Hardiness, ego development, and successful aging in the elderly
The purpose of this study was to determine whether two personality variables, hardiness and ego development, predicted successful aging above and beyond the sociodemographic variables of age, income, marital status, and education. In this study, successful aging was defined within the framework of life satisfaction and perceived health. Eighty-two Caucasian men and women, ranging in age from 58-92 years (X=72), were voluntary subjects for this study. Over one-half of the subjects were married with most of the remaining subjects being widowed. Both education and income levels were relatively high for these subjects; the majority were college educated and had incomes above $20,000 per year. Hardiness was measured by the composite score on the Personal Views Survey, or Hardiness Test, and ego development was assessed by the Washington University Sentence Completion Test. Successful aging was examined by scores on the Life Satisfaction Index A and a four item self-report rating of perceived health status. The findings of this study supported the first hypothesis that life satisfaction and perceived health would be significantly correlated in a sample of elderly subjects (r=.31 at p<.01). The use of multiple regression analysis confirmed the second hypothesis that personality dimensions of hardiness and ego development would predict life satisfaction above the sociodemographic variables. In this study, the sociodemographic variable of greatest prediction for life satisfaction was marital status. Although income and age predicted perceived health in the elderly, hardiness and ego development were not significant predictors. These research findings challenge psychologists to examine more thoroughly other personality dimensions in the elderly and how they may influence life satisfaction and perceived health. The results also suggest the need for further exploration of marriage and widowhood among the elderly and the meaning of these experiences throughout the life span. Lastly, recommendations for future research include studying a larger sample of elderly subjects with greater variability in income, education, and marital status. It is anticipated that such research efforts will contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of this growing segment of our population.