The second oldest group the old old group may have built up some resilience from growing up in a time period that prepared them for later adversities, said the authors. This group faced WWII and was surrounded by all the stresses of war and economic shortages. They were patriotic, self-reliant and had a respect for authority and were able to handle self-sacrifice. These conditions probably helped them develop some resilience against unexpected trauma in their later years, said the authors.
Those born before 1919 (the oldest old) who entered adulthood during the Great Depression a time of great insecurity may be similar to the youngest group as far as being more vulnerable to traumatic events. This group was likely to be more afraid of taking risks because of growing up in an economic climate of desperation. According to the authors, this age group may not have mastered certain problem solving skills because of their fear of the unknown. This may have hindered their ability to develop better coping responses to adversity, said the authors.
Some of the 22 traumas examined in the study were: had a spouse die; had a child die; had been in a disaster; had a serious/life-threatening illness; had to repeat a year of school before the age of 18; had either parent experience unemployment for a period of time before the age of 18 or had either parent die before the age of 18.
From these study findings, said Dr. Krause, health practitioners can extrapolate why some older people fall ill while others do not. "It may be necessary to routinely ask older people who are having health problems if they experienced a trauma during the intake examination. Many
Contact: Pam Willenz
American Psychological Association