Date of Graduation
The problem being addressed through this study is the need to adequately understand the significance of the spiritual experience for older adults, especially as related to their resolution of the final life stage of integrity versus despair as conceptualized by Erikson (1963). Qualitative research methods were utilized to conduct and analyze structured interviews with six older adults. Interview questions were validated by past research efforts on spirituality and on integrity versus despair. Research questions addressed in this investigation include the following: (a) Does Erikson's theory of integrity versus despair adequately explain the data and provide an appropriate framework for conceptualizing the experience of aging for older adults? (b) How do older persons perceive and experience their spirituality? (c) Does spirituality appear to have an impact on older adults' experience of integrity versus despair? (d) What/How does qualitative research contribute to the study of aging and spirituality? Results of this study support the usefulness of Erikson's theory for the final life stage when integrity versus despair are conceptualized as extremes on a bipolar continuum across nine different dimensions. These dimensions of integrity versus despair include (a) adaptation versus non-adaptation to the losses of aging, (b) acceptance of and preparedness for death versus non-acceptance and unpreparedness, (c) contentment versus regret relative to the past despite mistakes made or hurts incurred, (d) feeling a sense of accomplishments versus lack of accomplishments as one reviews life, (e) satisfaction versus non-satisfaction with life, (f) contributory versus non-contributory approach to life, (g) active and relational versus inactive and isolational, (h) adaptation versus non-adaptation to life stressors over the life span, and (i) intrinsic versus extrinsic spirituality. The intrinsic versus extrinsic spirituality dimension of integrity versus despair appears to be more influential than the other eight dimensions, and the data support a positive relationship between intrinsic spirituality and integrity. Related to research design, qualitative methods were both necessary and sufficient for the goal of obtaining an accurate and complete phenomenological understanding of both aging and spirituality for this sample of older adults.
Heck, Robert P., "A qualitative assessment of spirituality and its impact on the final life stage for a sample of older adults." (1997). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 9017.