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Linda Waite, Health & Well-Being of Adults over 60

Tracking changes in social relations throughout late life

Publication Abstract

Shaw, Benjamin A., Neal Krause, Jersey Liang, and Joan Bennett. 2007. "Tracking changes in social relations throughout late life." The Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 62(2): S90-9.

OBJECTIVES: This research aimed to chart age-related changes in 11 dimensions of social relations during later life. We also examined interpersonal differences in intra-individual changes. METHODS: We used hierarchical linear modeling with data from a nationwide survey of 1,103 elders who were interviewed up to four times over a 10-year period. RESULTS: Age-related changes in social relations varied across the different dimensions, and significant interpersonal differences existed in these trajectories. Emotional support was relatively stable with advancing age, whereas other types of received support (i.e., tangible and informational) increased with age and levels of provided support declined. Furthermore, the findings revealed declines in contact with friends, support satisfaction, and anticipated support. These changes were not uniform throughout the sample, as indicated by significant random effects with respect to the intercepts and slopes in virtually each model. Gender and socioeconomic status accounted for some of this variation. DISCUSSION: These findings highlight the dynamic nature of social relationships in late life. In addition, the findings both provide evidence of older adults managing their social ties to meet the challenges of aging and suggest the importance of the interplay between giving and receiving support.

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