From the perspective of positive psychological resources, “gratitude” not only possesses plasticity, but is also an important psychological characteristic in elderly development. This study explored the connection between the “gratitude” of elders and their subjective wellbeing and probed into the mediating mechanism between them. Although aging is an inevitable part of life, elders are faced with many losses and restrictions that make elderly life difficult. Therefore, how to enable elders to “age positively” has become an issue of common concern for many scholars. In the past, multi-faceted successful aging indicators have often been adopted to reflect positive aging. However, this study used streamlined wellbeing of concern in psychology instead and employed basic conditions such as “reasonable physical health”, “low-risk disease or disability” as the control variables. This study that the emotional characteristic (gratitude disposition), a positive psychological resource elders possess, produces significant effects on the wellbeing of elders. Even behind the background variables of controlled population (age, gender) and living status (frequency of falling into illness, exercise status), gratitude disposition still plays an influential role on the three constituents of wellbeing. Additionally, gratitude disposition mediates the effects of gratitude disposition on the constituents of wellbeing through emotion (gratitude emotion) or cognition (positive life memory). In other words, psychological resources play a certain role on the wellbeing of elders. This study especially selected gratitude because it is a psychological resource with plasticity. At the same time, it is also in line with reachability in elderly development and is an emotional state often experienced by elders. These two characteristics enable psychologists to focus on changing the situation of elders in order for them to age more positively.
Based on the research question and literature review, this study hypothesized that after controlling some life status variables that change with aging (frequency of falling into illness, exercise status), the gratitude disposition of elders still has significant positive effects on the three subjective well-being (SWB) components (including life satisfaction, positive affect, and negative affect). Besides, it was hypothesized that the effects of gratitude disposition on the three SWB components are mediated by the grateful emotion under the emotional aspect and the life reminiscence under the cognitive aspect.
This study collected the information of 335 elders aged above 55 in Taiwan through the questionnaire survey method. The questionnaire contents include grateful disposition scale, positive/negative life reminiscence scale, life satisfaction scale, positive/negative emotion scale, grateful emotion scale, and control variables such as age, gender, frequency of falling into illness, exercise status et al. The above scales were mainly designed with the self-report measurement method. They were evaluated by the Likert 4 or 6-point scale and adjusted to suit the elderly. Please ask the elderly to circle the appropriate answer in accordance with their own condition. Initially, the descriptive statistics and correlations among the main variables were analyzed. Subsequently, the structural equation modeling (SEM) was adopted to examine the “dual mediating model of the elderly’s gratitude deposition on subjective well-being” to test the overall model fit and the path coefficients. The Sobel test was used to test the significance of the mediating effects, and the bootstrapping method was also used to compute the 95% confidence intervals for the mediating effects. In the model, with grateful deposition as the independent variable, grateful emotion and life reminiscence as the mediating variables, and life satisfaction, positive emotions, and negative emotions as the criterion variables, this study hypothesized that gratitude disposition can affect the three constituents of wellbeing (life satisfaction, positive emotion, negative emotion) through two completely different mediating variables, namely, emotion and cognition.
The initial correlation analysis shows that the correlations among gratitude disposition, two mediating variables, and wellbeing generally support our predictions. Through the SEM analysis, the result shows that the proposed model has an adequate model fit, CFI = .94, RNI = .94, RMSEA = .06, SRMR = .04, χ2(113) = 256.281 (p < .001), and has no offending estimates. Under the condition of controlling the effects of age, gender, frequency of falling into illness, and exercise status, the results show: (1) gratitude disposition has a positive effect on gratitude emotion and positive life reminiscence; (2) gratitude emotion has a positive effect on positive emotion, but it also produces negative emotion; (3) positive life reminiscence has a positive effect on life satisfaction and positive emotion and it also reduces negative emotion; (4) gratitude emotion can mediate the effects of gratitude disposition on positive emotion and negative emotion; (5) positive life reminiscence can mediate the effects of gratitude disposition on life satisfaction, positive emotion, and negative emotion.
In summary, gratitude disposition can affect the three constituents of subjective wellbeing through two different mediating mechanisms, namely, the life reminiscence under the cognitive aspect and gratitude emotion under the emotional aspect. In particular, life reminiscence produces greater positive effects. Compared to life memory, gratitude emotion not only produces weaker effects, but it also possibly brings about negative emotions. Therefore, compared to gratitude emotion, life reminiscence seems to be a more important mechanism contributing to the wellbeing of elders.
In the face of the rapidly increasing elderly population, the government has vigorously set up local aging community-based care systems, such as elderly care stations. In addition, targeting elders requiring long-term care, long-term care institutions, lane/alley long-term care stations, and so on have been set up. At present, the service momentum of these systems is a totally inadequate measure, and the quality demands strengthening. While the long-term care systems are being set up by the government, it is also reflected that delaying elderly aging is perhaps the fundamental solution. Hence, a greater emphasis is given to front-end aging prevention. From a more positive perspective, aging prevention is about promoting positive aging. This study reveals that: Psychological resources “gratitude disposition” and “positive life reminiscence operations” concerning life integration that meet the reachability and plasticity of the aging development stage can promote positive aging and make elders happier, which are said to be in line with the government’s policy direction.
In any of the above-mentioned elderly institutions, gratitude and positive life reminiscence intervention programs can be easily and conveniently implemented. Through frequent practice, the psychological resources in these two aspects can naturally be enhanced, making elders happier and age more positively. Although there are already some intervention programs that enable elders to age more positively, these intervention programs have not explored the internal mechanism. The results revealed in this study can be further applied in programs intended to enhance the wellbeing of elders. With a more refined and more appropriate intervention program design, it can be applied in various elderly institution activities and courses, enabling elders to more positively take purposeful actions on their own to make themselves happier and lessen the financial burden on the nation and society and the load on the children.
Finally, this study incidentally found the part where gratitude disposition is inconsistent with previous research (such as gratitude disposition in the model directly and negative affect positive emotions). This study especially provided an explanation on this part. Furthermore, the research limitations, future research direction, and feasible programs were put forward, hoping that the solution formulated can serve as a stimulus for more psychologists to make substantive contributions to Taiwan’s aging society.