Buy this Article for $10.95

Have a coupon or promotional code? Enter it here:

When you buy this you'll get access to the ePub version, a downloadable PDF, and the ability to print the full article.

Keywords

aged, control, health threats, life course, qualitative research

 

Authors

  1. Black, Helen K.
  2. Santanello, Holly R.
  3. Caruso, Christa J.

Abstract

Background: The desire to retain personal control over self and life circumstances continues into old age; it exists in tension with late-life vulnerabilities.

 

Objectives: This article investigates how older adults respond to threats against control in light of changes surrounding health and identity.

 

Methods: Community-dwelling African American (n = 10) and European-American older adults (n = 10), aged 70 years and older, with varied self-reported health statuses were qualitatively interviewed. Open-ended interviews explored older adults' perceptions of control and threats to control in older age.

 

Results: Three themes linked older adults' responses to threats to control. Older adults (a) proactively monitored physical and mental health, (b) maintained roles that shaped important aspects of identity, and (c) fostered personal growth and development by generative practices. Responses of participants who had difficulty countering threats to control are also offered.

 

Discussion: This study shows that the construct of control is not abstract; it is interpreted and applied by older adults in the contexts of everyday life. Respondents used personal resources honed throughout the life course to respond to threats to control. Older adults viewed control as a cultural construct with nuanced meanings that recalled past roles and current changes that occur with age. Suggestions are offered for how health professionals can assist older adults with the cognitive and emotional tasks required to deal with threats to personal control surrounding health and identity.