The Aging Paradox: A Look at Later-Life Satisfaction Through the Eyes of OLLI Members

Olli members

Clockwise from top left, OLLI members Mary Doller, Al May, Jean Hunt and Steve Vorenberg.

By Caitlin Connelly

A good paradox can turn the obvious on its head.

That’s a fair way to describe the aging paradox, a concept well-known to gerontologists that challenges presumptions about the way people feel as they grow older. True, there may be many forms of loss or limitation that come with older age. But there is also empirical evidence that shows people actually experience a greater level of life satisfaction as they grow older.

In the process of living to an older age, transitions often become more than a simple shift from work to retirement and bring people to a more peaceful frame of mind, according to Kathrin Boerner, an associate professor of gerontology at UMass Boston.

“Older adults often arrive at this point where they feel like they’ve experienced a lot but they’ve also learned a lot from the experience,” said Boerner.

Those transitions can be driven by conventional forces of work and family. But the kind of older-life satisfaction described by the aging paradox is often rooted other kinds of experiences. “People get to that point from very different trajectories,” said Boerner.

The Gerontology Institute Blog asked members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UMass Boston to describe their transition into the earlier stages of older life and how they felt about it. Their responses illustrate just how different those trajectories can be. Continue reading

Study Investigates the Challenge of Documenting End-of-Life Preferences

Detailed instructions reflecting the wishes of people facing serious advancing illness offer family and health care providers valuable guidance for end-of-life care.

But the basic process of collecting that information—from the design of standardized forms to procedures used to complete them—varies greatly from state to state and at individual health care settings. Those operational details can have a dramatic impact on the quality of information collected and the usefulness of the instructions themselves.

Kathrin Boerner, an associate professor of gerontology at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School, used detailed interviews with team members at 2 Massachusetts nursing homes to study policy and practice associated with gathering information about end-of-life care wishes. Boerner, along with UMass Boston assistant sociology professor Jason Rodriquez and 2 other co-authors, recently published their findings in the journal Geriatric Nursing. Continue reading