Inner strength among the oldest old a good aging

University dissertation from Umeå : Omvårdnad

Abstract: The overall purpose of this thesis is to describe, explore and illuminate inner strength among the oldest old. The thesis has a salutogenic perspective where strengths and health are in the foreground instead of weakness and ill health. The thesis is part of The Umeå 85+ study and comprises four studies with both quantitative and qualitative data.The aim of Study I was to test reliability and validity of the Swedish language version of the Resilience Scale (RS) in regard to its stability, internal consistency and validity. A convenience sample of 142 participants aged 19 to 85 years answered the questionnaires the first time and 126 on the retest. In Study II scales aimed to measure phenomena related to inner strength, health and development were used. The aim was to describe resilience, sense of coherence, purpose in life, and self-transcendence in relation to perceived physical and mental health in a sample of 125 participants aged 85 to 103 years. Study III aimed to give a more extensive knowledge of resilience among the oldest old. The relationship between resilience and physical health factors, psychological health factors, diseases and social relations were examined among a sample of 192 persons aged 85 to 103 years. In order to deepen the knowledge about inner strength from a life world perspective the aim of study IV was to illuminate the meaning of inner strength as narrated by women and men 85 and 90 years old. The sample consisted of those 18 participants that scored the highest on the scales aimed at measure phenomena related to inner strength.The findings in study I showed that the Swedish version of the RS was both valid and reliable. Construct validity was established by satisfactory correlations coefficient values between the RS and the Sense of Coherence Scale and the Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale. A principal component analysis corresponded well to the original version of the RS. Reliability was assured with both satisfactory internal consistency as well as test-retest reliability. The findings in study II showed significant correlations between the scales aimed to measure resilience, sense of coherence, purpose in life and self-transcendence which indicates that the scales reflect some kind of common core, which was interpreted as inner strength. The oldest old scored high on all scales, this indicating that strength can be preserved or perhaps even increased in old age. The finding also showed lack of significant correlations between the scales and perceived physical health but significant correlations between these scales and perceived mental health among the women but not for the men. No significant correlation was found between physical and mental health. In study III a regression analysis showed that a strong resilience among the oldest old was found to be associated with health, mainly represented by absence of depressed mood but also by not being on medication and by the absence of psychological symptoms, but also that raising children in the past gave a meaning to the present by having a family and this produced feelings of feeling safe and secure in facing the inevitable future; that is, being resilient means living in connectedness with one’s past, present, and future. In study IV a phenomenological hermeneutic approach to the interview text disclosed a meaning of inner strength as Life goes on –living it all, meaning that inner strength still makes it possible to live, handle and being open to ones life in many of its potentials. Inner strength means that one can chose to stand up and fight as well as living in reconciliation, a possibility to work hard as well as feeling relaxed, inner strength means having tasks to accomplish as well as feeling content and proud over ones life as well as life itself, it means relying in oneself as well as having faith in others and God (for some), knowing that you as a person is the same as well as accepting and adjusting to changes. It means that one can chose aloneness and still be connected, it is to be living in the present as well as in one’s past and in the future. That is, living in wholeness.The findings of the studies are discussed in relation to personal strengths and a good aging.