Sharon Kaufman's The Ageless Self

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Sharon Kaufman in The Ageless Self argues that older people create a continuity of self in describing the meaning of their lives which is revealed in the life review process. They maintain a sense of self and of continuous identity across the life span and thus can "be themselves" in old age. In order to achieve ego integrity they integrate and accept diverse experiences of a lifetime into what Kaufman calls themes. These themes are created by people as a means by which they interpret and evaluate their life experience. Themes are organizational and explanatory markers which connect and integrate diverse experiences and create and maintain continuity. Themes fall into different types. Some are sources of meaning from the past such as the influences of money, rural or urban upbringing, class status, education,…show more content…
They represent conceptions of meaning that emerge over and over in the texts. Examples of the kinds of themes Kaufman found in the life review material from the subjects in her book include affective ties, financial status, marriage, work, social status, community service, self-reliance, industry, initiative, search for spiritual understanding, discipline, service, acquiescence, self-determination, financial security, religion, disengagement, family, achievement orientation, creativity, need for relationships, and selflessness. Kaufman argues that these themes are identifiable in individual life reviews because of the repetitive nature of these factors. By closely analyzing the life review content these four to six themes will be readily discernible. Kaufman also argues that there is no uniform set of themes; they are highly individualistic. By closely examining the material from an individual's life review interview these themes will emerge quite clearly and be an important source of organizing the data and of the understanding the unique and idiosyncratic older
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