Successful aging and social contexts: The importance of support, marital status, and spousal influences

by Kate Small

Institution: Iowa State University
Year: 2013
Keywords: Longevity; Optimal Aging; Social support; Spouses; Successful aging; Family, Life Course, and Society
Record ID: 2008927
Full text PDF: http://lib.dr.iastate.edu/etd/13194



The focus of this dissertation is on the concept of "successful aging" within social contexts. Specifically, how the contexts of perceived social support, marital status, and spousal influence are related to successful aging outcomes. Paper 1 adopts Rowe and Kahn's (1997) model of successful aging as a framework for investigating predictors related to 25-year survival. The results show that having better physical functioning (e.g.., walking), low chronic illness, and higher ratings of perceived social support significantly predicted survival over 25 years. Depressive symptoms, church attendance, and participating in volunteer activities were unrelated to survival. Paper 2 investigates the relationship between perceived social support, sex, marital status and long-term survival, as well as the mediating effect of social support on marital status and sex in relation to 25-year survival. The results indicate that both sex and social support directly affected survival, and marital status indirectly influenced survival through social support. Therefore, the relationship between being married and survival appears to be due to the impact that marital status has on level of social support. The aims of Paper 3 were to describe the nature and number of latent classes that best fit cognitive trajectories for husbands and wives over seven years, as well as determine congruence of spousal membership on latent class trajectories. Results determined that the best fitting model for both husbands and wives consisted of four latent classes and nearly 50% of spouses had shared congruent latent classes. This highlights the importance of looking at spousal influences in relation to successful aging outcomes. As a whole, these papers contribute to the current discussion on successful aging and stress the importance of social contexts of successful and optimal aging.