ERIC Number: EJ876649
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Apr
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
Changes in Social Participation and Volunteer Activity among Recently Widowed Older Adults
Donnelly, Elizabeth A.; Hinterlong, James E.
Gerontologist, v50 n2 p158-169 Apr 2010
Purpose: Widowhood eliminates a key source of support that may trigger greater involvement in social activities and volunteer participation, which are related to better late-life health and functioning. We reexamine and build upon 2 recent studies exploring recent widowhood and social participation. Using different data, we perform a quasi-replication of Utz, Carr, Nesse, and Wortman's (2002; "The effect of widowhood on older adults' social participation: An evaluation of activity, disengagement, and continuity theories," "The Gerontologist", 42, 522-533) study and employ different analytic strategies to Li's (2007; "Recovering from spousal bereavement in later life: Does volunteer participation play a role?" "Journal of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences", 62, S257-S266) study. Design and Methods: A synthetic cohort of recently widowed individuals aged 60 years and older (n = 228) was compared with random, non-widowed older adult controls (n = 228) across 3 waves of Americans' Changing Lives data. Generalized estimating equations were used to assess the impact of widowhood on levels of social participation and formal and informal volunteerism, controlling for social, economic, demographic, and psychological factors. Results: Similar to Utz and colleagues, we found that widowhood was positively related to informal social participation, net of other effects, but did not reproduce this finding for formal social participation. Unlike Li, we did not find a significant relationship between widowhood and formal or informal volunteerism. Controlling for prior participation, widowhood remained significantly related to informal and formal social participation. Implications: Older adults increase their reliance on sources of other social support following spousal loss but do not change their volunteer activities. This suggests that continuity of volunteer engagement and enhanced social participation are important following widowhood. Given their positive associations with late-life well-being, efforts to help older widows and widowers increase their social participation and maintain established patterns of volunteerism following spousal loss are warranted.
Descriptors: Gerontology, Older Adults, Psychological Patterns, Widowed, Volunteers, Participation, Social Life, Comparative Analysis, Well Being, Social Support Groups, Coping
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A