Pattern recognition and life integration in women over the age of eighty

Dawkins, Vivian Hamilton
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The purpose of the study was to attain knowledge about the life patterns of women over 80. The goal of the study was to answer this research question: What are the patterns that emerge from the rich stories of a woman's long life.

Using a network sampling technique thirteen women were approached and agreed to participate in the study. They ranged in age from 81 to 95 years. The interview used a single question with additional questions and guiding comments used to elicit as much information as possible. The women came from urban and rural areas in three distinct geographical locations, Colorado, Oregon, and Texas.

Using a constant comparative method, four patterns and a basic social psychological process emerged from their stories. The patterns are (a) caring for family, (b) maintaining health, (c) learning throughout a lifetime, and (d) experiencing employment. The basic social psychological process identified was life integration.

The pattern of caring for family was composed of five categories. The categories are remembering childhood, reviewing adult life, acknowledging responsibility for others, exploring family history, and making faith visible. Four categories formed the pattern of maintaining health. They are remembering childhood illnesses, reviewing adult health and illness, coping with accidents and injuries, and accepting the illnesses of aging. The pattern of learning throughout a lifetime is comprised of the categories of remembering life as a student, reviewing learning as a continual process, experiencing learning in life, and manifesting the creative. Three categories formed the pattern of experiencing employment. They are working outside the home, pride in a professional career, and working for oneself.

These four patterns provide a means to view life integration for women over 80 years of age from an inductive to theory perspective. The inductive perspective is well grounded in the data. The emerging theory could be useful in generating nurse actions if weaknesses are located in the patterns of a woman's life. Implications for future research focus on replicating the study with women over the age of ninety, older men, and a more diverse group of women over eighty.

Health and environmental sciences, Social sciences, Psychology, Elderly, Life integration, Pattern recognition, Women