Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Health Related Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. E. Ayn Welleford


Oral history is a method of preserving historical information through in-depth interviews. Because the process requires narrators to use remote recall while sharing their life experiences, it can also be considered a reminiscence-related activity. Before this study, the positive effects on narrators of providing an oral history were noted in the research literature but had not been evaluated through quantitative methods. Based on theoretical constructs of Erikson and Butler, it was hypothesized that participation in oral history interviews would improve the life satisfaction of narrators. Life satisfaction was operationalized and measured using the Life Satisfaction Index Version A (LSIA). The purposes of this study were to evaluate the influence of an oral history intervention on the life satisfaction of community-dwelling elders and to identify participant characteristics associated with change in life satisfaction scores.Sixty community-dwelling, older adults who were free of cognitive impairment and mental illness were recruited from agencies serving the social and recreational needs of elders in Richmond, VA. Participants were randomly assigned to an intervention group or a control group. LSIA scores were collected pretest, posttest, and again at retest, ten weeks after the intervention. Mean LSIA scores from the control and treatment groups were compared for differences at posttest and retest using an analysis of covariance (ANCOVA). Regression analysis was used to identify participant characteristics associated with improved life satisfaction at posttest and retest. Oral history interviews were conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University students enrolled in a gerontology course. Participants discussed lifetime events with students on three occasions for approximately one hour per session using a researcher-developed interview guide. No statistically significant differences in LSIA scores were found between groups at posttest (p=0.74) or retest (p=0.051) although retest scores may indicate a trend toward improvement. Lower LSIA scores at pretest were associated with positive change in LSIA scores at retest (p=5.001). These results suggest that oral history may not improve life satisfaction immediately but there may be a trend toward improvement given time and that elders least satisfied with their lives at the onset are most likely to show positive change by retest.


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VCU University Archives

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VCU Theses and Dissertations

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Geriatrics Commons