Content and function of the self-definition in old and very old age

Spontaneous self-definition was investigated in a heterogeneous sample of 516 participants (aged 70-103 yrs) in the Berlin Aging Study. The content of the self-definition revealed that old and very old persons view themselves as active and present-oriented. The self-definition also reflected an inward orientation, and central themes of life-review, health, and family. Participants generated more positive than negative evaluations in their self-definition, but the ratio of positive to negative evaluations was less favorable for the oldest old (≥85 yrs) than that of persons aged 70-84 yrs. Older individuals with more health-related constraints reported fewer and less rich self-defining domains (i.e., a less multifaceted self-definition). Positive emotional well-being was associated with naming more and richer self-defining domains. Multifacetedness, however, did not buffer against the negative effect of low functional capacity on subjective well-being. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved)