Life Satisfaction among Elderly Women
Life satisfaction “measure[s] cognitive evaluations of one’s self and one’s life” (Pinquart & Sörensen 2001) and is thus an important measure of successful aging (Tate, Lah, & Cuddy 2003); rather than physical health, life satisfaction is instead a measure of how an individual perceives his or her circumstances and it is resultantly useful in assessing well-being.
The Canadian population is aging. According to Employment and Social Development Canada, the senior population is growing more rapidly than any other age group and is expected to double in the next 25 years (2014). It is clear that much research is needed on this aging population to best address their needs and rapid growth. Research demonstrates that while life satisfaction drops in middle age, it rises once more in old age (Blanchflower & Oswald, 2008); it is necessary to understand why this occurs and to draw attention to what maximizes life satisfaction among the elderly in order to ensure well-being continues to be high as the population ages
A meta-analysis by Pinquart & Sörensen (2001) concluded that among the elderly population, women rate their subjective well-being and overall life satisfaction slightly – but significantly – lower than men do. A cross-cultural study by Tesch-Römer, Motel-Klingebiel, & Tomasik (2008) found that sex differences in subjective well-being vary between societies and thus, that these differences are not caused solely by biological or intrinsic factors (such as higher morbidity among women) but by social factors as well. Sex differentiation in life satisfaction provides an opportunity to examine why elderly women are less satisfied with life than elderly men.
According to Pinquart & Sörensen (2001), elderly women are more likely to define their identity, and thus evaluate their subjective well-being, based on their social networks. Pinquart & Sörensen (2001) further indicate that due to this identity definition, as well as a higher likelihood of widowhood, elderly women are more likely to experience loneliness, and that this loneliness increases with age. Thus, sex differentiation in life satisfaction among elderly populations may in part be because elderly women are more likely to define their well-being by social interaction.
Volunteerism and Life Satisfaction
The relationship between volunteerism and life satisfaction in elderly individuals is well documented. Elderly volunteers report higher life satisfaction than non-volunteers; in one study, 95.2% of volunteers reported their level of life satisfaction was satisfied or very satisfied as compared to only 88.4% of non-volunteers (Haski-Leventhal 2009). Even when controlling for other variables – such as income and health – volunteerism has a unique, significant and positive relationship with the life satisfaction of elderly volunteers (Van Willigen 2000). This relationship is made stronger by the level of the volunteer’s commitment to an organization and...