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Family Support and Successful Aging of Retired-Older Adults


Aging is a continuous yet irreversible part of human life that is accompanying with the gradual decline in physical, cognitive, and emotional functioning. But with the advent of technology and new resources life expectancy has improved and it is resulting in an increase in older population. So, over the time, psychologists have sifted their attention from quantity to quality regarding aging (Cha, Seo, & Sok, 2012). Successful aging (SA) is a new concept that has focused on the quality of aging and this concept has been used interchangeable for a number of other concepts like positive aging, aging well, productive aging, and healthy aging. According to these terms, it can be inferred that later life is concerned with wellbeing and health (Martin et al., 2015).

Retirement life is concerned with a number of psychological issues that a person has to face and older adults have to adjust to the changing lifestyle that will affect their relationship and life due to retirement. Retired-older adults might have different expectations from their life as well as from their family. So this is the crucial period of one’s life where they needed quality support from their loved ones that will help them in improving their health and wellbeing: in short successful aging. But every individual has different experiences of supportive behavior and it is shaped by the global cognitions of how that support is being provided to them. So literature adds that available support is interpreted by the individual who is receiving it rather by the person who is giving it (Uchino, 2009). Lakey and Cassady (1990) have explored that individuals who perceive others’ attempt of supporting them to be quite unhelpful and little actually perceives other quite unsupportive. In case of retired-older people they are experiencing a drastic change in their life and they are in dire need of family support but most of the time they perceive others to be quite unsupportive. Yet family is considered as the corner stone of human society, and is the most closest of all that affects human lives remarkably.

Although a number of studies are available on social support and quality of aging but there is a need to identify the family support in promoting successful aging of older adults after their retirement. As there are a number of contextual and psychological factors involved at this time-period so this study will be helpful in identifying the relationship between two variables. Particularly, research on the life after retirement is scarce and in relation to successful aging is quite few in numbers. So, to address the gaps in literature present study will serve two important aims. First, it will examine the difference in given family support by the spouse and perceived support to older adults after retirement. Secondly, this study will find out the effect of family support on the successful aging of retired-older adults.

Literature Review

Aging experiences at any age are interpersonal and are influenced by the people who surround us. Emotionally close families and those who share information regarding their life events are considered a strong predictor of successful aging (Hagestad & Dykstra, 2016) especially at old age. Research also adds that the structure along with the function of these relationships alter over the time and this change is due to major life events. When parents are at their retirement phase, they need more instrumental support and this sort of support effects the relationship quality between family. Our lives are considered to be linked with each other and this actually remind us that we are influenced by each other. People living in a family are linked by their genetic similarities and thus share their life experiences that they encounter during their lives and is linked with life satisfaction in retired-older people along with greater personal control at later life (Antonucci, 1990). So literature shows that positive forms of family support serve as a buffer for older people and minimize the impact of stressful life events thus leading to well-being. As retirement is the biggest life event so family support should be appropriate that cause life adjustment.

Theoretical Considerations

A number of theories serve as important evidence for the explanation of successful aging. Socioemotional Selectivity Theory (SST) suggests that at the time of retirement motivational goals changes to emotional regulation from information gathering (Reed & Carstensen,2012). So older adults at this phase of their life are concerned with active engagement with their social relations and that is why social support become important for them at this time period. Furthermore, SOC model (Freund & Baltes, 2007) based on selection, optimization, and compensation focuses on the process of adjustment throughout their life and is crucial for the higher level of functioning. So at the retirement phase, older adults have to adapt to the transition and at the same time, they have to be functional in society as well. So in the present study, SOC model fits the best as it explains the process of retirement rather its outcome. SOC model has been used successfully in the the work setting and explain what people encounter during their occupational life and afterwords. SOC principles might be used in the post-retirement phase for having a balance, harmony, family commitments and involvement to daily life events.

Research Question and Hypothesis

Research questions of the present study will include what is the difference in the support given by family (spouse) and the support perceived by the retired-older adults and how it is related to the successful aging of older adults after retirement.

Literature is evident that perceived family support by older adults is little that that is explained by the family; as needing more support from family is linked with having little support and increased negative affect that influences one’s successful aging. On the other hand, if older adults perceive support gets equal to the actual received support from the family then it would be thought that older adults are more satisfied. But there is most often some discripency in the actual and perceived support. So the first hypothesis of the present study will be that

H1: there will be a negative relationship between support given by spouse and the support perceived by retired-older adults.

Moreover, it is expected that family support would be strongle related to the life satisfaction, and mental well-being. So during the retirement phase, which is a phase full of transition and in which older adults are facing economic as well as social, cognitive, and emotion shift, the most important thing is family support. It would evidently be linked with greater well-being which is considered as an important indicator of successful aging. Therefore, it was hypothesized that

H2: There will be a positive relationship between perceived family support and successful aging in retired-older adults.

The relationship between demographic variables and study variables will also be explored.

Research Design

Cross-sectional survey research design will be used in the present study. Family support is independent variable whereas successful aging is the dependent variable in the present study. The aim of this study is to explore the difference in actual and perceived family support received to the retired-older adults and for this pupose data will be taken from the retired older adults and their family members (spouse). The second aim of the present study is to find out the relationship between perceived family support and successful aging and for this purpose both males and females retired older adults will be selected. 3 questionaires will be used to collect the data; one for assessing support given to the retired-older adults, one for perceived family support, and the last one for assessing successful aging of older adults. Perceived family support will be measured using Family Influence Scale that is consisted of 22 items with 6-point likert scale where 1 refers to strongly disagree and 6 refers to strongly agree (Fouad et al., 2010).

This scsale measures 4 types of support including informational support, financial support, and values/beliefs. On the other hand, support given by spouse will be assesd with the same questionnaire after modification. Present scale will be modified in such a way that it could asses the support given to partner rather perceived support. Successful Aging Inventory developed by Flood (2008) will be used to assess successful aging in retired older adults. It is consisted of 20 items with 5 response options wher 5 = almost always to 1= hardly ever. A demographic form will also be used to take the demographic information like gender, age, number of years after retirement, number of individuals in family.


The sample of the present study will include families from different areas of NYC. Sample from a family includes retired older adult and spouse. 200 retired-older adults with a distribution of half males and half females will be identified, so the total no of participants will be 400 (200 retired-older adults & spouse). Sample selection was done by reviewing literature where there is a variety in the sample size of older adults. This sample is not easily available as compared to others therefore due to time constraints I have proposed to select a sample of 400 participants. Furthermore, only those retired-adults will be included in the study who were living with their spouse and were not remarried over the lifespan to have a control on the study. Moreover, only those retired older adults will be included in the study who are in their first five years of their retirement as after five years people become adjust to their environment and other things become more important rather family support.

Study will be conducted in 2 phases, firstly questionnaires will be identified, modified and a try-out will be conducted on a small sample. In the first phase, Family Influence Scale will be needed to adapt according to the need of the present study so that it could be filled by the spouse that how much support the spouse provides to the partner. Furthermore, other scales are also needed to be modified according to our sample. Then the main study will be conducted using surveys. During both the phases, the sample will be identified through organizations who would have a record of their retired personnel. Then retired-older adults along with their spouse will be identified and approached. Purpose of the study will be explained to them and their written informed consent will be taken. They would be informed that they could withdraw anytime from the study, and a movie voucher will be given to both of them as a token of gratitude.

Pearson-product moment correlation will be used to assess the relationship between support given by the spouse and the perceived support by the retired-older adult. Regression analysis will be used to test either social support predicts successful aging or not. Appropriate analysis will be applied on demographic variables as to test gender difference in perceived support and successful aging t-test for independent sample will be used.


Antonucci, T.C. (1990). Handbook of Aging and the Social Sciences. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Cha, N. H., Seo, E. J., & Sok, S. R. (2012). Factors influencing the successful aging of older Korean adults. Contemporary Nurse, 41, 78–87.

Fouad, N., Cotter, E. W., Fitzpatrick, M. E., Kantamneni, N., Carter, L., & Bernfeld, S. (2010). Development and Validation of the Family Influence Scale. Journal of Career Assessment, 18(3), 276 – 291.

Freund, A. M., & Baltes, P. B. (2007). Toward a theory of successful aging: Selection, optimization,and compensation. In R. Fernández-Ballesteros (Ed.), Geropsychology. European perspectives for an aging world (pp. 239–254). Göttingen, Germany: Hogrefe

Hagestad, G. O., & Dykstra, P. (2016). Structuration of the life course: Some neglected aspects. In M. J. Shanahan J. Mortimer, & M. K. Johnson (Eds.), Handbook of the life course (Vol. 2, pp. 131–157). New York: Springer.

Lakey, B., & Cassady, P. B. (1990). Cognitive Processed in Perceived Social Support. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 337-343.

Martin, P., Kelly, N., Kahana, B., Kahana, E.,Willcox, B. J.,Willcox, D. C., & Poon, L. W. (2015). Defining successful aging: A tangible or elusive concept? The Gerontologist, 55, 14–25.

Reed, A. E., & Carstensen, L. L. (2012). The theory behind the age-related positivity effect. Frontiers in Psychology, 3.

Uchino, B. N. (2009). Understanding the links between social support and physical health: A lifespan perspective with emphasis on the separability of perceived and received support. Perspectives in Psychological Science, 4, 236–255.



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