Possible selves of older adults entering a life plan community

No Thumbnail Available
Issue Date
Embargo End Date
Pontinen, Heidi M.
Medvene, Louis J.
Gerstenkorn, Jeanne

Heidi M. Pontinen, Louis J. Medvene & Jeanne Gerstenkorn (2019) Possible selves of older adults entering a life plan community, Educational Gerontology


This study examined the possible selves, goals, and perceptions of “time left” of older adults soon after they entered a life plan community as independent living residents. There has been little research regarding the effect of this life transition on older adults’ self-concept, hopes, and fears. Eighteen residents participated in one-hour personal interviews about their reasons for moving, their possible selves, goals, and perception of time left. Time left was measured in two ways: residents were asked to estimate the number of years they had left and were also asked to mark, on a novel visual analogue measure, how “limited” or “expanded” their time left felt to them. Residents were found to have an average of 6.18 possible selves in total, with more hoped-for possible selves (m = 4.39) than feared possible selves (m = 1.78). The majority of the goals were maintenance goals, followed by self-improvement goals and then avoidance goals. Residents estimated that they would live for 11.64 more years, and the majority reported that this felt like “a lot of time.” Based on their responses to the novel visual analogue measure of time left, two-thirds of the participants reported that their time left felt “expanded” rather than “limited.” Consistent with predictions based on socioemotional selectivity theory, participants with longer subjective life expectancies reported more self-improvement goals and more hoped-for selves. Participants identified more possible selves than documented in previous studies, including almost twice as many hoped-for possible selves.

Table of Content
Click on the DOI link to access the article (may not be free).