Doctor of Philosophy
Iris A. Parham
There has been a growing interest in recent years in the study of person-environment interaction in the elderly. Several theoretical models have been proposed in the gerontological literature. Each of these models suffers from one or more limitations, including the restriction of requiring that the person and the environment be measured in the same terms, and the difficulty posed by attempting to empirically test the model.
A new model of person-environment interaction in the elderly is proposed here. The model views life satisfaction as the ultimate outcome variable. Feelings of personal control and choice are seen as intervening between life satisfaction and the remaining components of the model. At the level of the environment, the model proposes an interaction between residents' perceptions of the environment,and their evaluations of, or preferences for, the environment's various qualities. These environmental perceptions are in turn influenced by characteristics of the actual environment, residents' health, and personality factors.
A total of 44 residents and 121 staff members of three homes for the aged served as subjects for the present study. Assessment instruments used to operationalize the model components included: residents' scores on the Life Satisfaction Index (LSI), residents‘ responses to 10 questions designed to assess feelings of control and choice, residents' scores on Moos' Sheltered Care Environment Scale (SCES; measuring environmental perceptions), resident's responses to seven questions, corresponding to the seven SCES subscales, regarding the ideal nursing home environment (measuring environmental evaluations), staff scores on the SCES
(measuring the objective environment), staff ratings of residents on the 15 Murrayan need scales of the Adjective Check List (ACL;, measuring personality factors), and interviewer assessments of residents' functional health.
An overall test of the usefulness of the model components in predicting residents' life satisfaction showed that feelings of control and choice, by itself, was a significant predictor of life satisfaction. The addition of the other model components did not improve the prediction of life satisfaction.
Further analyses tested the relationships between various components of the model. The results of these analyses confirmed the hypothesized interaction of environmental perceptions and evaluations influencing life satisfaction for four of the seven SCES subscales. Consistency between residents' perceptions and evaluations on the conflict, self-exploration, organization, and physical comfort subscales was related to greater life satisfaction.
Analysis of the remaining components showed that resident and staff ratings of the environment were not related, and the differences observed between the two were not associated with health or personality variables.
The findings of the study are discussed within the context of methodological considerations as well as theoreti and empirical issues. It is suggested that the formulation of models of person-environment interaction in the elderly may be premature, given the relatively limited amount of research examining relationships among the various possible person, environment and outcome variables which could be considered.
The present results support the findings of previous studies of person-environment fit in the elderly. The findings do not, however, provide empirical support for the hypothesized existence of individual difference factors, sud as health and personality variables, which underlie environmental preferences or evaluations. It is concluded that the search for such factors be continued, and suggestions for future research toward this end are proposed.
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