EXPLORING THE PSYCHOLOGICAL DIMENSIONS OF LIFE SATISFACTION OF THE ELDERLY

AIDA MARIA H. PEREZ
PHD PSYCHOLOGY (APRIL 2010)
Department of Psychology


Abstract

Life Satisfaction among the elderly has been found to be closely related to their health and longevity. Living a happy life can be an antidote to disorders in old age such as dementia and depression.

The present study attempts to explore the psychological aspects of life satisfaction of the elderly. By using both qualitative and quantitative methods, the study aims to explore the concept of life satisfaction that may be unique to a particular age group and to the Filipino culture, surface the psychological dimensions attached to their concept of life satisfaction and survey the current levels of their life satisfaction based on these psychological domains.

A total of 210 male and female elderly from three separate samples participated in the study. An in-depth interview was conducted among forty-one (41) participants aged 62 to 76 (mean age = 69.9) from both the urban and rural areas. Data from a recorded interview were transcribed and coded based on the psychological attributes that relate to life satisfaction. The dimensions culled out from the data had positive inter-judge reliability.

Results show that their concept of life satisfaction is linked to a sense of personal fulfillment and contentment which are considered offshoots of their life accomplishments, a happy family life and a personal relationship with God. Twelve psychological dimensions of life satisfaction surfaced from the interview data such as freedom from worry, control over one’s life, contentment, appreciation of good health, sense of fulfillment, peace, emotional security, social support, self-worth, positive attitude, family solidarity and spirituality. These psychological domains were further grouped into 4 clusters based on their related meanings, namely, Kapanatagan ng kalooban (calmness and tranquility), consisting of sense of fulfillment, contentment, freedom from worry, sense of peace, appreciation of good health; Kakayanan sa sarili (self-agency) which includes self-worth and control over one’s life; Kaayusan ng pamilya at ng pakikipagkapwa (wholesome family and social relationships) consisting of family solidarity, social support and emotional security and lastly, Kaugnayan sa Diyos (relationship with God) which covers spirituality.

To further explore these dimensions a survey was conducted and an instrument was constructed and validated to gauge overall life satisfaction. The twelve domains were trimmed down to nine (9) after combining the related concepts. The final set of domains was used to construct a 36-item rating scale labeled the Satisfaction of Life Scale for the Elderly (SLSE) using a 5-point Likert Scale. Content and concurrent validation procedures were conducted to check the validity and reliability of the scale (Cronbach alpha = 0.889). Using convenience sampling with a separate sample of 86 elderly from Metro Manila the SLSE together with another validated instrument called Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS) were both administered to senior citizens from three barangays and churches in Metro Manila. Using Pearson r correlation, domain-SLSE scores as well as item-total correlation and SLSE and SWLS scores were obtained. All the correlations turned out to be highly significant ( r= 0.475 at alpha = < 0.01), thus, establishing the validity and reliability of the constructed scale.

Using MANOVA, results of the survey came out with the following findings: (1) No significant main effects were found on the overall life satisfaction level, rather the interaction effects of the variables (age and gender, gender and location) yielded significant effects on the domain of spirituality and overall satisfaction. (2) Females reported higher spiritual satisfaction than the males, (3) Urban residents likewise expressed greater spiritual satisfaction than the rural elderly, (4) Gender and age group showed interaction effect on Freedom from Worry domain and overall life satisfaction. The male old-old (aged 76 to 85) reported the highest freedom from worry across the four groups while the female old-old (aged 76 to 85) registered the least freedom from worry. In terms of overall satisfaction, the male old-old showed the highest rating while the male young-old registered the lowest satisfaction among the sample.

Implications of the findings relate to the social roles played by male and female elderly in their families Males who pin down their sense of worth on accomplishment seem to feel more satisfied in their old-old stage while the female on the same developmental stage are still engaged in the domestic affairs of their family. This present study offers two major contributions to the literature of life satisfaction of the elderly. One is the contextualization of the meaning of life satisfaction within the Filipino culture and an instrument that was constructed and validated to measure their life satisfaction.

Further research may be done to explore anchors of life satisfaction to determine variances across developmental age groups. The quality of spirituality of the Filipino elderly may be elucidated further through research since it emerged as the salient feature among the dimensions of life satisfaction.


In terms of application of findings, the evaluation of programs designed by service providers for the elderly well-being may strengthen programs that will address the spiritual needs of the elderly,