Journal of Advanced Nursing 62(1): 107–115. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2648.2007.04569.x
Eurostat. (2018). Population Structure and Ageing. Available on http:// ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Population_ structure_and_ageing (Accessed: September 11, 2018)
von Faber, M. A., Bootsma-van der Wiel, A., van Exel, E., Gussekloo, J., Lagaay, A. M., van Dongen, E., Knook, D. L., van der Geest, S. & Westendorp, R. G. J. (2001). Successful aging in the oldest old. Who can be characterized as successfully aged? Archives of Internal Medicine 161(22): 2694–2700. https://doi.org/10.1001/archinte.161.22.2694
Frennert, S. A., Forsberg, A. & Östlund, B. (2013). Elderly people’s perceptions of a telehealthcare system: Relative advantage, compatibility, complexity and observability. Journal of Technology in Human Services 31(3): 218–237. https://doi.org/10.1080/15228835.2013.814557
Freund, A. M. & Baltes, P. B. (1998). Selection, optimization, and compensation as strategies of life management: Correlations with subjective indicators of successful aging. Psychology and Aging 13(4): 531–543. https://doi.org/10.1037/0882-7918.104.22.1681
Giles, L. C., Glonek, G. F. V., Luszcz, M. A. & Andrews, G. R. (2005). Effect of social networks on 10 year survival in very old Australians: The Australian longitudinal study of aging. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 59: 574–579. https://doi.org/10.1136/jech.2004.025429
Gilleard, C. & Higgs, P. (2010). Aging without agency: Theorizing the fourth age. Aging & Mental Health 14(2): 121–128. https://doi.org/10.1080/13607860903228762
Gow, A. J., Corley, J., Starr, J. M. & Deary, I. J. (2013). Which social network or support factors are associated with cognitive abilities in old age? Gerontology 59(5): 454–463. https://doi.org/10.1159/000351265
Heikkinen, R. (2004). The experience of ageing and advanced old age: A ten-year follow-up. Ageing and Society 24(4): 567–582. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X04001837
Higgs, P. & Gilleard, C. (2014). Frailty, abjection and the “othering” of the fourth age. Health Sociology Review 23(1): 10–19. https://doi.org/10.5172/hesr.2014.23.1.10
Hsieh, H. & Shannon, S. E. (2005). Three approaches to qualitative content analysis. Qualitative Health Research 15(9): 1277–1288. https://doi.org/10.1177/1049732305276687
Jolanki, O. (2009). Fate of Choice?-Talking about Old Age and Health. Tampere: Tampere University Press.
Jopp, D. S., Boerner, K, Cimarolli, V., Hicks, S., Mirpuri, S., Paggi, M., Cavanagh, A. & Kennedy, E. (2016). Challenges experienced at age 100: Findings from the Fordham Centenarian Study. Journal of Aging & Social Policy 28(3): 187–207.
Jopp, D., Rott, C. & Oswald, F. (2008). Valuation of life in old and very old age: The role of sociodemographic, social and health resources for positive adaptation. The Gerontologist 48(5): 646–658. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/48.5.646
Kelley-Moore, J., Schumacher, J. G., Kahana, E. & Kahana, B. (2006). When do older adults become “disabled”? Social and health antecedents of perceived disability in a panel study of the oldest old. Journal of Health and Social Behavior 47(2): 126–141. https://doi.org/10.1177/002214650604700203
Laslett, P. (1989). A Fresh Map of Life. The Emergence of the Third Age. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
Lloyd, L., Calnan, M., Cameron, A., Seymour, J. & Smiths, R. (2014). Identity in the fourth age: Perseverance, adaptation and maintaining dignity. Ageing and Society 34(1): 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X12000761
Mitzner, T. L., Chen, T. L., Kemp, C. C. & Rogers, W. A. (2014). Identifying the potential for robotics to assist older adults in different living environments. International Journal of Social Robotics 6(2): 213–227. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12369-013-0218-7
National Institute of Health and Welfare. (2018). Statistical Yearbook on Social Welfare and Health Care 2017. Helsinki: Juvenes Print – Suomen Yliopistopaino Oy.
Ness, T. M., Hellzen, O. & Enmarker, I. (2014). ‘’Embracing the present and fearing the future’’: The meaning of being an oldest old woman in a rural area. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being 9(1). Available on http://dx.doi.org.helios.uta.fi/10.3402/ qhw.v9.25217 (Accessed February 2, 2018).
Nosraty, L., Jylhä, M., Raittila, T. & Lumme-Sandt, K. (2015). Perceptions by the oldest old of successful aging. Journal of Aging Studies 32: 50–58. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaging.2015.01.002
Nosraty, L., Sarkeala, T., Hervonen, A. & Jylhä, M. (2012). Is there successful aging for nonagenarians? The vitality 90+ study. Journal of Aging Research 2012: 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/868797
Nussbaum, M. C. (2011). Creating Capabilities. The Human Development Approach. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. https://doi.org/10.4159/harvard.9780674061200
Nussbaum, M. C. & Levmore, S. (2017). Aging Thoughtfully. Conversations about Retirement. Romance, Wrinkles, & Regret. New York: Oxford University Press.
Okabayashia, H. & Hougham, G. W. (2014). Gender differences of social interactions and their effects on subjective well-being among Japanese elders. Aging and Mental Health 18(1): 59–71. https://doi.org/10.1080/13607863.2013.788997
Pirhonen, J., Ojala, H., Lumme-Sandt, K. & Pietilä, I. (2016). Old but not that old. Community-dwelling 90+ persons negotiating their autonomy. Ageing and Society 36(8): 1625–1644. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X15000525
Rowe, J. W. & Kahn, R. L. (1997). Successful aging. Gerontologist 37(4): 433–440. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/37.4.433
Tanner, D. (2016). Sustaining the self in the “fourth age”: A case study. Quality in Ageing and Older Adults 17(3): 157–167. https://doi.org/10.1108/QAOA-05-2015-0024
Tornstam, L. (2011). Maturing into gerotranscendence. The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology 43(2): 166–180.
Yang, H.-Y. & Stark, S. L. (2010). The role of environmental features in social engagement among residents living in assisted living facilities. Journal of Housing for the Elderly 24: 28–43. https://doi.org/10.1080/02763890903547062