MEANING IN THE LIVES OF OLDER WOMEN: AN ANALYSIS WITH HARDINESS, HEALTH, AND PERSONAL PROJECTS
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Wong's (1989) cognitive, affective, and motivational components of meaning in life were examined and supported applying personal projects methodology (Little, 1983), a meaning measure, hardiness, and functional health with 151 community based women over age 65 years. The most meaningful projects reported overall were mate/husband, caregiving, spiritual activities, and occupational/vocational pursuits. Previous factor analysis of the meaning measure had revealed that meaning is associated with framework (cognitive) and fulfillment (affective) factors. Principal components analysis of the personal projects also indicated cognitive and affective components for meaning which may be characterized as having core values and expressing personal integrity, and these were significantly correlated to the meaning measure. Cognitive framework in personal projects was associated with having values and beliefs, doing good for others, contributing to the community, expressing one's true self, and having self-worth. Affective fulfillment in personal projects was associated with the importance of the project, commitment to it and to its success, expectation that success will follow, and that it was "the right thing to do". Motivational elements, including hardiness, its components of commitment, control, and challenge, and functional health, revealed extensive and differing impacts upon the cognitive and affective components of meaning in both the meaning measure and personal projects. Even though findings question the stability of hardiness in old age, hardiness was significantly associated cognitively and affectively with the meaning measure; control was associated cognitively and affectively with personal projects; and commitment was associated with the meaningfulness of a particular project. With the meaning measure, functional health dimensions of energy, well being, mental and social health, and lack of physical limitation were associated with the cognitive component while the affective component included these plus physical health and lack of pain. In personal projects, only energy was significantly associated with the cognitive and affective components. The findings support considering meaning as being individually constructed and that personal projects methodology provides multiple pathways to examining how meaning in life among older women is assessed, expressed, and associated with motivational elements.