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Adapting to aging: Older people talk about their use of selection, optimization, and compensation to maximize well-being in the context of physical decline

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    Rights statement: This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B following peer review. The version of record J. D. Carpentieri, Jane Elliott, Caroline E. Brett, and Ian J. Deary Adapting to Aging: Older People Talk About Their Use of Selection, Optimization, and Compensation to Maximize Well-being in the Context of Physical Decline J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci first published online October 21, 2016 doi:10.1093/geronb/gbw132 is available online at: http://psychsocgerontology.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/10/21/geronb.gbw132

    Accepted author manuscript, 444 KB, PDF document

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-361
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number2
Early online date21 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


Objectives: Selection, Optimization, and Compensation (SOC) may contribute to successful aging by helping older people maximize well-being in the context of physical decline. To explore this hypothesis, and to investigate the potential for narrative analysis to improve understanding of SOC, we analyze interviews conducted with 15 members of the 6-Day Sample, a cohort of Scots born in 1936.

Method: Interviewees were chosen based on their physical function and well-being scores. Interviews were analyzed to investigate “SOC talk,” that is, older people’s talk about SOC behaviors in everyday life. Types and amounts of SOC talk were quantified, and talk was narratively analyzed. We hypothesized that older people who engaged in more SOC talk would have higher well-being.

Results: Older people who engaged in high levels of SOC talk had high well-being despite low physical function. Those who engaged in little SOC talk had low well-being despite higher physical function.

Discussion: The concept of successful aging is valuable in part because of its narrative quality: One must strive to keep one’s life story developing despite physical decline and other losses. We provide evidence, from the perspectives of older people themselves, of the ways in which SOC may play a role in that process.

    Research areas

  • adaptation, narrative, SOC, successful aging, well-being

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