Aging among baby boomers




Walker, Charles Alan

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The purpose of this study was to explore aging as it is experienced and expressed by healthy, middle-aged Baby Boomers (N = 225). This exploration involved instrument development and model testing. Age was a delimiting factor. Only people born during the baby boom (i.e., June 1, 1946 to December 31, 1964) were eligible to participate. At the time of data collection, subjects ranged in age from 35 to 53 years.

Simple procedures facilitated data analysis. Psychometric estimates helped to establish reliability, validity, and utility of the Readiness for Aging Profile, a researcher-developed instrument. Furthermore, this study provides the first documented, conjoint use of P. G. Reed's (1991) Self-Transcendence Scale and J. B. Younger's (1993) Mastery of Stress Inventory, two extant measures often cited independently in the nursing literature.

Factors that denote and explain aging readiness arose from factor and correlational analyses. Readiness for aging was characterized by (a) doing what's possible about aging, (b) embodying changes in appearance and ability, and (c) fearlessly facing the uncertainties of old age. Married women were inclined to do what is possible by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, meeting challenges boldly, and preparing adequately for old age. Women viewed their aging with experiential intensity; however, men denied or failed to recognize aging's immediacy. Despite the known fact that women live longer and exhibit a higher incidence of chronic illness, middle-aged men were more likely to fear the uncertainties of old age, such as physical disability, poverty, and social isolation. Members of ethnic minorities tended to incorporate physical evidences of age into a revised self image.

The fit of C. A. Walker's (1995) transformative aging model to Baby Boomer data was evaluated against explicit hypotheses. High socioeconomic status, femaleness, marital growing older was a function of doing what's possible (r = .63). Taken together (a) mastery of stress, (b) female gender, (c) fearlessness, and (d) general optimism about life transitions explained 33% of the self-transcendence experienced by aging Boomers.

Contrary to prior assumptions about intra-cohort differences among middle-aged Baby Boomers (Coward, 1996; Light, 1988; Morgan, 1998), chronological age was not a salient harbinger of aging readiness, mastery, or transcendence. Self-transcendence was authenticated as a “developmental fluidity” that unites the youthful-self (past) and the aging-self (present). The knowledge gained about Boomer aging has implications for theory and practice in several disciplines, including gerontology, human development, and nursing.



Aging, Baby boomers, Transformative change