Optimism, satisfaction and time perspective in the elderly

C. J. Lennings*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


In contrast to younger groups, research with the elderly suggest a predominantly present-focused temporal orientation. One aspect of satisfaction, optimism is conceptualized as a form of future perspective. Health psychology generally asserts that health-enhancing messages depend for effect on a person perceiving future benefits to actions taken in the present to enhance health or minimize ill-health risk. The extent to which the elderly perceive or value the future should impact on health maintenance behaviors. In a study of eighty-six elderly people, the dominant ways of viewing time coalesced around a variety of present time perspectives. Within-group differences revealed that as people aged, they became less satisfied with life relative to their level of optimism. For the young-old, optimism was positively correlated with satisfaction, but for the oldest-old the variables were negatively associated. Optimism increased with age while satisfaction decreased with age. The decrease in satisfaction is most probably related more to a sense of realism about the tasks of aging than a sense of "death anxiety," or avoidance of the future. As people age, temporal variables become less important in predicting optimism or satisfaction and optimism becomes less important as a predictor of satisfaction. Implications for developing models of health management in the elderly are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-181
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Aging and Human Development
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


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