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Session Overview
RN01_02a_IC: The Oldest Old
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Cosima Rughinis, University of Bucharest
Location: Intercontinental - Ypsilon III
Athenaeum Intercontinental Hotel Syngrou Avenue 89-93 Athens, Greece Floor: Level 1

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Lifestyles of the Very Old – A Qualitative Analysis

Luise Geithner

University of Cologne, Germany

According to Bourdieu, lifestyles are class-specific patterns of taste and behavior. While Bourdieu analyzed lifestyles of middle-aged employed people, it is questionable if his assumptions about the structuring of the social space hold true also for those in old or very old age. Especially within the age group of the very old changes in health, mobility or social network gain importance. However, lifestyle research often treats age as a background variable only and rarely looks at expressive behavior specific to very old age. Hence, lifestyles of the very old are less differentiated and mainly associated with passivity.

Therefore, a qualitative study was performed to shed light on the specific range of expressive behavior of the very old. Eighteen semi-structured interviews were realized with Germans aged 80 and older living privately as well as institutionalized. The analysis follows the main research questions: How are lifestyles expressed in very old age and what function do they have? How are the lifestyles linked to living conditions as well as social origin and biography? Thereby, stability rooted in the habitus as well as change due to age are taken into consideration. Furthermore, taste with regard to music, reading, TV and art is analyzed. First results show a broad range of expressive behavior. In addition, also people in need of care or living in nursing homes show a strong interest to maintain or regain important parts of their lifestyles.

Spirituality of the Oldest Old (80+): Struggle between Traditional Religion and Post-Modernistic Spirituality

Anna Janhsen

University of Cologne, Germany

To enable well-being of the oldest old (80+) despite a decline of physical and mental capacities and social losses, spirituality is considered as an important, independent component. Especially in modern and post-modernistic social approaches (eg New Age-movement, Esoteric or Body-Mind-Wellness) spirituality is often conceptualized in contrast to traditional and institutional religion. The European tradition theorizes spirituality in contrast rather within the context of religion.

These ambiguous and more and more merging understandings of spirituality within the local social sphere alongside different social developments regarding the status of spirituality and religion in society (secularization, individualization, liberalization as well as fundamentalism) are particular challenges in the lifelong engaging especially of the oldest old with questions regarding their spirituality and transmitted religious belief systems nowadays. Therefore, the impact of this social controversy regarding the understanding and function of spirituality on the subjective conceptualization of the oldest old is analyzed in qualitative interviews (n=21) with Germans 80+years from Christian, Islamic and Judaist cultural and religious backgrounds as well as non-religious backgrounds. In addition, the importance of religious socialization and social changes for the spiritual development, its relevance to find meaning in and of life and its impact on their well-being are discussed and linked back to different traditions of the understanding of spirituality.

Factors associated with decline in high morale in a five-year follow-up of very old people

Marina Näsman1,2, Johan Niklasson3, Yngve Gustafson3, Birgitta Olofsson3, Hugo Lövheim3, Mikael Nygård1, Fredrica Nyqvist1

1bo Akademi University, Finland; 2The Society of Swedish Literature in Finland; 3Umeå University, Sweden

Introduction: Morale in old age can be described as a future-oriented optimism and consists of an overall sense of well-being and a certain acceptance of changes in life associated with aging. Our research has previously shown that high morale in very old age is associated with increased survival and lower risk of depressive disorders. The aim of the present study is to identify variables associated with a decline in high morale over a five-year follow-up period in very old people.

Methods: The study is based on data from the Umeå85+/GERDA-study, which is a population based study conducted in Northern Sweden and Western Finland. The sample of the present study consists of 174 individuals who were 85 years or older and had high morale at baseline. Morale was measured with the Philadelphia Geriatric Center Morale Scale (PGCMS). Logistic regression was used for the multivariate analyses.

Results: Forty-seven (27%) individuals had a significant decline in morale over five years. In the univariate analyses, social isolation and poor self-rated health were significantly associated with a decline in morale five years later. Social isolation remained significant on a <0.05 level and poor self-rated health on a <0.1 level when controlling for age, gender, country and years of education.

Discussion: The majority of the sample had no significant decline in morale over the follow-up period. Identifying variables associated with decline in morale can, however, have important implications for the well-being of very old people.

Health and social factors associated with the rejection of active euthanasia in community-dwelling older subjects: evidences from an Italian case study

Stefano Poli, Valeria Pandolfini

Di.S.For., Università degli Studi di Genova, Italy

Background: The major extension of late life expectancy in last decades has increased the significance of end-of-life issues, particularly among elderly people, considering both the role of medical practices in shaping and defining dying trajectories and the differences in national laws and in public attitudes about preservation of self-dignity and removal of pain in death. Avoiding a prolonged, painful and undignified death provides for many a rationale for euthanasia or physician assisted death, legalized in few countries and largely debated in most of the others. On the contrary, the fear of increased pressure to end one’s life prematurely and of potential abuses became often the main argument of opposition among vulnerable groups, like older people, especially when suffering disability, chronic diseases and lacking of autonomy.

Methods: Trough a representative cross-sectional survey on 1.782 community dwelling over 65s residents in Genoa (Italy), we examined with bivariate and binary logistic regression analysis their attitudes towards active voluntary euthanasia (AVE), exploring associations with socio-demographic characteristics, health and socioeconomic conditions, ideological orientations and cultural practices.

Results: 39.9 per cent of our sample fully disagreed with AVE, 26.7 per cent expressed tolerance, 35 .2 per cent agreed completely. Results showed significant associations of different attitudes toward AVE with cultural values and moral practices, as well with health and disability conditions, evidencing increasing full rejection toward AVE among over 75s old-old profiles (46.3%).

Conclusions: Our results suggest major differences among intergenerational units of older people, showing evidences of significant cultural change in attitudes toward end-of-life issues. If and to the extent that older age plays a role, it is rather still strongly associated with rejection than with acceptance of AVE.

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