Michelle T. Gradis

Michael J. Cody, Chair

ABSTRACT: Aging In An Urban Environment: an Analysis of Social Support for English, Korean, and Chinese Speakers in Los Angeles

Social support is a multi-faceted concept that offers significant physical and emotional benefits for aging people. As we age, our social support networks change in size and composition due to micro-factors (e.g. selection, optimization, and compensation) and macro-factors (e.g. culture, gender, SES, and age). The objective of this study was to conduct a test of Carstensen’s theory of socioemotional selectivity on an understudied aging population. One hundred sixty-four participants, ages 60-99, in urban Los Angeles were interviewed in three languages (Korean, Chinese, and English) at local senior centers.

Results from this population did not generally support the tenets of socioemotional selectivity theory. Older old adults (ages 74-99) were found to have more of a perception of limited time as compared to younger old adults (ages 60-73), but significant differences in the size and composition of social support networks, relational satisfaction, emotional regulation, or importance of common priorities were not associated with age nor the perception of limited time. Older old adults were more satisfied than younger old adults with the time spent with and quality of their relationships. Those with the perception of limited time were less happy and found activities of daily living more difficult than those with the perception of an expansive future. Ethnicity was associated with the size and composition of social support networks, satisfaction with the time spent with and quality of relationships, emotional regulation, the perception of limited time, and the importance of common priorities.