Date of Award

2012

First Advisor

Eden-Renee Hayes

Second Advisor

Anne O'Dwyer

Third Advisor

Quincy McLaughlin

Abstract

Generation after generation people have believed that elderly people are slow, they get in the way, and they are incapable and their opinions are not necessarily a valuable contribution to society. Popular culture tells us to reverse and avoid the aging process instead of embracing it, we are told how horrible aging can be but never how enriching of an experience and an inevitable part of life it is. This thesis examines the effect of ageism and social support on America’s elderly as well as the role of depression and major life changes throughout the lifespan of older adults. Two psychological studies will also be reported. The first of these studies found that those with a higher life satisfaction had lower anxiety surrounding aging, noticed less stereotypes regarding their age and held a more positive perception of aging. The second study was a qualitative design that utilized focus groups with individuals over the age of forty. This study found that those with a positive self-perception of aging described being more active, more positive and more content. The purpose of this thesis is to provide a well-rounded understanding of major challenges through the aging process.

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