IMPLICATIONS Ol HAL::OW'S hILJL)I IlIEO'Y
POR iCOUISELIN OLI) E AOELD ICAII
JAMSE MARSHALL ORR, JR.
A DISSERTATION PRIESNTEDL TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL
OF Til;:HE UNIVUklFTY oF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL IULIjLLMENr O[' THE REQUIREMENTS FOR TIll:
DIl'RriI Ol' DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UIl IVIR' ITY OfP ILORIUA
For Joyce who loved me through it all
My sincere and deepest gratitude is extended to the following:
Dr. Harold C. Riker, my advisor and chairman of my doctoral
committee,for his leadership, guidance and untiring dedication to
my professional growth and development. No one could have been
more unselfish with their gift of time and energy.
Dr. Walter Busby, a member of my committee,for his loving
guidance that made the SNAP a solid research instrument, and his
loving friendship that made me a better person for the experience.
Dr. E. L. Tolbert, a member of my committee,for the quality
of his input and the wisdom of his experiences.
To Dr. Milan Kolarik from whom I have drawn much strength
over the past three years. Merci pour votre joi de vivre.
To Nancy Herford for turning my chicken scratch into some-
thing I could read.
And to my Dad for his constant encouragement.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS. ........ . . . . .. iii
LIST OF TABLES. .. . ................. vi
ABSTRACT. .... . . . . . . . . . . iv
CHAPTER . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I INTRODUCTION . . ...... . . . . .. 1
Need for the Study . . . .... ... 2
Purpose of the Study . . .... ... 4
Rationale. ..... ... . . . 5
Research Questions .. ...... ... ... 6
Definition of Terms. ........ ... 8
II REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE . . . . . . .. 10
Study of Aging and the Older American. ... 10
Theoretical Considerations of Aging. . . . 14
Demographic and Statistical Description 18
of the Older American .. . .....
Society's Negative View of Aging . . . . 2
Counseling the Elderly . . . . . 27
Maslow's Basic Needs Theory. . . . . . 33
Needs Assessment Instruments in Gerontology. . 41
Summary. .. . . . . . . . . 45
III METHODOLOGY. ....... . . . . . . 48
Subjects . . ... . . . . . 49
Development of the Instrument. . . . . 52
Analysis of Data . . . . .. ...... 55
Possible Limitations ............. 57
IV RESULTS. . . . . . . . . .. ... 59
Research Sample. ...... . . . . 59
Reliability. .................. 65
Procedures . . . . . . . . ... 67
Research Questions . ............. 69
V SUMMARY AND DISCUSSION, CONCLUSIONS, IMPLICATIONS
AND SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH . . . . 136
Summary and Discussion ... . . . . . . 137
Conclusions . . . . . . . . . 145
Implications ..... . . . . . . . 148
Suggestions for Further Research . . . . . 149
APPENDICES . . . . . . .
A NEED/PROBLEM AREA DEFINITIONS FOR FACE VALIDITY
CHECK .. . . . . . . . . . . . 153
B COMPREHENSIVE LIST FOR ITEM VALIDITY GIVEN TO
PANEL OF EXPERTS ... . ... . . . .. . 155
C SURVEY OF NEEDS AND PROBLEMS . . . . . . 164
D FORM LETTER TO SUBJECTS, POST CARD TO BE
RETURNED TO THE RESEARCHER . . . . . . . 180
E FOUR MULTIPLE COMPARISON ANALYSES OF THE NEED/
PROBLEM ITEMS OF THE SURVEY OF NEEDS AND
PROBLEMS . . . . . . . . . . . .... 183
F TABLES GENERATED FROM DATA ANALYSIS OF THE
SURVEY OF NEEDS AND PROBLEMS . . . ..... ..... 229
G WRITE-IN RESPONSES OF STUDENTS . . . . . . .. 242
H WRITE-IN RESPONSES OF WORKING EDUCATORS. . . . . 252
I WRITE-IN RESPONSES OF RETIRED EDUCATORS. . . . .. 261
REFERENCES. ... . . . . . . ....... 272
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . .. .. . . . . . . 279
LIST OF TABLES
1 SELECTED SCHEMATA OF HUMAN GROWTH . ... . . 34
2 DEMOGRAPHIC DATA FOR THE RESEARCH POPULATION: STUDENTS,
WORKING EDUCATORS, AND RETIRED EDUCATORS. . . . ... 62
3 NEED/PROBLEM ITEM RESPONSES OF STUDY POPULATION BY
GROUP INDICATING GRAND MEANS, GROUP MEANS AND
SIGNIFICANCE OF F . . . . . . . .. . . 71
4 SENIOR STUDENT RESPONSES TO THE SURVEY OF NEEDS AND
PROBLEMS RANKED BY MEAN SCORES. . . . .... . . 75
5 WORKING EDUCATOR RESPONSES TO THE SURVEY OF NEEDS AND
PROBLEMS RANKED BY MEAN SCORES ... . . . . . 81
6 RETIRED EDUCATOR RESPONSES TO THE SURVEY OF NEEDS AND
PROBLEMS RANKED BY MEAN SCORES. . . . . . ... 86
7 STUDY POPULATION'S RATING OF NEED/PROBLEM ITEMS ON
THE SNAP QUESTIONNAIRE ACCORDING TO FREQUENCY OF
RESPONSE IN "SOMEWHAT SERIOUS PROBLEM" (4) AND "VERY
SERIOUS PROBLEM" (5) CATEGORIES . . . . . ... 92
8 SIGNIFICANT RESULTS FROM A ONE-WAY ANALYSIS OF SNAP
ITEMS BY RACE (WHITE X MINORITY). . . . . . 101
9 SIGNIFICANT RESULTS FROM A ONE-WAY ANALYSIS OF SNAP
NEED/PROBLEM ITEMS BY SEX .. . . . . . . .. 103
10 NEED/PROBLEM ITEMS WITH SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCES AMONG
RETIRED EDUCATORS, WORKING EDUCATORS AND SENIOR
STUDENTS OBTAINED BY AN ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE FOR NEED
PROBLEM ITEMS BY GROUP MEMBERSHIP . ... . . .107
11 TOP THREE RESPONSES BY GROUP TO QUESTIONS ASKING FOR
MOST IMPORTANT ITEM IN SPECIFIC NEED/PROBLEM AREAS. . I
12 SUBJECTS WHO ADDED ITEMS WITHIN THE FIVE NEED/PROBLEM
AREAS . . . . . . . . . . . . 115
13 NEED/PROBLEM AREA MEANS SD AND POOLED MEANS BY GROUP
MEMBERSHIP. ... . .. .. ...... . .. . 117
14 NEED/PROBLEM AREA RANKINGS BY POOLED MEAN SCORES AND
BY DIRECT MEASURE . . . . . . . . . . .
15 RESPONSES BY GROUP MEMBERSHIP TO OPEN-ENDED STATEMENTS
WITH CODED RESPONSES, ABSOLUTE FREQUENCIES, AND
PERCENTAGE FIGURES......... . . . . . .
16 RESULTS OF A ONE-WAY ANALYSIS (ANOVA) OF SNAP NEED/
PROBLEM ITEMS BY RETIRED EDUCATORS' RESPONSES TO
THE OPEN-ENDED STATEMENT "MY GREATEST WORRY/NEED/
PROBLEM IS..." . . . . .
17 SIGNIFICANT RESULTS OF A ONE-WAY ANALYSIS (ANOVA)
OF SNAP NEED/PROBLEM ITEMS BY RETIRED EDUCATORS'
RESPONSES TO THE OPEN-ENDED STATEMENT "IF MY BODY
HAD A VOICE IT WOULD SAY..." . . . . .......
18 POOLED MEANS OF NEED/PROBLEM ITEMS GROUPED BY LOWER
AND HIGHER NEED/PROBLEM AREAS BY SEX FOR TOTAL STUDY
POPULATION, SENIOR STUDENTS, WORKING EDUCATORS, AND
RETIRED EDUCATORS . . . . . . . . . . .
19 MEAN SCORE RESPONSES TO LIFE SATISFACTION ITEMS BY
GROUP MEMBERSHIP . . . .
20 FREQUENCY SCORES BY GROUP MEMBERSHIP FOR RESPONSE
CHOICES ON LIFE SATISFACTION ITEM: "TODAY'S DATE" . . .
21 SIGNIFICANT MAIN EFFECTS OF A MULTIPLE COMPARISON
ANALYSIS (ANOVA) BY LOCATION OF RESIDENCE, RACE,
AND GROUP MEMBERSHIP......... . . . . .....
22 SIGNIFICANT MAIN EFFECTS OF A MULTIPLE COMPARISON
ANALYSIS (ANOVA) BY LIVING ARRANGEMENT, SEX, AND
GROUP MEMBERSHIP . . . . .
23 SIGNIFICANT MAIN EFFECTS OF A MULTIPLE COMPARISON
ANALYSIS (ANOVA) BY PURPOSE OF LIFE, ATTITUDE
TOWARD COUNSELING AND GROUP MEMBERSHIP . . . .
24 SIGNIFICANT MAIN EFFECTS OF A MULTIPLE COMPARISON
ANALYSIS (ANOVA) BY GROUP MEMBERSHIP, LEVEL OF INCOME
AND MARITAL STATUS......... . . . . . .
25 POOLED MEAN SCORES OF ENTIRE STUDY POPULATION FOR NEED/
PROBLEM AREAS BY SEX, LIVING ARRANGEMENT, AND
ATTITUDE TOWARD COUNSELING .. . . . .......
26 POOLED MEAN SCORES OF SENIOR STUDENT GROUP FOR NEED/
PROBLEM AREAS BY SEX, LIVING ARRANGEMENT, AND
ATTITUDE TOWARD COUNSELING ........
27 POOLED MEAN SCORES OF WORKING EDUCATOR GROUP FOR
NEED/PROBLEM AREAS BY SEX LIVING ARRANGEMENT, AND
ATTITUDE TOWARD COUNSELING . . ... ... . . . 237
28 POOLED MEAN SCORES OF RETIRED EDUCATOR GROUP FOR
NEED/PROBLEM AREAS BY SEX, LIVING ARRANGEMENT, AND
ATTITUDE TOWARD COUNSELING .. . . . . . . 238
29 MEAN SCORES AND STANDARD DEVIATIONS FOR PERSONS
RETIRED LESS THAN, OR MORE THAN 5 YEARS. . . . ... 239
A l tfac ol II[.,.r il Lon 1'r d 1 L t li, [\ i I,' ln i L, U CG I: IiI I,
of thu lIn iv I: i ly ut I 1 1,1 il 1 t 1,1 1 I 1l iu I[ lIIL-t At thu 1 e1ir n
S or t1i' lj I %I'' t'r l Io L (') t I I i ,I t.f 1 'I hy
IM I 'l ,I A'i' IUN: 01' MA:.:lf, W ; :lliE)E I'llljI 'Y
I '1 t'O i '..AL I!1; 1LDLR AM I t,' lI'A .;
Jiml i a' tijll lt' ,lJr .
ChdirnLin: 11alold C. Kik- I '
Major lD'-partdir'llnt.: (lCuun;i'Ior l(ilnc'i, ion
This study w.j- dri it. t.mlipt to ide1( nst l'rlti the d[,pl icdtion of the
theoretic' r iework Il'upoj;,(d Iby Abrifiduai M[is luw inl increasing the
understaldi ig', o01 the lrnee'l .ani r'rbiLlcris a]ii u At' Ln rl'ii~icans.
More spe,:it ically, this study involved Ithe duvelopmient ut the
Survey ou Hleeds dand Prubl iims (; AP) qu:rtA iuliiire. The SNAP was
pilot tested and rietiii-d. 'Th, ifinjl rotrn was lield tested on three
separate age jipouldt Lons: studtnl;, who wer' seniior's in the CoLlege
of Education, Uliiversity of l'l]oiid' working educators in the age
category of 35-50, antd it irced TQuc.atotr's. These three populations
were used to provide a imea;ii.r't on changee in needs and problemsii over
Needs and iprdiblem w'rtue I tlLasred inl six areas. The six drcas
were 1) phyiululAgiil, 2) -.ul ty, 3) Love/LeoiurgiJng, ) sell-
estecii, ird 5) S. llt-.1 tl izttion.
]'t:.;ill-ti ini ic [d I c ,i r l iiv'lIy ]ow level ol cori 'urn (as Lx-
preLs:-t'd by il 1 ;'cor; ..) I' th ne /p it r bl.m I.tims pruesuntd in
the SNAP' questionnaire Whe iln scoqre.. tor the neud/prle 1 cm
iteis were pooled I I y ttod 11t-,1e i n' ,at y it w LA i d higVherl
by reti td CducaLoUrL thin Wri' l h ie- uther need ir I... l'hysulogicaI
needs tandl problems Wr CI'L Ila ytiLtui'n Lu i.tircId i duijloru. ''Th
physiu logical and SAtl uty It i l:d i.itats sI wh-l Miaslow cClls lower
'Thuise itletim whiich tie jlddlid by individuals in this study had
a luuch higher' ictmle icoiu iand in dicsted the presence tof more riou
problems within did the iteilis pleseilLnteld iln the SNAP.
Oi the three gmrouLp:; i;t sulbj;Lcts in this study, retired edu-
cators were mIos likely to eupoueu an unselfisih, giving philosophy
of life. Retired educators were, to a sitgni licant degree, less
likely to leel inferior to others, to fear idilure, to not like
their looks, or to teel they had no senue ol tirut with their fiends.
Retired educators, as did tlhe oiher two groups of subjects in this
study, indicated a high degree ol sdtisiaction in their life.
Males of the study indicated having significantly less ol a
problem with many of the necd/problem items than did the females
of this study. Members ol minority races had less ot a problem
with several of the items than did members of the white race.
The general ovut-all picture of the older segment of the
American population as jprewented by the results of this study
is much more positive than would hiav been indicated in a review
of culent LitLerature on hli e cldiely. Findings here suggest the
possibility of establishing a new pLositivi' theory o0 aging.
The sludy ,0onclud0 with a d JiCsustion ol the itmplicatione ; i or
the field of counseling',, nd su|i'estion., lor turthIr research.
Gerontology is a relatively new social science, born in this con-
tury. Yet, even from the outset, it has been characterized by various
theories accentuating the negative and often despairing aspects or ag-
ing (Aslin, 1974; Blake, 1975; Buckley,1972). Lansing (1952)calls aging
a decremental process, while Kleameier (1961) refers to aging as "a
flight of irregular stairs down which some journey more quickly than
The negative view of aging is extensive throughout our culture.
It touches us all. As Neugarten (1971) has said, most Americans see
aging as "alien to the self and tend to deny or repress the associated
feelings of distaste and anxiety" (p.45). Counselors, too, are not
immune to the stereotypes and veiled negatives that are often presented
in the media (Garfinkel,1975; Schlossberg, Vontress, Sinick,1974).
Fortunately there is much evidence to indicate that national trends
are swinging away from the negative and toward a more positive view
of the aging/developmental process. There is a growing awareness of
the destructive consequences of a divided society. By becoming aware
of aging, and "ageism," R.N. Butler's term for all the stereotypical
negatives surrounding aging (Butler & Lewis,1977), we increase the
possibilities for a full and happy life at any age.
The ground work is being laid for social and cultural changes
concerning aging within our society. People in government, education,
and social services are putting' rorth a greatly increased effort dimed
at improving the nation's general understanding of the older segment of
its population. By better understanding the aging process we bring a
light of truth to Lear on a time of life so often veiled in silence
This study adds further data to the general body of knowledgee used
by counselors who work with older Americans. By understanding the needs
of older Americans, counselors increase their effectiveness and, as a
result, older Americans increase their chances of continually improving
upon the quality of their lives.
Need for the Study
Helping p'ofessionals must, in their efforts to understand, treat
the older American as a total human being related to an environment.
If counselors are to encourage positive human growth and development,
attention must be paid to a person's problems and concerns in whatever
area they arise. It would be a weak and narrow focus to consider only
the social problems of aging, or only the psycho-physical changes that
occur with the passing of time.
Counseling efforts, social and educational programs, legislation--
all services utilized by the older American--must be grounded in an
understanding of a wide variety of personal concerns.
This understanding requires knowing the needs and problems of
the older American, related demographic data, and something of the
environment that has contributed to or hindered personal growth.
Research has shown that the needs of persons living in a mid-sizr d
town are quite different thdn the needs of those living in rural or
large urban areas (Myers, 1978). A service organization thIit treated
all recipients the sdine would Le running the r'ik of complaTits absout
inadequate services or charges of impersonal, insensitive treaatmient.
It was the premise of this research that services organized to meet
the needs of a specific group liould sLart with a clear picture of
what the needs really dre. What older Americans see as their' own
problem/noed areas offers the groundwork for a systematic approach
for the delivery of counseling services.
Counseling the older American is a new undertaking for rost
professionals, and counselors still have a long way to go in under-
standing this population. In many ways the older person who presents
him/herself as a client is no different than other people of other age
groups presenting the same kind of concerns. Yet, in many ways, the
older American is different.
The passing of time brings varied expert iences that make older
Americans a much more diverse population than, say,a class of high
school seniors. Being less hormogeneous Lhan other age groups, more cau-
tion is needed in making generalizations about older Americans. It is
helpful in working with any population to understand the cohort group.
But because of the diversities that exist amonri individual older Amer-
icans, this population must be approached with greater caution when try-
ing to understand the individual ba;ed on cohort data. Additionally,
this greater diversity underscore- the need to understand the total per-
son when dealing with specific areas of need or concern. Therefore,
counselors serving older Americans will be required to deal with more
than the psychological needs of their clients. Perhaps more than with
any other cohort group, these helping professionals will be using a
large body of information to deal with a broad spectrum oF client
This study sought to familiarize counselors and other profession-
als with the general total needs structure of this client population,
and to provide familiarity with a system that can Le used in helping
clients conceptualize needs and problems within a total developmental
framework. Such a system is provided by Maslow (1954), who delineated
man's needs into a comprehensive, five-tiered hierarchy. This study
also focused on the changes that might have taken place in a person's
needs over time. By sampling three separate age populations--under-
graduate university students who are seniors in the College of ;Educa-
tion, working educators, and retired educators--information was gath-
ered that gave a general picture of a change in needs over time. This
general picture will certainly help further the understanding of what
it means to grow old in America.
The Purpose of this Study
There is still a lack of agreement and understanding surrounding
the process of psycho-social aging and development. It was the purpose
of this study to demonstrate the application of the theoretical frame-
work proposed by MIaslow (1951) in increasing the understanding of the
needs and problems of the older American population. More specifically,
an instrument was developed for gathering data over a broad spectrum of
human concerns. By sampling the older American population and comparing
the results to samples of two other age groups, data were provided that
can be used to help further clarify and develop the counselor's role
in the on-going, life-long process of psycho-sucial aging and develop-
ment. This researcher sees this understanding of client needs as a
vital component in the counseling/helping relationship.
Maslow (1954) has developed a system for viewing human needs that
takes into account the total person. His Iive-tieaed hierarchy of needs
provides a structure for as'essing the needs of a population. By
grounding the delivery of counseling services in this in toto perspec-
tive, helping professionals arne able to aid the individual in meeting
needs and concerns, regardless of the areas in which these needs may
lie. Programs designed to nmeeL specific needs will increase their
benefit to the target population by incorporating an understanding of
the total person, as well as his or her relationship to the cohort group.
With the assessed needs prioritized by the potential recipient of
services, and organized around a strong theoretical framework as Maslow
has proposed, understanding of the psycho-social development process
and specific problems of aging comes that much closer to being a real-
Man's natural direction of change and growth is up the hierarchical
ladder (Maslow, 194), from basic physiological needs, through safety,
love/belonging, and self-esteem to self-actualization and its accom-
panying needs. If external (psycho-, socio-, -conomLc) forces
did not impede human growth, we would find a direct correlation betweti-n
an individual's age (maturity), and his or her level on Mdslow's
hierarchal ladder (Maslow, 1954).
However, there are many factors that work against this natural
growth process. We know that the negative values and beliefs that
society holds about the older American affect not only how we will
feel about ourselves as we age, but also have a direct effect on the
needs, values, and beliefs of today's elderly. Other factors that
inhibit growth are fears, anxieties, regrets, and worries. Maslow
(1954, p.82) states "another peculiar characteristic of the human
organism when it is dominated by a certain need is that the whole
philosophy of the future tends also to change."' This means that we not
only alter our present with unmet needs, but we change our receptions
of what we see for ourselves in the future. In instances where an
older American's focus of concern is dominated by low-level needs, he
or she will be hindered from progressing toward the higher-level needs
which are inherently part of this natural growth process. Understand-
ing these factors will hopefully lead to strategies for their reduc-
tion or elimination, a step beneficial not only to older Americans
themselves, but also to the programs which serve them.
America is a society proud of its individual freedoms, one of the
basic of these being freedom from want. As a social response to
individual needs, many human service organizations, both public and
private have been set up. Traditionally these organizations have
functioned by delivering services geared more to meeting the capabil-
ities of the delivery system than to responding to the needs of the
recipients of services (Myers, 1978). It was not the goal of this
study to recommend corrections for this problem; however, the data
collected did indicate areas for program emphasis, particularly where a
need for counseling service was indicated.
Although counseling was targeted as one of four priority funding
areas in gerontology by H.E.W. (H.E.W., 1977) a definition of counsel-
ing is far from being operationalized. As of this writing there is
still no one working for the Florida Division of Aging and Adult
Services who holds the job title of counselor. One can only conclude
that the counseling needs of the elderly go unmet or are addressed by
serving the client circuitously in any of a wide variety of existing
programs (e.g., meals on wheels, legal aid, and homemaker service).
Americans are still a society that fails to personalize the natural
progression of aging from birth to death. The tendency is to deny our own
aging and repress the feelings of distaste and anxiety that "ageism"
generates. On the rationale that knowledge and understanding are prime
movers in the eradication of misgivings, falsehoods and stereotypes, this
study was designed to help increase the knowledge of life span develop-
ment, particularly in the later years. It was not this researcher's
goal to reach some final understanding of aging, but rather to help
track man on a fluid and seemingly limitless path of development.
This study sought to answer the following research questions:
1. What are the needs and problems of the older American?
2. How do the strength and arrangement of these needs and problems
change over time?
3. Do needs and problems vary by specific demographic variables?
4. What are older Americans' attitudes toward being involved in
5. Does the older American population differ from the younger in
ranking lower (physiological, and safety) needs, and higher (love/
belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization) needs?
6. With regard to life satisfaction, how do older Americans differ
from other age groups in the direction they see their lives taking
from 5 years in the past to 5 years in the future?
Definition of Terms
Concern: A matter of interest or importance to one, causing un-
easiness or anxiety (Webster's New World Dictionary 1962, p. 302).
Counseling Needs: The type of concerns, problems, or developmental
issues which may confront an individual and for which counseling
may be a possible source of assistance (Ganikos, 1977, p. 10).
Importance of a Need: For the purposes of this study, the relative
importance of a need is defined as the amount of time, energy,
and/or thought that goes into a need or need area.
Need: Desire or requirement for the well-being of a person.
Need Area: Any one of five areas delineated by Maslow; physio-
logical, safety, love/belonging, self-esteem, or self-actualization
Older Americans: Synonymous with "older adults," "elderly," "aged."
Persons who are 65 years of age or older. Although most recent govern
mental legislation and gerontological studies are using 60 as the
chronological definition of older Americans, this study sampled a
population that is, with few exceptions, 6E years or above. Recent
(August 1, 1979) changes in Florida law allowing for retirement with
full benefits after 30 years of service account for the few exceptions.
REVIEW OF Til: LITIkAfl'U.-
The review of related literature is divided into six sections:
1) The Study of Aging and the Older American, 2) Demographic and
Statistical Descriptions of the Older American, 3) Society's negative
View of Aging, 4) Counseling the Elderly, 5) Maslow's BasicNeads Theory,
and 6) Need Assessment instruments in Gerontology.
The Study of Aging and the Older American
The elderly have always been a part of our society, but it has only
been in recent times that they have received so much attention. The
following brief chronology of the study of the elderly gives a clear
perspective on its present stage of development.
The first of what could be considered empirical studies on this
segment of the American population came in the early part of the
twentieth century as an offshoot of the older disciplines of psychology
and sociology (Guilden, 1976). It was during this time period that the
word "gerontology" was first used. In 1922, G. Stanley Hall became the
first psychologist to write about aging (Jarvik 1975). Writing at the
age of 73, Hall resented aging, and his hook Senescence, the Last Half
of Life was marked with a pessimism that has been associated with the
psychology of aging ever since (Jarvik 1975).
The field of gerontology in the 1930's was primarily concerned
with the biological processes of aging (Tibbits 1060). Instead of
looking at dietary deficiencies or other ex vivo causes for explaining
the onset of some new psychological change or condition in the elderly,
many assumed the decrements to be just part of the natural decline due to
This opposition to citing biological change as the cause of
psychological changes or conditions is evident in the old psychological
lexicon. The current psychological terms of chronic brain syndrome (CBS)
and schizophrenia have replaced the old term of dementia praecox or
"premature madness." In the past dementia praecox was delineated from
the term senile dementia which was the madness of old age--the irrever-
sible deterioration with its concomitant emotional disturbance--often
seen as the inevitable accompaniment of aging.
The 1940's saw E.W. Burgess, serving as chairman of the Social
Science Research Council's Committee on Social Adjustment, spearhead
the establishment of a committee on Social Adjustment in Old Age
(1945). This committee published a research planning report which
called attention to the need for research in individual adjustment to
aging and retirement (Mason, 1971).
in 1946 Lawrence Frank, writing in the newly established Journal,
Gerontology, enumerated a large number of social and economic problems
needing study. Frank stated that in the last analysis, aging is a
problem of social science. However, Frank was unable to report on the
existence of any significant amount of social research or any attempts
to outline or systematize the field (Frank, 1946). Also in 1946 the
American Psychological Association (APA) established a division of Later
Maturity and Old Age (Tibbits, 1960). By the end of the forties
America had established the ground work for an organized scrutiny
of its elderly.
The 1950's signaled an expansion in gerontological interests.
In 1950 the first National Conference on Aging dealt with various aspects
of aging. Eight sections were devoted to the social, economic and related
elements of aging (Mason 1971). The Cerontological Society established
a division of psychology and Social Science in 1952 (Tibbits 1960, p.[).
Unfortunately, much of the research conducted during this period
was research of convenience. The subjects were drawn mostly from the
institutionalized aged who represented only a small percentage of the
total older American population. Today's institutionalized elderly
account for about 5% of all older Americans (Butler and Lewis, 1977).
Research methodologies of the time were limited and reflect the infancy
of the discipline (Tibbits, 1960).
The decade of the 1960's began with the first White House Confer-
ence on Aging (1961). This conference was a national statement of
commitment to understanding and, where possible, alleviating the prob-
lems of aging. The 1960's were marked with an increased interest in
the entire field of gerontology. This surge of growth was particularly
evident in journal articles, newspaper articles, books, and legislation.
America was making a unified attempt at understanding and improving the
lot of its older citizens. However, many negativities, shortcomings,
and stereotypes surfaced as a result of research investigation. In 1971
Mason published an article that fairly well states the consensus of
the times. In it he says
I am sure that most of us would agree that the
direction in which we have been moving during
the past 10 years for the most part has not been
rationally planned. There have been responses
to problems with answers found as we have followed
the line of least resistance. (Mason 1971, p. 22)
The final report of the second White House Conference on Aging
(1971) described older Americans, as viewed over the previous decade,
to be "increasingly disadvantaged and at least one fifth were "still
in the desperate, life-destroying circumstances of dire poverty" (Flemming
1971, p. 3). It was at this convention that a firm commitment was
established for social service to the elderly (Morris, 1971). One of
the main focuses of conference staff effort was the importance of a
counseling function "to assist troubled or confused individuals to work
out appropriate courses of action based on their own efforts" (Morris
1971, p. 5). This report further recognized the mental health needs
of older Americans were being seriously neglected-both because of
personnel shortages and lack of resources. Findings indicated that
at-home treatment was "seriously underprovided" while institutionalized
treatment was being overused and over-indicated. In 1967 the aged
constituted 9.5% of the general population, but comprised 30% of all
patients in mental hospitals (Morris, 1971). Conference recommendations
included establishing a center for the mental health of the aged within
The National Institute of Mental Health, and adopting the philosophy
of a right to care and treatment. It was further recommended that all
mental health programs be open to all elderly without having to submit
to a means test.
The American Personnel and Guidance Association (APGA) Committee
on Adult Development and Aging can be traced back to 1973. In that
year, a small commission, chaired by Dr. Daniel Sinick of George
Washington University,was formed and titled the Commission on Aging.
In 1975 the commission became a committee with the title which it now
bears (Ganikos 197u). Also in the decade of the 1970's, lullic Law
93-296 was passed (1974) that authorized the establishment of the
National Institute on Aging. The purpose of this law is to coordinate
all the federal agencies involved in aging research (H.E.W., 1977).
At last there was a clear focusing of energies to deal with under-
standing older Americans in the context of the total person.
Theoretical Considerations of Aging
Two major schools of thought dominate current thinking on the
psycho-sociological issue of aging: "The activity theory, which assumes
any decrease in a person's activity level will lead to a series of
negative changes for the older person" (Guilden, 1976), and the disengage-
ment theory, which assumes that a decrease in social interaction is
desired by the older American and accepted by society (Henry and Cumming,
The activity theory was proposed by Havinghurst and Albrecht in
1953 (Guilden 1976). This theory stresses social role participation,
implying that active people are the happiest and express the greatest
life satisfaction (Neugarten, Havinghurst, and Tobbin 1961). Lemon,
Bengtson, and Preston (1972, p. 515) list four postulates that relate
the activity theory to life satisfaction:
1. The greater the role loss, the less activity one is likely to
2. The greater the activity level,the more role support one is likely
3. The more role support one receives, the more positive one's self-
concept is likely to be.
4. The more positive one's self-concept, the greater one's life
satisfaction is likely to be.
The view proposed by tle activity theory was favored by "most
of the practical workers in gerontology" (Havinghurst 1961, p. 4). It
has been termed the generally accepted theory (Cuilden 1976).
Those who support the activity theory believe that people should
hold on to the attitudes, values, and activities that were part of
their lives during middle age (at least) as long as possible. When
factors such as change in health or finances demand the discontinuance
of any activity, then the healthy thing to do is to fill the void with
another activity--not to pull away from avocations, or whatever activ-
ities one has found to be fulfilling. It seems part of human nature
to determine much of our self-concept from our activities. Activity
is seen as synonymous with psychological health and adjustment (Adams
1969; Britton 1963).
Tobin and Neugarten (1961), in interviewing 187 older Americans,
found that with advancing age, engagement (activity) rather than dis-
engagement was more clearly associated with well-being.
Butler and Lewis (1977) see one's personality as taking a key
role in determining reactions to biological and social changes, and
"an active rather than passive role is important for mental health
and satisfaction" (p. 27).
However, the validiLy of the activity theory is not insured
simply because it is the generally accepted theory of aging. "It
can be argued that the idea of staying active is a middle class value
which actually hinders the adjustment to the aging process" (Guilden
1976,p. 26). This may, as Henry and Cumming (1963) have pointed out,
"result in a failure to conceive old age as a potential developmental
stage in its own right" (p. 63).
The systematic, theoretical statement of disengagement was first
proposed by Henry and Cumming in 1961. Others have expanded on the
model (Havinghurst, Neugarten, and Tobin, 1968; Maddox, 1964 ), but
the basic assumptions remain the same--an individual's withdrawal from
social activity has positive, intrinsic qualities. Disengagement is a
natural, free choice process, rather than something imposed upon the
older American (Henry and Cumming, 1963 p. 24).
Another basic assumption of the theory is that older persons are
by choice less involved in the life around them than when they were
younger, and the process by which they become so can be described
(Guilden 1976). Cumming and Henry (1971) see this process as initiated
either by the individual or by others in the situation (e.g., being
asked to retire). Disengagement may begin with the older person
withdrawing more markedly from some classes or groups of people, while
at the same time remaining relatively close and active with others.
Certain institutions in our society make it easy for the older American
to begin the disengagement process: The Social Security Administration
with early retirement benefits, early maturing insurance policies,
and the retirement policies of business and industries are but a few
When the aging process is complete, the equilibrium
which existed in middle life between the individual
and his or her society has given way to a new
equilibrium characterized by a greater distance and
an altered type of relationship. (Cumming and Henry
lv/l p. 15)
An example of disengagement is presented in the research of Alston
and Dudley (1973) in which they are able to show an increased routiniza-
tion of life over time. Their results lend further support to the
The disengagement theory assumes that change will occur in three
orders of interaction (Cumming and Henry 1'71, p. 15):
1. Individuals will lessen the number of individuals with whom they
interact. Also, the purpose of these interactions may alter.
2. A qualitative change will occur in the style or pattern of inter-
action between the older individual and other members of his inter-
3. There will also be changes in the older individual's personality
which will both cause and result in decreased involvement with others,
and increased preoccupation with one's self.
A healthy person, as viewed with respect to this theory, will
usually be the person who has reached a new equilibrium--a psychological
well-being characterized by a greater psychological distance from others
and society, decreased social interaction, and an altered concept of
relationships (Guilden, 1976).
Fmpirical data supporting this theory are not convincing (Having-
hurst 1968; Maddox 1974). While Havinghurst and associates were able
to find some empirical support in their Kansas City Study of Adult Life,
their findings are insufficient for an unquestioned endorsement of
either the activity or disengagement theory (Guilden 1975).
In summary, the research indicates that neither the activity
nor the disengagement theory adequately deals with the total adjustment
of the older American. The past definitional, theoretical and method-
ological weaknesses that have existed in this area still persist, and
underscore the need for further research and theory formation.
Demographic and Statistical Description of the Older American
At the time of America's Declaration of Independence from England,
the total colony population was about 2.5 million (Prior, 1l77). Life
expectancy was 38 or 30 and the older segment of our population (65+)
numbered about 50,000, or about 2% of the total population. By 1900
Americans over 65 represented 4% of the total population. Infant
mortality was still high and the average life expectancy was 47 years
(Butler and Lewis, 1977, p. 5).
Through the advancement of medicine and improved sanitation con-
ditions this country has been able to reduce the infant mortality rate
and lengthen the average life span. Between 1900 and 1968 the total
U.S. population doubled, but the over 65 segment of our population
increased six-fold (Mason 1971, p. 5). Older Americans represented
5.5% of the total population by 1968. By 1976 this figure rose to 11%
of the total population--a segment 22 million strong. Peterson (1976 p. 3)
makes an interesting observation when he notes:
The achievement of the rate of zero population
growth for the past two years projected 30 years
from now gives us an estimate that one half of
the U. S. population will be over 50 years of age.
Whether or not the older segment of our population will ever
reach these proportions is debatable. But it does point to the
fact that older Americans are continuing to grow in numbers, making
a greater and greater impact on our society.
Each day approximately 5,000 Americans celebrate their 65th
birthday. Each day 3,600 persons above the age of 65 die. The net
increase of 1,400 per day means 500,000 more older Americans each
year (Prior, 1977). These figures underscore the need to see that the
responsive helping agencies of our society keep pace with the changes
taking place among the cohort group of older Americans by frequently
re-evaluating the present needs of the elderly. Mason (1971) has
pointed out that every 10 years 70% of the elderly population changes.
These new members most certainly bring with them different systems of
needs, values, and beliefs. If the helping professions and agencies
are to assist older Americans in meeting their needs, they must first
understand the population as it exists and have the flexibility of
thought to keep pace with the changes that will occur.
The following subsections provide a brief but important sketch
of the demography of the older American population.
Sex Ratio and Life Expectancy
American females outnumber males at a ratio of 105.5 per 100 males
in the general population (Butler and Lewis, 1977, p. 5). The difference
among the older segment of our population is even more pronounced.
There are 134 females for every 100 males. In the 85+ category this
ratio increases to 160 females for every 100 males. In America the
life expectancy of females is 70.0 for white and 71.2 for minorities.
The life expectancy for American males is 68.9 for whites and 62.9 for
minorities (U.S. Bureau of Census, 1976). The fact that females
have a longer life span might seem to indicate a biological superiority
of the female organism. However, this researcher believes that it is
the stress differential existing between the different life styles of
the sexes that accounts for this difference. As females take on more of
the pressures and responsibilities that have historically been left to
the males, it would seem logical that the life expectancy differential
between the sexes will begin to collapse.
Poverty is very much a part of the lives of older Americans. In
1971 ten million older Americans, half of the older American population,
lived on less than 75 dollars a week (Butler and Lewis, 1977, p. 11),
16% lived below the official poverty level of $2,100 for a single per-
son and $2,600 for a couple. These figures compute to just a little
over three dollars a day for shelter, food, clothing, transportation,
medical expenses--the bare bones of existence.
Location of the Elderly
One fourth of the nation's elderly live in three states: California
New York, and Pennsylvania (Prior, 1977). The fastest growing elderly
population (1960-1970) are in the states of Arizona, Florida, Nevada,
Hawaii, and New Mexico. Tn each of these states the over-65 population
increased by one third or more during this ten-year period. In 1975
Florida had an older American population that accounted for 16.1% of the
state's residents. In 1975 California had the greatest concentration of
the nation's elderly--2,056,000. New York was second with 2,030,000.
The above mentioned states, because of their high concentration of older
Americans, make logical targets for further research on the elderly.
Butler and Lewis (1977) and Prior (1977) have underscored the well
known fact that among the elderly there is a great discrepancy between
the marital status of men and women. In 1976 seven million or 77% of
the older American male population was married. Only 53% of the older
American females were married (Prior, 1977). There are many more older
women than men. Because these women usually have married men who
are older than themselves and who die at an earlier age there are 5.5
times as many widows as widowers. In the 75+ category, 70% are widows.
In our culture men tend to marry women younger than themselves.
This situation reduces the availability of marriage partners for older
American women; thus, only 2.2 widows per 1000 over the age of 65 re-
marry. Widowers over the age of 65 remarry at a rate of 18.4 per 1000
(Prior 1977). Butler and Lewis (1977, p. 7) state the fact another
way: "Each year some 35,000 older men marry while for the women the
comparable figure is only 16,000."
It is a common stereotype to think of the American elderly as
residing in institutions. Early gerontological and psychological
studies of the elderly contributed to this notion by concentrating on
the institutionalized elderly as a convenient population to be sampled.
These studies no doubt contributed to the notion that institutionalization
was to be expected in one's later years. However, in fact only 5% of
the elderly reside in institutions (Butler and Lewis, 1977); 95% of the
elderly are living elsewhere.
Of the total older American population, 30% of the men and 60% of
the women live in family units with spouse and/or children. Approximate-
ly 25% live along or with nonrelatives (Prior,1977). Pointing again
to the discrepancies that exist by sex, Prior (1977) states that about
57% of all older American men live in a family unit that includes a
wife, but older American women who live in families that include a
husband account for only 33% of all older women. "More than three
times as many older women live alone or with nonrelatives than did older
men." (Prior, 1977, p. 6).
Place of Residence
As of 1974, 65% of all older Americans lived in metropolitan
areas. Of the approximately 40% living in non-metropolitan areas,
most (35%) lived in small towns, while 5% lived on farms (Butler and
Level of Education
In 1975 half of the older Americans had not
completed one year of high school. About 2.3
million older people are functionally
illiterate, having no schooling or less
than five years. About 8% were college grad-
uates. (Prior 1977, p. 6)
While these, figures reflect U coaort group with an educational
level below the national average, it is encouraginP to note that the
educational level among the elderly seems to be on the rise. Pdlmore
(1976) predicts that by 1994, the older American population will equal
the middle-aged population (45-04) in level of education.
Butler and Lewis (1977) provide an excellent profile of the racial
composition of the older American population. The following information
was taken from their book--Aging and Mental Health: Positive Psycho-
logical Approaches (Butler 6 Lewis 1977).
American Blacks. Elderly blacks now constitute 7.8% of the total
black population. While blacks comprise 10 of the total American
population, they represent only 5" of the older age group. This fact
is generally a result of their low socio-economic status which involves
poor nutrition and health care. Black males have a life expectancy of
60.1 years while black females live to an age of 67.5 years. In 1970
this difference meant that for every 100 black elderly men, there were
131 black elderly women.
Spanish Americans. Spanish Americans make up approximately 5% of
the total American population, but because of their relatively low life
expectancy of 56.7 years, they comprise only .02% of the total elderly
population. Of the Cuban American population 8.6% are over 65.
American Indians. American Indians are the poorest people in
America. Their life expectancy is only '17 years. Very few survive to
the age of 65.
Last Asian Americans. Oriental Americans comprise 1% of the total
American population. Of this 1%, 6-8a are over 65, over hall live
alone, and over half live in big cities.
Society's legiative View of Aging
America is a youth-oriur.nd culture. To tell someone that they
look young is a compliment. The valuation of youth has contributed
greatly to the devaluation of the elderly and to all the associated
negative stereotypes and prejudices that exist in our culture today.
Older Americans are often looked upon as less than full citizens.
They are a segment of our population who have been "sacraficed .
for the sake of productivity" (Butler G Lewis 1977, p. 141), and
devalued both culturally and physically (Buckley 1972, p. 755). As a
society Americans have maintained and propagated the view that the
elderly are a cohort group whose health and vigor have decreased
(Aslin 1974), who are behind the times and who are rigid thinkers, set
in their ways with little or no worth to our present day society.
The National Council on Aging (1977) describes the American
myth of the elderly:
Typically, he's a man in his sixties. Not so long
ago, he was a productive member of society. But
as he approaches 65, his job brought him less and
less satisfaction. His work suffered, he had more
than his share of on-the-job accidents, and his
number of sick days increased. He looked forward
to forced retirement with growing eagerness.
He used to live in his own home, but he can't get
around as he once did, his savings are almost gone
and he will most likely live out his days in an
institution for the aged.
Although his needs are fewer than when he was young,
he's becoming a drain on the country's resources;
still, after so many years of stress, ie feels he
deserves a little peace and quiet.
He gets depressed more than he used to, and his sex
life is a thing of the past. Like most people over
65, he's apt to forget things, make foolish remarks,
throw tantrums. He accepts these chaugics, Lecause
after all, this is his second childhood, a time of
disengagement. (;:COA, 1977)
The myths of aging are not objective occurrences in our society.
They get translated into personal belief systems. Americans of all
ages become unwitting supporters of "ageism," and thus propagate all
"the prejudices and stereotypes that are applied to older people sheerly
on the basis of age" (Butler S Lewis, 1977, p. lIll). Rosenfclt
(1965) saw the elderly being viewed as dull and uncreative. Harris
(1975) in surveying 4,254 people, reported that those under 65 viewed
the older American as basically inactive, nonproductive members of
Ageism is historically ingrained in our society, and for the past
century seems to have increased rather than decreased in its intensity.
An analysis of children's literature from 1870 to 1960 shows a decreas-
ingly positive attitude toward the elderly(Seltzer E Atchley, 1971).
That whichshapes our thinking as children helps to form our belief
system as an adult.
Humor is another way in which ageism gets promulgated in the
American culture (Palmore, 1976). In cartoons and jokes where the
elderly are represented, the majority of the time the connotation is
negative. Jokes make fun of the elderly for their physical disabili-
ties, appearance, or mental limitations. Jokes stereotype older
American women into the role of "old maid,';a consequence is age
Television, the most powerful and influential of the ma:;s media,
seldom represenLs the elderly appropriately. When they are repreiented,
it is often in a deferring role, for example, with :i dominant and
attractive female. The elderly are portrayed as having more than the
average share of problems and having to rely on the competent younger
adult for assistance (Horthcott, 1975).
Americans approaching their later years are bomLarded with commller
cial advertisements to hide their hearing aids, wear contact lenses
instead of glasses and dye their hair for that youthful appearance.
The outcome of these campaigns is often a lower self concept for the
elderly. A natural reaction to these commericals is a desire to be
other than one's own age.
America has described the later years of life in such negative
terms that it is no wonder that older Americans have internalized
negative beliefs. For example, the suicide rate for persons over
55 is twice as high as for those under 55 (Gardner Bahn, 1964), yet
the older American is reluctant to seek help. In a sample of 8,000
first calls to a suicide prevention center only 2.5% were from persons
60 or older (Rachlis, 1970).
Ageism is doubly destructive. It not only places today's elderly
in a subjugated position, with feelings of worthlessness and poor self-
esteem, it sets up the general population with the negative expecta-
tions that the same decrements and infirmities of life will befall
them when they are older.
The fact that so many of America's elderly are poor is a direct
cause of many of the problems of this age group. Poverty breeds
mental illness (Butler Lewis 1J77). It can cause malnutri Lion and
anemia that directly result in psychological changes within the individ
It seems that the elderly are often victims of a vicious circle
of events and circumstances. External events or the beliefs of "ageism"
infringe upon the person in a way that leads to a state of depression.
This internal state may lead to loss of appetite, which may lead to
undernourishment, or even malnutrition, and negative psychological
changes. The internal state produces changes which are seen as age
related, but in actuality are the reversible reflections of the
affective state of the individual (Jarvik, 1975).
This researcher has sought to counter the effects of ageism by
presenting a clear picture of the needs and problems of older Amer-
icans. By profiling these needs and problems, helping professionals
will have a sound basis for developing their individual strategies for
serving the client population. Training programs ,too, will benefit
from the results of this research by placing the training emphasis
where the needs and problems are indicated.
Counseling and the Elderly
On a societal level, the problems of the aged at
any particular time arise from two primary factors:
1) the composition of the aged population at that
time (size, economic status, health, beliefs), and
2) the social environment within which the elderly
are located (housing, medical facilities, welfare
programs, kinship patterns). (Uhlenberg, 1977,
As a population, older Americans have readily demonstrated the
need for counseling services, but the concept of counseling is outside
their sphere of experience. Vany of today's older Americans have
lived their lives with a strong sense of independence and self-reliance.
Seeking out the help of others, for any matter, has been a last resort.
Yet millions of older Americans live from day to day with a wide
variety of unmet needs.
Buckley (1972) found the elderly's most common problem to be a
feeling of separateness, a feeling of having been put aside, discarded.
Negative beliefs about aging and retirement became self-fulfilling
prophecies as Americans left employment and entered into a more
unstructured life style. Work, which promoted ego strength and feelings
of acceptance among colleagues and peers, was gone. Work, which
offered an escape from the tensions existing in the home, was gone.
With retirement came hugh blocks of time, often with no plans for
filling the hours. Idleness shifted the focus to one's self. The
loss of income and self-esteem forced a change in life style and often
brought about feelings of dependency.
Loneliness is another problem of the elderly often reported in
the literature (Buckley, 1972; Caitz S Scott, 1975; Jackson, 1976).
This problem is especially prevalent among older black women. In 1970
25% of the elderly black women had never had children. Additionally,
there were about 77.2 black males for every 100 females, and many of
the males had younger wives. Only 20% of the older black women lived
with their husbands (Butler & Lewis, 1977). Jackson (1976, p. 51)
has stated "The plight of loneliness generally increases with age,
and cannot be reduced effectively through the typical ploys of aging
services." Counselors and other helping professionals will Le called
upon to find new ways of approaching this problem area.
With the death of one's spouse, social isolation increases and
cultural isolation follows. The sharp changes in personal relation-
ships, the abrupt changes in social status upon retirement, all serve
to precipitate an identity crisis for the elderly. When individuals
are unable to respond in a way that moves them through times of crisis,
an attitude of helplessness ensues which "can easily lead to inactivity
with consequent intellectual decline that could have been avoided in
the absence of detrimental psychological influences" (Jarvik, 1975,
p. 578). Although the need for counseling services among the elderly
is evident, the programming of those services still requires further
input on the needs and problems presented by this potential client
What is so often the case with the elderly is the fact that many
older Americans have to deal with not one major crisis in their lives,
but a series of related changes at a time when strength, self-con-
fidence, and resilience seem Lo be waning. Life-coping strategies
that worked in the past are often found to be inadequate when older
Americans are faced with multiple crises in their later years. Some
older Americans would choose a counseling service if it were offered
(Myers, 1978), while others would attempt to handle their problems
themselves. In either case, by gaining a better understanding of
counseling as a viable choice in one's personal problem solving
system, older Americans can open for themselves the realization that
one's later years hold just as much potential for growth and develop-
ment as any other period in one's life.
The younger segment of American society, who have been exposed
to the human potential movement of the 1960's, seem generally to accept
that it is a human condition to, at times, need the psychological and
emotional support of others. There is a healthy connotation to
receiving help in one's personal growth. Older Americans, on the other
hand, seem caught between the behavioral patterns of independence
learned in the past, and the problems of today's complex and rapidly
The challenge to the counselor presents no small task--to help
older Americans see the value of helping professionals as people
trained to assist others in working through problems so that happiness
may again return to their lives. But, as a general rule, older Amer-
icans are still not using counselors as resource people. Buckley
(1972) found that only 1% of the contacts at a mental health center
were from persons over 65. Stevens (1973), doing a needs survey in
a public housing project for the elderly, found that the professionals,
although carefully selected, were met with suspicion and mistrust.
The respondents feared how the information might be used. The coun-
selor's task is clear--to understand older Americans against the back-
ground of their values and beliefs, and to develop appropriate
strategies to help them meet their needs.
When older people are able to get over the feelings that needing
counseling is a sign of personal failure, and begin working with
helping professionals, the interaction process is generally not so
different than with any otheradults seeking help.
When older people come in for counseling they have
the same need's that we find among the youth and
middle-aged: the need to feel loved, to feel self-
worth, to have practical matters of life made clear
or easier, to be understood by someone who cares,
to find a way to cope and carry on when problems
seem insurmountable, and to find acceptance and
support. (Buckley, 1972, p. 755)
Literature in the field of aging and adult development is exten-
sive (Schmidt, 1976), but in the area of counseling the elderly the
literature is scarce. While America, a society, has physically and
culturally devalued the aged (Blake, 1972), helping professionals
have followed suit. No doubt the stage was set (circa 1900) when
Freud refused to see patients over 50 years of age because they did
not have the "elasticity of the mental processes on which counseling
depends" (Hiatt, 1971). In the 50 years since Freud, little has
changed. "Older people have been the forgotten and ignored of the
American Personnel and Guidance Association" (Blake, 1975, p. 736).
A review of APGA journals reveals "virtually no concern for the
experiences of the elderly." During the period from September 1968
to September 1974, only eight articles appeared concerning the
elderly. In an article by McDaniels (197') which projected counselor
employment needs in the near future, there was no mention of geron-
tology. As the literature is found lacking, so is there a dirth of
training programs offering counseling in gerontology. "The majority
of students enrolled in counselor education programs do not have the
opportunity to take a course specifically designed for counseling the
elderly" (Salisbury, 1975, p. 236). In a questionnaire survey of 305
counselor education programs (Salisbury, 1975), none was found to have
a required course in counseling the elderly. Only 18 had a course
available as an elective. This and other evidence (Schlossberg,
Vontross, Sinick, 1974) indicates that "ageism" must not he thought
of as a value judgement which exists only outside of the helping pro-
fessions. Counselors have not been immune to the biases present in
the general population. Unfortunately, "ageism" is evident in the
quality and types of services offered to the older American.
The literature has shown that, as a general rule, the mental
health practitioner has a negative, defeatist attitude about the prob-
lems of the elderly client. There is often careless diagnosis. Where
the therapist believes the majority of the symptoms and problems to
be irreversible, treatment is either poor or non-existent. Yet, this
belief is totally without foundation. "Over 50% of the elderly show
prompt and longlasting response to therapy, another 20% show a positive
reaction" (Linden, 1963). Because the later years of life have
been falsely characterizedas atinlc.f psychological and emotional
rigidity, counseling and other psychological services have either
not been offered, or have been established with less than a full
commitment to the elderly.
In the face of the overwhelming evidence of the presence of
"ageism" both among the elderly and among helping professionals, it
seems increasingly important that Americans be given some preparation
for their later years. It cannot be assumed, in the generally pre-
vailing atmosphere of today's society, that all people will prosper
and grow old gracefully with feelings of self-worth.
These changes seem indicated in the field of gerontological
counseling: 1) counselors must increase the level of their awareness
of their own beliefs about aging, 2) they must integrate into their
practice the findings of recent literature aimed specifically at
counseling the elderly, and 3) there must be a focus on educating the
older American in both the value of outside help in working through
one'sproblens and the idea that life is a developmental process in
which one's later years hold the opportunity for personal growth and
self-fulfillment. Research of the type undertaken here hopefully
helps to clarify the picture of the needs and problems of the older
American. This knowledge can and should be a solid foundation upon
which to build both counselor training and social service program
Maslow's Basic Needs Theory
The idea that human needs are arranged in a hierarchy is not
exclusively a Maslowian idea (table 1). This theory has been proposed
in one form or another by various writers (e.g., Argyris, 1957; Davis,
1956; Haire, 1956; Leavitt, 1958; Smith, 1955; Viteles, 1953). Maslow
was not even the first theorist to assume a hierarchical system of
needs, movitation, and growth. Langer (1937) preceded him by some six
years. But it has been Maslow's theory (1943, 1954) that has been
quoted, used in research across many disciplines, and cited as a
reference in many fields other than psychology. For example, Maslow's
work has often been referred to in the field of business. In 1974,
Maslow's (1943) article ranked second in the total number of citations
in the area of management literature (Matteson, 1974).
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Evidence of the use of Maslow's theory can be found in anthro-
pology (Aronoff, 1967; Montague, 1970), political science (Bays, 1968;
Knutson, 1968), vocational rehabilitation (Goldberg, 1967); and,
of course, psychology (Argyris, 19624; Haire, 1956; Mcfregor, 1960;
Roe, 1956, 1900; Samler, 1968; and Schein, 1965). Maslow's theory has
been widely used, but surprisingly enough it has not been widely
tested for validity.
Maslow sees needs as being hierarchical in nature, arranging
themselves in a priority order from most potent to least potent. The
higher order needs are not as important (or potent) to an individual
until lower needs are satisfied. This principle of prepotency holds
throughout the hierarchy. Maslow is not saying an individual can only
or will only attend to one need at a time. While several needs may
act simultaneously as motivators, one at a time will predominate.
Maslow's theory delineates man's needs system into the following
five categories (1954, p. 89):
Physiological. This need includes the body and what it requries
to maintain good health: air, food, exercise, sex, sleep, medicine--
all are possible areas of need. Physiological needs are considered
the most prepotent of all needs. It is most often the human condition
to be concerned with several need areas at one time; however, when
needs compete for satisfaction, the lower order needs will predominate.
If all the needs are unsatisfied, and the
organism is then dominated by the physical
needs, all other needs become simply non-
existent orare pushed into the background.
(Maslow 1954, p. 82)
Individuals, for example, would risk safety to eat, but would be
limited in the amount of eating they could forego for the sake of
safety. When needs are generally satisfied in this area, the next
higher category on the hierarchical ladder becomes the prime motivator
of human behavior.
Safety. Safety needs are concerned with how safe and secure
people feel in their environment, how protected they feel from out-
side forces. Needs and problems in this area cover the home, neigh-
borhood, safety and security while on the job, financial worries, and
transportation difficulties. Maslow (1954, p. 87) states that the
healthy, normal fortunate adult in our society is largely satisfied in
the area of safety needs. Needs in this area are generally the active
and dominate motivating force in times of emergencies. When a state
of homeostasis or satisfaction exists, attention is turned toward the
next higher need area.
Love and Belonging. Needs in this area are related to loving
and being loved, and both the giving and receiving of love. The
motivation here is that of having a significant person in one's life.
Being a member of a social group and the concomitant needs for accept-
ance are grouped into this category. If man's needs in this category
are being met, they take on less of an importance, become less of a
motivating force, and the next category of needs increases in strength
as a motivator.
Self-Esteem. Self-esteem needs are motivators to action which
result in a feeling of pride in one's self, the need to be recog-
nized for one's accomplishments. Maslow states: "All people in our
society...have a need or desire for a stable, firmly based, usually
high evaluation for themselves, for self-respect, or self-esteem,
and for the esteem of others" (1i54, p. 30). Maslow also comments
on the necessity to base self-esteem on "deserved respect from others
rather than on external fame or celebrity and unwarranted adulation"
Self-Actualization. This area includes the feelings and activ-
ities that allow us to be all we can he. Self-actualization was first
coined by Goldstein (1939) but is used by Maslow and by his researcher
in a more limited fashion to refer to man's desire for self-fulfillment.
Self-actualization is less of a state and more of a direction of move-
ment. The term "peak" or religious experience is often used in
connection with self-actualization. This category includes concepts
like justice, liberty, and equality. Ac Livities in the self-actualiza-
tion category are more varied and personalized than in the other need
and problem areas. Some people seek self-actualization experiences
through contact with people or nature, while others might find art,
music, or even politics to be the fitting activity for self-growth.
Higher and Lower Order Needs
In a 1948 article Maslow laid down the differences between
"higher" and "lower" needs. The lower order needs are in the physio-
logical and safety categories, while higher order needs are included
in the categories of love/belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualiza-
tion. This two-level system has been operationalized by Mitchell
and Moudgill(1976). Analysis of data obtained from administering a
ten item needs questionnaire to a sample of accountants, engineers,
and scientists indicated the existence of a two level hierarchy
(security needs and higher needs). Further support for a two-
level hierarchical system of needs has coin from Barnes (1960),
Harrison (1966), and Lawler (1973). Statistical evidence is also
indicated in the work of Nahba and Bridwell (1974), Maslow (1948)
delineates higher and lower needs in several ways:
1. "The higher the need the less imperative it is for sheer
survival, the longer gratification can be postponed, and the easier
it is for the need to disappear permanently" (p. 434). With the higher
needs there is not the urgency for fulfillment that we see with the
lower needs. They will most always fall to the lower priority when
lower order needs or concerns present themselves. Also, when one
is deprived of the higher needs there is not the "desperate defense
and emergency reactions" (Maslow 1948, p. 343) that often accompany
the needs and concerns at the physiological and safety levels.
2. Higher needs do not always present themselves clearly. "They
are less perceptible, less unmistakable, more easily confounded with
other needs by suggestions, imitations, by mistake, belief or habit"
(p.434). This makes higher order needs more difficult to articulate.
As Maslow points out, the ability to understand what one's needs really
are, and to know what one wants, is always a considerable achievement.
To have this ability in the area of higher order needs is an even
3. "Higher need gratifications produce more desirable subjective
results,i.e. more profound happiness, serenity, and richness of inner
life" (p. 434). Lower order needs, when satisfied, seem to lead only
to feelings of relief, relaxation, homeostasis. Counselors will most
likely see the greatest client change when counseling efforts result
in satisfying higher order needs.
4. The higher needs have more preconditions than the lower needs
(Maslow, 1954). Because the need system proposed by Maslow (1943,
1954) is prepotent, much more has to be attended to before the higher
needs are brought to conscious awareness. For example, satisfying the
need to be accepted by a group (self-esteem) required that many more
factors fall into place than when the need/concern is centered
around the feeling that one's home is free from break-ins (safety),
5. "The pursuit and gratification of the higher needs have
desirable civic and social consequences" (p. 435). Society benefits
when a person is living in a way that satisfies his higher needs.
Others are involved in this satisfaction process, and others benefit.
Loyalty, friendship, and civic consciousness are fostered in the
effort to satisfy one's own higher needs.
6. Satisfaction of higher needs is closer to self-actualization.
People who are successful at meeting their higher needs are more
likely to exhibit the qualities of self-actualizing people. Examples
of these qualities are: more efficient perception of reality, self-
acceptance, spontaneity, detachment, need for privacy, and creative-
ness, (Maslow 1954). People satisfying higher needs are also living
in a way that improves the general quality of life. The activities
which move people toward self-actualization also increase love for
oneself. As Fromm (1941) states, love for oneself is synergic with,
rather than antogonistic to, love for others.
Several researchers have attempted to use Maslow's hierarchy as
a framework for assessing needs (Goldberp, 1967, Hall Nougain,1968
Porter, 1971). However, few have sought to validate the theory.
Lollar (1974) is one researcher who attempted to validate and opera-
tionalize Maslow's theory. The Needs Satisfaction Schedule (Lollar,
1974) was used with a sample of 200 delinquent adolescents to measure
psychological, physical safety and security, affection, and self-
esteem needs. A statistical treatment of the data indicated that the
hierarchy did occur in a generally pronounced manner. Nomological
validity using Campbell's (1969) criteria was indicated.
Lawler and Suttle (1972) attempted a causal correlational test of
the need hierarchy concept using the Porter (1961) questionnaire. They
collected longitudinal data on 187 managers in two business organiza-
tions. Data analysis indicated little support for the idea of a multi-
level needs hierarchy. However, there was support for a two-level
(higher needs, lower needs) hierarchy. Lawler and Suttle concluded
their study by saying, "Despite the lack of emperical support for the
idea of a multi-level hierarchy of needs, it is far too early to give
up on the idea that some kind of hierarchy exists" (p. 284).
Goodman (1968) studied the three middle-need levels in Maslow's
hierarchy using a sample of engineers and assembly workers. He found
no evidence of a hierarchical system of needs in the work setting.
He explained this results by stating that when a job offers "no real
hazards, reasonable security, and a good level of interaction oppor-
tunities, no one level of hierarchy will predominate" (Goodman, 1968,
Mitchell and Moudgill (1976) attempted to measure Maslow's hier-
archy by administering a ten-item instrument to a total of 892 pro-
fessionals employed in public and private organizations in Canada.
Their results showed support for Maslow's five-category concept.
These results represent a "reasonably successful operationdlization
of Maslow's construct" (343). This study accepted the face validity
of Maslow's hierarchy and hoped to show a difference in strength of
higher and lower order needs over time.
Needs Assessment instruments in Gerontology
This section reviews the predominant needs assessment instruments
in the field of gerontology today.
Havens (forthcoming) provides an excellent review of the needs
assessment instruments currently being used. The criteria for including
an instrument in the review were the following: 1) the instrument had
to have been designed for the purpose of assessing a multiple of needs,
and 2) the instrument must have been tested on a sample of the older
population. Instruments reviewed were grouped into three categories:
those that were designed coimmunity-specific, those with a national
focus, and those with a broader potential of applicability.
Community-Specific Needs Assessment Instruments
Elderly Needs Assessment. This instrument was a result of the
Northern Kentucky Area Development study of 1976. It assessed,
by means of a telephone survey, the following need areas: transporta-
tion, housing, health, nutrition, and recreation. There have been no
reported validity or reliability data.
Needs Assessment Interview Schedule for Colorado Elderly. Develop-
ed by the Center for Social Research and Development (1974) at the
University of Denver, this instrument was designed to measure the
following variables: housing, transportation, employment, income and
expenditures, health and medical care, food and nutrition, and social
activity and relationships. In addition, respondent's perception of
helping resources were assessed. Unfortunately, reliability and
validity have not been appropriately determined. There are no reported
data on its use.
Older Persons Counseling Needs Survey. This instrument was
developed by Myers (1978) and field tested on 850 older persons through-
out the state of Florida. The validity and reliability data on the
OPCNS encourage its use as a need assessment instrument. There are many
useful items. There is no apparent theoretical foundation.
Study of the Economic and Social Needs of Elderly Americans in
Non-Metropolitan Areas: A Pilot Study. This instrument was developed
by Powell County, Kentucky (Larson and Yomans, 1975) to assess: housing
wants and needs, health status, level of activity and extent of social
isolation, transportation, economic well being, and service needs of
an outreach center. The target population was limited to the non-
metropolitan elderly. There are no reported data on use.
Needs Assessment Instruments with a National Focus
Myth and Reality of Aging in America. This questionnaire was
developed by Louis Hlarris and Associates in 1975. It was not specifi-
cally designed to measure needs but does contain some useful personal
problem items. For needs assessment purposes, only parts of this
instrument are relevant.
Improving the Quality of Life. This instrument was developed
for a study aimed at identifying opportunities for improving the
quality of life of older age groups. Authored by Flanagan and Russ-ErL
(1976a, 1976b), this instrument only measured the variable "quality of
life." It remains untested in a lull survey, with validity data un-
available. While there is no theoretical basis, there are some useful
Instruments with Potential for a Broader Applicability
Health Care Needs. Branch and Fowler (1975) studied the health
care needs of the elderly and the chronically disabled. They used an
interview format which considered the following variables: transpor-
tation, food shopping, personal care, social contact, food preparation,
housekeeping, emergency assistance, social interaction, and medical/
paramedical assistance. This instrument does a fair job of assessing
needs in the aforementioned area, but is limited in scope.
O.A.R.S. This multidimensional functional assessment instrument
was developed at Duke University (Pfeiffer, 1975). Variables include:
physical health, mental health, social resources. The variables which
seem to be assessed most accurately are economic resources, and
activities of daily living. But again,this instrument has too narrow
a focus for this study.
Older Americans Status and Needs Assessment Survey. Developed
for the RMC Research Corporationin 1975 by Burkhardt and Lewis, this
interview questionnaire was designed toreflect local variations in
existing programs (A.O.A., 1974). Variables are: income, transporta-
tion, crime (or protection), isolation, health care, spare time, and
home repair. This instrument covers a broader area of variables
than most other assessment instruments. There has been no formal
validity and reliability testing. There does seem to be convincing
Social Indicators for the Aged. Developed at the Institute for
Inter-Disciplinary studies in 1171, this instrument offers no
reliability or validity data. It is however, widely used.
Meeting Community Needs. This instrument was developed by Kahana
(1972, 1974),and had a lengthy interview format which requires the use
of skilled interviewers. The variables are; perceived health and
status needs, perceived financial needs, perceived need for services,
cognitive function, vulnerability relative to purchasing, community
discrimination, governmental services, neighborhood problems, social
network exchange, and utilization patterns. The reliability data
are unreported, and the instrument is possibly too specifically
designed for the urban populations.
Resources Ability to Meet Needs. This instrument was developed
by Havens and Thompson in 1977 (MDHSM, 1973-77) and deals with the
effectiveness of agencies to meet the needs of their clients. It is
lengthy, taking approximately I hour 15 minutes for an initial
interview and an additional 1 hour and 45 minutes for a telephone
interview follow-up. Variables are: psycho-social, shelter, house-
hold maintenance, food and clothing, ethno-cultural, physical health
and functioning, economic, accessibility, and availability of resources.
This instrument is not meant to be used for client evaluation but
does give insight into instrument construction for the purpose.
After reviewing the needs assessment instruments currently in
use in the field, this researcher concluded that there appears to be
no available instrument which attempts to assess the needs of older
Americans over the broad range of human concerns considered in this
study. Additionally, this researcher was unable to locate any needs
assessment instrument currently in use in the field of gerontology
which claims a theoretical base in its construction. These findings
underscore the importance of this study by pointing out: 1) the need
for new assessment instruments which meet the challenge of understand-
ing the broad spectrum of human needs and problems, and 2) the present
lack of theoretical consideration in constructing needs assessment
instruments for use in gerontology and gerontological counseling.
The elderly have been with us always, but not in any great numbers
until recently. Prior to the 20th century there was little or no
scientific concern for this segment of our population. Early research
was weak in methodology and targeted heavily on the institutionalized
older American, giving rise to the false belief that one's later years
would necessarily be brought with decrements, infirmities, and loss
of independence. Of today's 22 million older Americans, only 5% are
The 1960's brought a surge of interest in the field of gerontology.
As a result an awareness began to grow that the mental health needs
of older Americans were being seriously neglected. Literature in the
area of counseling the elderly is scarce, and programs of service are
either non-existant or slow in coming.
The myths of aging were found to re.vade the entire American
culture. Ageism, R.N. Butler's term for all stereotypes, and
negativities about aging, was a two-edged sword that not only placed
older Americans in a subjugated position, with feelings of worthless-
ness and poor self-esteem, but also invested the general population
with the expectation that the same decrements and infirmities of life
would befall them when they were old. Helping professionals too
have not been immune to the effects of ageism. As a result there
has Leen little professional involvement in the field of gerontological
counseling. The older American population increases at the rate of
500,000 each year, yet in many communities counseling services for the
elderly are still non-existent. The majority of students enrolled
in counselor education programs as of 1975 did not have the oppor-
tunity to take a course designed especially for counseling the elderly.
The assumption cannot be made that all Americans will grow old
gracefully, with feelings of self-worth. Life-coping strategies of
the past are often inadequate today when older Americans are faced
with multiple crises in their later years.
Attempts to understand aging in a theoretical light have also
been inadequate. Neither the activity theory, which assumes any
decrease in a person's activity level will lead to a series of negative
changes for the older person, nor the disengagement theory, which
assumes a decrease in social interaction to be healthy, can be said
to adequately deal with the total adjustment of the older American.
On the other hand, Haslow's theory of human needs provides an excellent
system for examining the needs and problems of older Americans over a
broad spectrum of human concerns.
This review of the literature was unable to locate to any
assessment instrument currently in use in the field of gerontology,
that deals with the total range of human needs and problems. There-
fore, Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory became a key component in
designing a research questionnaire aimed at increasing the knowledge
of needs and problems of older Americans. Maslow's theory allows for
a systematic exploration of needs and problems as well as a clear format
for treating the resulting data. Findings from this research add to
the growing body of knowledge of the life-long process of aging and
development in America.
The purpose of this study was to demonstrate the application of
the theoretical framework proposed by Ilaslow (1954) in increasing
understanding of the needs and problems of older Americans. More
specifically, an instrument was developed for gathering needs and
problem data over a broad spectrum of human concerns. Most available
needs assessment instruments in use in the field of gerontology today
either have not been adequately tested for validity and reliability,
or are too narrow in their focus to be of use in this study. This
research offers a much needed instrument which can be used to help
clarify and further develop the understanding of psycho-social aging
and development in America.
The research questions investigated in this study are:
1. What are the needs and problems of older Americans?
2. How do the strength and arrangements of these needs and
problems change over time?
3. Do these needs and problems vary by specific demographic
4. What are older Americans' attitudes toward being involved
5. Does the older American population differ from the younger
in ranking lower (physiological, and safety) needs, and
higher (love/belonging, self-esteem, and sulf-actualization)
6. With regards to life satisfaction, how do older Americans
differ from other age groups in the direction they see their
lives taking from five years in the past to five years in the
The two variables that set participants in this study apart from
the general population were an interest in the field of education as
a vocation, and a higher than average level of education. Both vari-
ables were selected in order to increase the similarity among the
groups and improve the usefulness of the research findings in making
inferences about changes in needs, problems, and life satisfaction
The subjects in this research were obtained from a random
sampling of three independent populations: 1) undergraduates who
were seniors in the College of Education, University of Florida,
2) educators aged 35-50 working at the University of Florida or in
the Alachua County (Florida) public school system, and 3) educators
over 65 years of age who retired from either the Alachua County
public school system or the University of Florida. Added to this
last category, but not randomly selected, were 17 Black Americans
retired from the faculty of Florida A & M University, and 9 members
of the Visionnaires, a Black women's social group composed mostly
of retired Alachua County school teachers. These two subsamples
were included in the study in order to increase the possibility of a
larger number of minority participants.
Seniors in the College of Education
Using a table of random numbers, a sample of 230 names and addresses
was taken from the official computerized enrollment of the College of
Education, University of Florida. Listed were the current students
enrolled in classes for the Spring term, 1979. The register contained
1750 names, 541 of which were classified as seniors.
Working Educators aged 35-50
This sample of 230 working educators consisted of 115 names
taken randomly from the official computerized personnel list of
Alachua County teachers. The list, which includes date of birth,
was obtained from the personnel office of the Alachua County School
Board and contained a total of 1300 names and addresses -- 344
individuals were between the ages of 35 and 50. This sample also
included 115 University of Florida faculty members, aged 35-50 whose
names and addresses were randomly selected from the computerized
records of the Office of Academic Affairs, University of Florida. Of
the approximately 2700 faculty members of the University of Florida,
1367 were aged 35 to 50.
The names and addresses of 115 persons who were members of the
Alachua County Retired Teachers Association were randomly chosen
from the 191 names listed in the current (1979) year book. Persons
eligible for membership in this organization were retired superintendents,
supervisors, principals, and teachers who live close enough to
Gainesville, Florida to attend the monthly meetings. Another 115
names were randomly selected from the current (1979) membership list
of the Retired Faculty of the University of Florida. The membership
list contained the names and addresses of 235 individuals who had
retired from the faculty of the University of Florida. The list was
obtained from the secretary of the organization. Also included were
17 persons identified by the Personnel Office, Florida A 6 H University,
as being retired faculty members, and 9 members of the Visionnaires,
a woman's social group in Gainesville, Florida. Both of these pop-
ulations were composed of retired Black educators and were included to
increase the total number of Black Americans sampled.
These three populations were chosen to represent three important
periods on the continuum of psycho-social aging and development: Adol-
escence (college seniors), Maturity (working educators), and Senescence
(retired educators) (Pikunas, 1976).
Maslow's hierarchical theory of human needs (1954) is the theoreti-
cal foundation that was utilized in developing the questionnaire
employed in this research. Some of the need areas conceptualized by
Maslow are often difficult to articulate, e.g., self-actualization.
The selection of subjects with an above average level of education
increased the probability of an accurate understanding of the question-
naire items. By utilizing subjects with a vocational interest in the
field of education this researcher increased the chance of previous
exposure to the ideas of Maslow. These ideas are often part of
course work in learning theory or the psychological foundations of
education. A higher than average level of education, previous ex-
posure to the work of Maslow, and a common interest in education as
a vocation are all seen by this researcher as variables that increased
the validity of this study.
Development of the Instrument
As indicated by the literature review, there currently exists no
appropriate instrument for assessing the needs of the older American
over the total needs spectrum. Therefore, a necessary and important
part of this research was the development of the Survey of Needs and
Problems (SNAP) questionnaire. The SNAP was designed to provide the
1. Specific demographic data.
2. The types and inLensity of needs and problems experienced by
3. A measure of attitude toward being involved in counseling.
4. A measure of life satisfaction, five years in the past to five
years in the future.
The items indicating respondent needs and problems are of two
types: 1) statements of need or problem followed by a Likert-type
scale, and 2) open-ended statements. The Likert-type scale items
have the following five response choices: very serious problem for me,
somewhat serious problem for me, hardly any problem for me, true but
no problem for me, and not true for me. These statements of need or
problem are grouped and considered according to the needs categories
used by Maslow (1954). The categories are: physiological, safety,
love/belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization. At the end of
each section space is provided for subjects to list any other needs
or problems that they might have in that specific area.
The following procedures were used in the systematic development
of the SNAP questionnaire:
Generation of Items
A review of the literature on the needs and problems of older
Americans was conducted and the findings were listed in statement
form. Additional items were added by reviewing need assessment in-
struments currently in use in the field of gerontology. This compre-
hensive list of 100 needs and problems was combined with a list of
53 open-ended statements that was constructed to elicit either: 1) a
response that related to a specific need area in the Maslow hierarchy,
or 2) a response that might fall into any one of the need areas, de-
pending on the respondent's frame of reference.
From a review of the literature on the works of Maslow, this
researcher constructed concise definitions of each of the five need
areas (Appendix A).
a panel of experts was chosen that was comprised of two advanced
graduate students in counselor education, an advanced graduate student
and a professor in the psychological foundations of education, and two
senior staff counselors--all from the University of Florida. After
establishing face or conceptual validity of the five need area defi-
nitions (Appendix A) with an agreement criterion of 100%, the
panel of experts was given the combined list of needs and problems and
the open-ended statements (Appendix B), with instructions to check,
for each item, the need area or areas into which subject responses
might fall: physiological, safety, love/belonging, self-esteem,
self-actualization, or all areas. Panel members unsure of how to rate
an item could also check a category marked "don't know." Items
categorized into one or all areas of the hierarchy with 85% agreement
by the panel were included in the SNAP (Appendix C).
The reliability of the SNAP questionnaire was verified by means
of the test-retest method. Thirty subjects were randomly selected,
ten from each of the three major populations to be sampled. Two
administrations of the instrument took place no less than and not more
than two weeks apart. Twenty subjects completed the retest admini-
stration. The reliability coefficient of the instrument (.62) was
determined by analyzing the data from the two administrations. Using
the Spearman r statistic from the Statistical Package for the Social
Sciences (SPSS), the reliability of each need and problem item was
determined at the .05 level of acceptance. Items found not reliable
at this level were either revised or eliminated from the study.
To 690 subjects (230 in each of the three major groups), a letter
with an enclosed post card was mailed. The letter (Appendix D)
introduced the study and asked for participation. Those willing to
participate were asked to mail back the post card. The post card
repeated the statement of informed consent which was in the letter,
and asked participants to fill in their signature and address. The
return rate was 32.2% or a total of 222 post cards. When the research-
er received the post card, the SNAP questionnaire, along with a pre-
addressed stamped envelope was mailed to the address indicated. Of
the 222 questionnaires mailed out, 205 or 92.3% were returned. The use
of the short introductory letter and post card proved to be an excel-
lent method of obtaining a commitment to complete and return the
relatively lengthy (14 page) instrument.
Analysis of Data
After the SNAP questionnaire was administered and collected, the
data received were transferred to code sheets. From these sheets the
data cards for use in computer analysis were punched. The data were
analyzed in the following manner:
Data from the need and problem items (SNAP pp 2-11) were analyzed
using the appropriate programs chosen from the Statistical Package for
the Social Sciences (SPSS). Item responses were given the following
numerical value: 5-very serious problem for me, 4-somewhat serious
problem for me, 3-hardly any problem for me, 2-true but no problem for
me, and 1-not true for me. All items were subjected to 4 post hoc
multiple comparison analyses (3-way ANOVA). Those items showing a
substantial difference in mean scores at the 0.05 level of significance
were further analyzed in a one-way ANOVA using Tukey's test for an
Honestly Significant Difference. Mean and standard deviation scores
were reported. Additional analysis provided the percentage of re-
sponses by item for each response category.
Data on the item rating the relative importance of the five need
areas (SNAP p. 12) were analyzed by response percentages using
frequency tables taken from the SPSS computer program.
Data from the item on attitude toward being involved in counsel-
ing (SNAP p. 13) were analyzed within a multiple comparison analysis
(counseling attitude x purpose of life x group membership). Items
showing a significant difference at the 0.05 level were further analyzed
in a one-way ANOVA using Tukey's test for an Honestly Significant
Difference. Response percentages were also reported.
Data from the open-ended items (SNAP p. 13) were too varied to
allow for direct reporting of responses. Hence, a comprehensive
categorization scheme was designed by the researcher to permit the
data to be reported in a communicative fashion:
Item Number Categorization of Responses
2, 15, 24 1. Focused on self
13 2. Focused on others
3, 5, 8, 1. Positive response
10, 14, 20, 2. Negative response
22 3. Neutral response
4, 8, 12, 1. Physiological need
19, 23 2. Safety need
3. Love/Belonging need
4. Self-esteem need
5. Self-actualization need
1, 21 1. Focused on spouse
2. Focused on family
3. Focused on friends
4. Focused on community, nation
world, or organizations
The data were tabulated by frequency of response and compared among
groups according to specific demographic data, using a one-way analysis
The life satisfaction scale data were analyzed by coding the
numerical value of the response (SNAP p. 14) for each of the ten years.
Possible values ranged from 10 (highest high--things could not be
better) to 1 (lowest low--things could not be worse). Means and
standard deviations were calculated for each group and displayed in
The results of these statistical procedures are located in the
appropriate tabular and graphic forms, and are discussed in Chapter
IV. Conclusions and suggestions for further research are presented
in Chapter V.
Possible limitations of the study may be discussed in terms of
sampling, procedures, adequacy of instrumentation, and response errors.
The selection of highly educated and intelligent people intro-
duced a possible selection bias, since the characteristics of these
subjects are different from the characteristics present in the general
older American population. This situation potentially limits the
extent to which results may be generalized to the entire cohort group
of older Americans.
The sampling procedures discussed in Chapter III introduced
additional possible limitations. Persons contacted to participate in
this study were take from a population that lived in and around a
medium-sized city located in north central Florida. By limiting
subjects to this geographical area, certain response biases may have
been introduced in the resulting data.
All three subject groups were chosen for their common interest
in the field of education. Yet, because or the age and cultural
differences that exist among the three groups, there may have been a
wide range of reasons for making this vocational choice. It cannot
be assumed that the homogeniety of these three groups is necessarily
increased simply by selecting persons who have made a common vocation-
The procedures represent a second source of possible bias in the
results. Many of the SNAP items were stated in the negative and may
have generated a response bias. In addition the test-retest reliability
coefficients for the SNAP questionnaire may have been influenced by
the sample selected. It is possible that the use of a different group
of subjects might have resulted in a lower reliability coefficient.
The third source of possible error was involved in the preparation
and processing of the computer data. Although the key punched cards
were checked for accuracy, errors may have occurred and gone undetected.
Chapter IV reports the results of the analysis of data gathered by
means of the Survey of Needs and Problems. Results are presented in the
following order: Research Sample, Reliability of the Survey of Needs
and Problems, Procedures, and Answers to the Research Questions.
Appropriate tables accompany the discussion or are included in the
A total of 690 persons was contacted by mail and asked to partici-
pate in this study. To the 222 persons (32.2%) who were willing to do
so, the Survey of Needs and Problems (SNAP) questionnaire was mailed,
along with a stamped pre-addressed envelope. The return rate was 92.3%
or 205 persons.
The study population ranged in age from 20 to 91. Although special
efforts were made to increase the possible number of minority partici-
pants by sampling persons known to be Black Americans, the research pop-
ulation included only 18 persons of an ethnic minority race (9 retired
educators, 5 working educators, and 4 senior students). This racial
composition represented a percentage of all three research groups that
is very close to the figures characterizing the minority race make-up of
the state and nationwide older American population. Osterbind (1977)
has estimated that ethnic minorities represent 8.0% of Florida's over-
60 population. The national figure is 9.3% (Califano et. al., 1978).
The primary criterion for including individuals in this study
was membership in one of three groups which are described in the
Seniors in the College of Education, University of Florida
From the initial inquiry addressed to 230 seniors in the
College of Education, 48 or 20.9% completed the SNAP questionnaire.
Table 2 presents demographic data for this group of students and
allows for reader comparison with the other groups in the study.
Of the 48 students comprising the senior student group, 11
(22.9%) were male and 37 (77.1%) were female. This group ranged
in age from 20 to 38 years of age. There were 4 people over the
age of 25. The average age was 22.4.
Over half the students (52.3%) reported having an A.A. degree.
The sampling of this senior student population took place two weeks
before the end of the 1979 spring quarter. Many of these students
viewed themselves as already having earned their bachelor's degree
and 31.8% responded accordingly.
Most students (83.3%) had never been married. Only 7 (14.6%)
were married and none were divorced; one had remarried.
Two thirds (66.7%) lived with a non-relative. Those who
lived with spouse or partner (16.7%) comprised the second largest
category. Ten percent of the students owned their own home or
apartment and,as could have been expected, most (66.7%) rented
either a home or an apartment.
This study included participants who lived in and around
Gainesville, Florida, a medium-sized city in the north central
part of the state. In responding to the qeustion of location, the
great majority (83',) stated that they lived in a medium-sized city
or suburb. The next largest group (12.8%) responded with the cate
gory "town." Only 1.2% responded by saying they lived in either a
big city or a rural area.
As might have been predicted, the students' income was, on the
average, the lowest of the three groups. lost (80.9%) made less
than $5,000 a year.
Working educators comprised the second largest group in the
study (N=59). Of the original 230 persons in this group who were
asked to participate, 25.7% completed and returned the SNAP question-
naire. More males (N=34) than females (N=25) completed and returned
the questionnaire. The same war true for the retired educators' group
(M=59, F=43). 'able 2 presents several demographic variables for the
working educators' group in a way that allows for comparison with the
other two groups of subjects in this study. The educational level for
working educators was higher than for either the senior students or the
retired educators. The majority (76%) had over 6 years of college
education and 8A% reported a master's degree or higher (47% had a Ph.D.
degree). A larger percentage of working educators (78%) was married
than was true for either the senior student or retired educator group.
About 1 out of 7 (15.3%) had never married, and 13.6% lived alone.
Responses to the questionnaire item regarding living arrange-
ments proved difficult to interpret. "Family" was likely to mean
Demographic Data for the Research Populalion: Students, Work ing Educa-
tors and Retired Educators
Years of College
BA or BS
7 14.6 42
1 2.1 4
40 83.3 9
Itiel Frequency % Frequency
Own Home or Apt.
Rent Home or Apt.
Relative's Home or
Rural or Country
10.4 49 84.5 93 01.9
6 10.3 3 3.1
12.5 2 3.4 2 2.0
parents to a college senior, and/or wife and child to a working
educator. If these categories are combined, the majority (81.4%)
of working educators lived with either spouse or family. These twu
categories also provided for the greatest response (72.5%) of
retired educators; although, again, "family" to a retired educator
may have meant living with one's children.
Most (84.5%) working educators owned their home, and about
10.3% rented either a home or an apartment. Responses to thi
location of residence item presented a very similar pattern to
that of both the senior students and retired educators. Most (72.9%)
lived in a medium-sized city, while the next largest response cate-
gory was for those living in a town (15.3%).
Working educators had the largest salaries of any group. The
majority (83.1%) reported an annual salary of over $15,000 and
only 1.7% indicated an income of less than $5,000.
This population was comprised of 55 males and 43 females who
were between the ages of 51 and 91. There were 4 people below the
age of 60 and 6 people above the age of 80. The mean age was 69.6.
As Table 2 indicates, approximately 63.1% of the retired educa-
tors had at least two years of formal education beyond a four year
degree. While this percentage is not quite as high for the working
educators (76.9%), it is far above the national figure for the older
American Population. As of 1077, about 8% of all older Americans
had a four-year college degree (Prior, 1977). A four-year college
degree was held by 98.9% of the retired educators in this study.
Over one third (37.6%) of the retired educators held the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
Most retired educators in this study were married (63.3%)
with "widowed" being the next largest category of response (24.5%).
Over half (64.4%) lived with their spouse or partner and 26.5%
lived alone. The majority (74.0%) of retired educators lived in
a medium-sized city or its suburb. Another 10.4% lived in a small
town and 12.5% lived in the country or a rural area.
The income level of retired educators was quite high compared
to the average income of older Americans in general. The majority
(75%) had an annual income in the $5-10,000 range. Another 12.5%
lived on an income of $15-25,000 a year. These figures are higher
than those reported for the total older American population: over
half of all older Americans live on less than $75.00 a week or
$3,900 a year (Butler & Lewis, 1977).
Nearly all (94.9%) of the retired educators in this study owned
their own home or apartment. Very few (3.1%) lived in rental units,
whether a home or apartrient.
The Survey of Needs and Problems (SNAP) is a 14 page needs
assessment instrument with four sections. The first section on
needs and problems presents 65 statements--each grouped into
one of the five need/problem areas proposed by Maslow (1943, 1954).
Each statement is followed by a Likert-type rating scale: 1) not
true for me, 2) true, but no problem for me, 3) hardly any problem
for me, 4) somewhat serious problem for me, and 5) very serious
problem for me.
The second section of the SNAP asks respondents their person-
al preference or attitude toward being involved in counseling. The
third section is a list of 23 open-ended statements, and the fourth
section is a question regarding life satisfaction five years in
the past to five years in the future.
A post hoc reliability analysis was conducted on the items
in the first section of the SNAP. A Pearson r correlation pro-
vided a covariance matrix consisting of each item within a
specific need/problem area. Reliability coefficients were ex-
pressed in terms of a standardized alpha score. Alpha levels
greater than 0.80 are considered a measure of high homogeneity.
The five need/problem areas of the SNAP had the following alpha
Physiological 0.84 Self-Esteem 0.90
Safety 0.72 Self-Actualization 0.80
For all individual items in the first section of the SNAP
questionnaire an alpha value was calculated which indicated
what the alpha values for the need/problem area would be if that
particular item was deleted. If alpha values rise as a result of
the exclusion of the item it should be considered for revision or
omission from the questionnaire. Only 2 items out of a field of
65 showed an increased alpha level when they were omitted from
their respective need/problem area: safety item 2, "I don't know
my way around where I live" and love/belonging item 13, "there is
no honesty between us" (spouse or partner). However, both these
items raised the alpha level by a value of only .01.
Ddtd analysis which sought to answer the research questions
began with a one-way analysis (ANOVA) of the need/problem items of
the Survey of Needs and Problems (SNAP) questionnaire. The one-
way analysis by group memlbership--senior students, working edu-
cators, and retired educacors--provided mean score responses on
all 65 need/problem items. An alpha level of 0.05 was the criterion
used for evaluating statistical significance throughout this research
A second perspective on responses to the 65 need/problem items
was obtained by analyzing frequency of response using a program
from the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). The
resulting data were analyzed to determine which items had the high-
est percentage of responses in the Likert scale categories of (4)
"somewhat serious problem for me," and (5) "very serious problem
In order to conduct a thorough analysis of the data generated
by the need/problem items, it was necessary to perform several post
hoc multiple comparisons using a variety of demographic items as
the independent variables.
Four separate multiple classification analyses (ANOVA) examined
the need/problem items with respect to the following variables:
1. Location of residence x race x group membership
2. Living arrangement x sex x group membership
3. Purpose of life x attitude towards counseling x group
4. Group membership x income level x marital status
Where the F values for main effects were significant at the 0.05
level, further analyses were conducted. A one-way ANOVA was per-
formed on the appropriate items in order to isolate the effects of
the specific variables.
Data generated within each of the five need/problem areas of
the SNAP--physiological, safety, love/belonging, self-esteem, and
self-actualization--were analyzed to determine which item was
considered the most important need or problem for each group of
respondents. Subjects were encouraged to add their own need or
problem items and these responses were analyzed to determine where,
within the five need/problem areas, the greatest frequency of re-
In order to obtain a clear picture of the strength and arrange-
ment of the need/problem areas rather than individual items, the
researcher activated an SPSS program that reported pooled means
by need/problem area for each group of respondents within the
total study population.
Pooled mean data were utilized in comparing the relative
strength of lower--physiological and safety--needs and higher--
love/belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization--needs.
Responses to the open-ended statement items (1-24) of the SNAP
were coded in the following manner:
Item number Categorization of Response
2, 15, 24, 1. Focused on self
3 2. Focused on others
3, 5, 8, 1. Positive response
10, 14, 20, 2. Negative response
22 3. Neutral response
Item Number Categorization of Response
4, 8, 12, 1. Physiological need
19, 23 2. Safety need
3. Love/Belonging need
4. Self-esteem need
5. Self-actualization need
1, 21 1. Focused on spouse
2. Focused on family
3. Focused on friends
4. Focused on community, nation,
world, or organizations
The data were tabulated by frequency of response and compared
among groups according to specific demographic data, using a one-
way analysis from SPSS.
The Survey of Needs and Problems item measuring life satis-
faction asked participants to draw a line on a graph which repre-
sents their perception of how satisfied they have felt about their
life in the past five years, how satisfied they feel today, and
what they expect their life satisfaction to be like over the next
five years. The range of possible responses was from 1, "lowest
low--things couldn't be worse," to 10, "highest high--things
couldn't be better." Mean scores and standard deviations were
taken from a one-way analysis of the data on each response year.
Research Questions 1 & 2
What are the needs and problems of older Americans?
How do the strength and arrangement of
these needs change over time?
Because the senior student and working educator groups were
included in this study to give a perspective for viewing the needs
and problems of older Americans as well as to provide a cross-
sectional measure to assess tle change in needs and problems over
time, the above two research questions are treated simultaneously.
Table 3 presents the need/problema items of the Survey of eedis and
Problems questionnaire grouped into five need areas and prei::nted,
according to the hierarchical scliene proposed by Maslow (i19)i),
physiological needs through sell-actualiztion needs.
The grand mean score of each item represents the mean scores
of all participants in this study. Iean scores are also presented
for each group of subjects. Tile general picture presented by
Table 3 is one of a relatively low range of mean scores for all
three subject groups. Separate tables were compiled that ordered
the mean scores for responses to all need/problem items by group
membership. While the major focus of this research is the needs
and problems of older Americans, tabular data on students (Table 4)
and working educators (Table 5) are presented first in order to
provide a frame of reference for changes in the needs and problems
of older Americans over time. This is a classical example of the
cross-sectional sampling approach used here to help further under-
standing of the life growth continuum.
Table 4 presents the mean score and standard deviation for the
responses made ly senior students in the College of Education. Mean
scores for all 65 need/problem items were ranked according, to
subject responses which indicated the seriousness of the item as a
problem. The mean scores ranged from a low of 1. 0--physiological
item 17, "I have a hearing loss," and physiological item 1i, "I
Need/Problem Item Responses of Study Population by Group Indicatiing
Grand Means, Group Heans and SigLnificance of F.
Mean Senior Work ng Retired Significance
Item Total Students Educa':ors Educators of F
1 2.0 2.49 2.40 1.04 .412
2 1.88 1.8: 1.83 1.93 .440
3 1.82 1.83 1.88 1.79 .826
4 1.60 2.00 1.60 1.40 .016"
5 2.16 2.34 2.40 1.91 .041*'
6 1.35 1.85 1.28 1.15 .000"
7 1.44 1.85 1.47' 1.22 .001"
8 1.41 3.31 1.45 1.45 .991
9 1.68 1.50 1.57 1.85 .129
10 1.52 1.63 1.53 1.46 .464
11 1.88 2.22 1.75 1.34 .000-'
12 1.65 1.23 1.42 2.00 .000"
13 1.41 1.30 1.144 1.42 .344
14 1.47 1.73 1.39 1.40 .312
15 1.25 1.15 1.15 1.35 .057
16 1.27 1.13 1.19 1.39 .252
17 1.63 1.00 1.45 2.04 .000'0
n1 1.75 1.39 1.47 2.10 .000"
19 1.18 1.00 1.08 1.34 .010'
20 1.75 1.24
2.20 .000 "'
Table 3 continued
Mean Senior Working Retired ign ificdrnc-
Item Total Students Educators Educators of F
21 1.22 1.32 1.33 1.13 .25'
1 1.99 2.54 1.80 1.82 .005
2 1.11 1.23 1.03 1.09 .062
3 2.19 2.29 1.79 2.29 .209
4 3.19 3.27 3.17 3.17 .657
5 1.88 1.79 2.14 1.77 .099
6 2.00 2.58 1.81 1.81 .011'
7 1.53 1.93 1.44 1.36 .090
8 2.26 2.71 2.10 2.12 .029"
0 3.36 3.44 3.59 3.13 .114
1 2.09 2.13 2.14 1.88 .108
2 1.64 1.59 1.71 1.62 .300
3 1.71 2.09 1.80 1.47 .006*
4 1.85 1.93 1.80 1.84 .852
5 1.67 1.78 1.86 1.49 .085
6 1.60 1.42 1.60 1.60 .144
7 1.80 2.00 1.92 1.64 .320
11 1.60 1.47 1.':2 1.45 .032
19 1.44 1.50 1.62 1.30 .372
Table 3 -continued
M1 an Snior Wo k ing
Item To al Studlent ers Educatoi
1: ucaILorS of F
Tdble 3 -continued
Senior Working Retired Significance
Students L.ducators Educators of F
*Significanit at 0.05 level
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3.44--safety item 9, "my expenses are increasing." Of the top ten
items receiving the highest ranking, six are either in the physio-
logical or safety areas--areas Maslow (1948) calls lower order needs.
Only 17 of the 65 items had a mean response score above response
category 3, "hardly any problem for me." Two items--safety item
9, "my expenses are increasing," and safety item 4, "I worry about
the state of the nation"--were also the two top rated items for
both the working educators and retired educators (see Tables 5 & 6).
The need/problem data on working educators were ordered by
mean scores in Table 5. The mean score and standard deviation are
presented for each item. Mean scores ranged from a low of 1.03
(safety item 2, "I don't know my way around where I live") to a
high of 3.59 (safety item 9, "my expenses are increasing"). There
were 13 items out of a field of 65 that had a mean score above 2.00.
The items were fairly evenly divided among the 5 need areas. Four
were safety items, 3 were self-esteem items, and 2 items were from
each of the physiological, love/belonging, and self-actualization
The 65 need/problem items of the SNAP were rank ordered by
the mean response scores of retired educators and are presented in
Table 6. The range of mean scores was very close to the range
found to exist within the student and working educator groups. The
low mean score was 1.11 for safety area item 2, "I don't know my
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