Still Young or Happy Elder? Exploring the Meaning of Positive Aging From Different Perspectives
C. Craciun1, U. Flick1
1Free University, Berlin, Germany
Background: Growing old in precarious times, defined by work and pension insecurity, makes it difficult to see aging as positive. The study explores positive meanings of old age from the perspectives of middle-aged persons and health professionals. Methods: Episodic interviews were conducted with middle-aged persons with secure (N=10) and insecure (N=10) pension plans and 7 expert interviews with professionals. Thematic coding was used for analyzing the data. Findings: Participants find it difficult to identify positive meanings for old age and tend to value staying young. Middle-aged consider wisdom a source of positive meaning in old age, whereas professionals promote social engagement and productivity. While professionals value personal responsibility for positive aging, precarious individuals believe it depends on luck. Secure individuals consider productivity and generativity attribute positive meaning to aging. Discussion: The positive meanings that professionals promote for old age may not be suitable for precarious individuals creating the risk for social inequalities in old age. The challenge for health psychology is to find new positive meanings for aging.