Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York
 



Research Project
“Psychological Strengths in Centenarians: Mechanisms of Adaptation in the Very Old” (2010–2012)
Primary Investigators:
Dr. Daniela S. Jopp (Fordham University)
 

Project Partners
Dr. Joann P. Reinhardt (Jewish Home Lifecare and Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York; mentor/consultant)
Dr. Richard B. Lipton (Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY; mentor/consultant)

Project Team at Fordham:  
Dr. Celia B. Fisher (Center for Ethics Education, Fordham University; mentor/consultant)
Min-Kyung S. Park (Psychometrics Graduate Student)
Andrew Cavanagh (ADP Graduate Student)
Melissa De Feo (ADP Graduate Student)
Michelle Paggi (ADP Graduate Student)
Erin Kennedy (MA Social Work)
Kemi Soyeju (BA Sociology)
Jason Reynolds (Counseling Psychology Graduate Student)
Former Team Members:  

Yeraz M. Meschian (Clinical Graduate Student)
Emily Chalkley (BA Psychology)
Sumi Raghavan (Clinical Graduate Student)
Becky Weiss (Clinical Graduate Student)
Megan Tropea (MA Psychology)
Tessa La Rue (Undergraduate Student)
Deanna Minasi (Undergraduate Student)
Jenna Tarantino (Undergraduate Student)
Rachel Luba (Undergraduate Student)
Sellie Makhraz (Undergraduate Student)
Elizabeth Steinmeyer (Undergraduate Student)

Dr. Daniela Jopp
Dr. Daniela Jopp
Principal Investigator


Background

Despite population projections expecting that 600,000 to one million Americans will reach their 100th birthday in 2040 (US Office of Census, 2002, 2008), centenarians represent an underserved and understudied population. Lack of research is most striking with respect to quality of life and its determinants.

Aims

The Fordham Centenarian Study investigates the specifics of life at age 100 – how well are centenarians doing, what are difficulties that they face in everyday life, activities they like to engage in, and how satisfied are they with their lives. A central focus lies on centenarians’ “psychological strengths” – psychological factors that enable these very old individuals to handle everyday challenges in a positive way. This study extends prior research by examining the limitations centenarians are confronted with and focusing on psychological factors responsible for dealing well with these restrictions. Some basic characteristics of centenarians’ life conditions we are interested in learning more about are the following:
  • Health restrictions
  • Cognitive status
  • Social support
  • Life satisfaction and happiness
  • Psychological strengths (e.g., coping skills, self-efficacy, meaning in life)

Method

Centenarians are interviewed in person by one of the Fordham Centenarian Project Team members. The study assesses centenarians’ basic characteristics and life conditions (e.g., health restrictions, cognitive status, social support), psychological strengths, including strategies (e.g., life-management, coping), beliefs (e.g., self-efficacy, meaning in life), and their links to quality of life. This study is a mixed method design. We have adjusted available questionnaire measures to the needs of these very old individuals (e.g., meaning in life) and have developed new questionnaires (e.g., coping scales). We also ask various open-ended questions about important themes, such as everyday challenges and critical life events.

Results

The Fordham Centenarian Study began in July, 2010. We are currently in the process of interviewing centenarians. Data collection will end in September 2012. Preliminary findings will be presented at the scientific meeting of the Gerontological Society of America in November 2012 in San Diego, CA. Findings suggest, for instance,that the extent to which centenarians value their lives does not dependent on health status or sociodemographic variables, but on psychological aspects: those centenarians who appreciate social contact with others, are able to positively reframe difficulties and to, find help in religion when confronted with issues, are the ones who value their lives most strongly.

Publications and Materials
More information on the Brookdale Foundation and the Brookdale Leadership in Aging Fellowship


Cooperations
 To read more about the Fordham Centenarian Study, click HERE. 

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