Faculty Advisor

Clancy Dollinger, Stephanie


Older adults in rural areas have unique challenges to maintain well-being. The goal of this project was to examine those unique factors related to successful aging in a sample of older women living in a rural area in the Midwest using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Mental and physical health, personality traits, cognitive abilities (i.e., working memory, vocabulary and attention), and activity levels were assessed. A semi-structured interview using a life narrative approach was also used to explore habits, family relationships and lifestyles over the past 20 years. The women were administered the following measures: 1) Big Five Factor Personality Inventory (John, 1990); 2) The Florida Cognitive Activities Scale (Schinka et al., 2005); 3) Geriatric Depression Scale (Brink et al., 1982); 4) A series of cognitive tasks to assess working memory, vocabulary, and attention; and 5) the Identity Style (revised) measure. All of the women indicated that they felt they were aging successfully. Many of the women also reported having very healthy diets, moderate to high levels of exercise, and included many redemption sequences in their life stories (i.e., a negative event leading to an emotionally positive outcome). Current self-rated health was related to Extraversion (r = -.45), Openness (r = -.36), and Neuroticism (r = .35). Interestingly, the women's educational level was related to their current level of cognitive activities (r = .39) as well as depression score (r = -.36). These findings present support for the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle and also indicate that many factors including personality traits as well as education may play a role in how well women age.