216300 Assessment of character strengths and the application of Positive Psychology principles to older adults: Identifying opportunities to thrive after 65

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Perry Edelman, PhD , Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging, Evanston, IL
Reed Engel, MA, FAWHP , Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging, Evanston, IL
Erin McCoy Loftus, BS , Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging, Evanston, IL
Positive Psychology is the “scientific study of the virtues and strengths … that enable individuals … to thrive”. This project explored Positive Psychology concepts with 131 older adults. Over half of the respondents were women (56%) and were married (54%) with post high school education (97%). When asked to rank the importance of each of the six virtues identified by positive psychologists, the most highly ranked were wisdom/knowledge and humanity; these virtues received 43% and 33% of the #1 rankings, respectively. Within each of those virtues, respondents ranked each of three character strengths. The most important character strengths were open-mindedness and kindness, ranked #1 within their virtue by 63% and 51%, respectively. Between 35% and 42% of participants were very interested in improving the following strengths: appreciation of beauty/excellence, fairness, humor, love of learning, kindness, and love. In terms of components of happiness, respondents indicated how happy they were by agreeing/disagreeing with statements using a scale that ranged from 1 = “Not like me at all” to 5 = “Very much like me”. Respondents were happiest in terms of enjoyment (21% had an average score = 4 - 5), and least happy in terms of engagement (8% had an average score = 4 - 5). The finding that there are a number of strengths that participants would like to improve, combined with the low happiness score on engagement, will serve as a basis for identifying opportunities that can help older adults achieve the highest possible level of positive aging.

Learning Areas:
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Program planning
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the relative importance older adults place on 6 virtues and 14 character strengths identified by positive psychologists. Identify how strong each of 14 character strengths are within older adults and how interested older adults are in improving or strengthening these character strengths. Describe the extent to which older adults are happy in terms of three components of happiness: the pleasant life (enjoyment), the good life (engagement), and the meaningful life (affiliation).

Keywords: Quality of Life, Research

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have my doctorate in Psychology, conducted research for over 20 years, presented research at statewide, national and international conferences, and I'm currently the Director of Wellness Research at an institute on aging.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

Back to: 2062.0: Healthy Aging