The detrimental impact of social isolation on health and well-being has been reported in older adults (Prohaska, et al., 2020). Yet findings also demonstrate that older adults have a motivational shift to prioritize emotionally meaningful goals and experiences (Carstensen, 1993; Sakaki, et al., 2019), prioritize emotional meaning in situations, focus on positive emotions and stimuli over negative feelings and live in the present rather than focus on future preparedness. Socioemotional selectivity theory (SST) (Carstensen, 1993; Carstensen, Fung & Charles, 2003) suggests that older adults have a limited sense of time left in life and shift their focus to meaningful and positive experiences. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic most individuals became physically separated from family, friends and social activities that are so important to overall well-being. To explore the contradicting evidence in the literature about detrimental effects of social isolation and the SST theory, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 21 older adults ranging in age from 62 to 86 years old to explore their experiences during the pandemic and specifically to address emotional well-being, social experiences and coping mechanisms. Qualitative analyses revealed themes of problem-solving and emotion-focused coping, social support, and meaning making with ample evidence of the positivity effect. These findings support the SST theory as many participants expressed great resilience as they discussed how they engaged in emotionally meaningful activities and experiences and even made the best of adverse experiences during the pandemic.
Lahar, Cindy J.; Nadeau, Angela L.; Violette, Jayne; Roberts, Summer; and Reindl, Diana
"Socio-Emotional Resilience Among Older Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic,"
Journal of the South Carolina Academy of Science: Vol. 21:
1, Article 7.
Available at: https://scholarcommons.sc.edu/jscas/vol21/iss1/7
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