Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

27,000 Sunrises: Everyday Contributions of Grateful and Giving Age 70+ Adults
by Southam, Theresa, Ph.D., Fielding Graduate University, 2020, 307; 27739045
Abstract (Summary)

27,000 Sunrises: Everyday Contributions of Grateful and Giving Age 70+ Adults

by

THERESA SOUTHAM

Although the increasingly older population has been described as a burden (Doron, 2013; Rozanova, 2010), older adults who are willing to take up the hard work of elderhood have important gifts to contribute (Conley, 2018; Jenkinson, 2018b; Pevny, 2014; Schachter-Shalomi & Miller, 2014). Older adults’ contributions have been studied predominantly as tangible services, missing important, less tangible services that were found to contribute to the sustainable nature of communities. This critical ethnographic study reveals the meanings age 70+ older adults make with others in their everyday lives.

Of the main participants, seven were male and two female; one was indigenous (n=9). The other people that older adults interacted with and who were included in this study (n=16) were family, friends, workshop participants, and work colleagues. The researcher conducted “go-alongs” in order to observe and document everyday life. Main participants completed life maps, LifeForward Plans and a questionnaire, including measures of wisdom, generativity, and transcendence.

Two meanings—Create and Share Other Realities and Value the Connection between People and Place— and three meaning-making processes—Turn Grief to Gratitude to Giving, Continue to Grow, and Shape Future through Ordinary Acts of Kindness— were examined for their contributions to more sustainable and compassionate communities. One example of the meaning Create and Share Other Realities is exemplified in the supplementary video to this dissertation Chris opening up worlds that didn’t exist (Southam, 2019). A new model was created where grief and gratitude drive generativity, rather than cultural demand (McAdams, Hart, & Maruna, 1998). A fifth dimension of self-actualization was added to the Foray (4A) model of lifelong learning (Corley, 2011) resulting in a new model Foray (4A+) – Beyond Self.

Future research on the developmental tasks of older adults and on communication approaches that lead to sustainability are needed. Renewed calls for elderhood could strengthen the social, environmental, and economic well-being of our communities.

Keywords: elder, elderhood, meaning, meaning-making, older adults, community, sustainability, wisdom, generativity, transcendence, developmental tasks of older adults, ageism, denial of death, conscious aging, successful aging, critical applied ethnography, go-along, life map, communication

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Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Corley, Connie
Commitee: Willis, David Blake, Nelson, Annabelle L, Estrada, Carol, Ardelt, Monika
School: Fielding Graduate University
Department: School for Leadership Studies
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 81/8(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Social research, Sustainability, Cultural anthropology
Keywords: Critical ethnography, Elder, Meaning, Sustainability, Transcendence, Wisdom
Publication Number: 27739045
ISBN: 9781392501108
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