Attitudes towards life in very old age - a case study of people 90+

Janusz Balicki, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University
Malgorzata Chrzanowska
Ewa Fratczak, Warsaw School of Economics

Background and Purpose of Research: The most commonly cited factors in the field of longevity are medical. However the social, economic and psychological environment play important roles. The study examines people in good health and psychological condition aged 90 + and tries to answer the question: What factors have possibly influenced their longevity, good health and psychological condition? Data and Methods used: The qualitative survey took place among 15 respondents from Poland, 15 from the USA and 15 from the UK. The interviews based on a questionnaire about the respondent consisted of four parts: a) general information; b) multidimensional evaluation of life and personality c) personal background including evaluation of life careers, d) detailed information about past and present lifestyle. The results enabled us to create, in the context of longevity, profiles of attitudes towards life in very old age with inter-country comparisons. Based on empirical studies we found both similar and dissimilar patterns towards life in the very old age in all three countries. Main results: Our survey shows the following factors: A high percentage of 90+ respondents’ parents and siblings had lived a long life (80+). It’s possible to make a connection between longevity and genetic influences. Of even great significance is the fact that a relatively high percent of respondents rated their present life satisfaction as very good and good while declaring they seldom felt lonely or isolated. Conclusions: The predominant common factor emerging from our research were the interviewees’ positive attitude towards life in spite of hard childhoods and difficult lives and that even though their life style had been relatively unhealthy (smoking, alcohol) their optimistic approach to life could be the explanation for their longevity.

Presented in Session 13: Public and policy responses to ageing