Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Calvin N. Smith
The study of communication and aging provides great potential for enriching the lives of the elderly. Of course this should be of great interest to each of us as we are all inevitably aging. One rapidly growing area in communication research deals with how communication affects the life satisfaction of the elderly. Of particular interest is the attitudinal effect of family and friend interaction.
Early research dealing with the elderly focused on two theories: 1. Activity theory, which is the idea that social activity is essential to an older person's sense of well being and; 2. Disengagement theory, which suggests that there is a mutual withdrawal of person and society marked by a decreasing level of activity with age.
Recent years have sparked studies dealing with the quality of interaction. Researchers are now saying that it is the meaningful interaction with others, not merely the activity, that makes the difference.
John Nussbaum's studies (1983, 1988) were among the first to recognize this new approach. These studies paved the way for this project. The purpose of this study was threefold:
1. to examine the content of interaction between elderly individuals and their family and friends and this relationship, if any, to life satisfaction.
2. to determine if perspectives of these elderly people have changed towards friends and family members since coming to the nursing home.
3. to investigate the degree of self-reported satisfaction in the population surveyed.
Although previous studies dealt with three different environments for the elderly, this study included only residents from nursing homes. The nursing homes included in this study were Frankfort Terrace in Frankfort, Illinois; The Imperial in Joliet, Illinois; and Hilltop Convalescent Center in Charleston, Illinois.
A condensed version of the Adult Communication Survey, containing 15 questions, was administered to 75 elderly residents to assess the interaction content of the elderly individuals between family and friends in relation to life satisfaction. The data were then tabulated and averaged.
Results showed that family interaction, in particular, for all three nursing homes was very high in relation to life satisfaction. Overall there were no significant differences in the satisfaction levels among the three nursing homes. Perceptions of family and friends remained consistent with only non-significant attitudinal differences in an overall comparative analysis.
Fetzner, Patricia J., "Communication and Aging: Perceptions of Family and Friend Interaction on Self Reported Life Satisfaction Among Selected Residents of Three Nursing Homes" (1989). Masters Theses. 2528.
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