Here we will examine the findings of Neugarten, specifically of how the aging process interacts with a person’s personality. This interaction ultimately leads to successful or disorganized aging.
Interaction of Aging and Personality
We’ve discussed in other lessons how aging will change your personality.
We don’t remain exactly the same through our whole lives. Life would be very different if we did. Could you imagine your grandmother acting like she did in her 20s? Oh, the Charleston!When we’re looking at aging, we see that personality changes over time. What if we wanted to see how personalities would react to time? That is what Bernice Neugarten did in the 1940s when she examined what actually happens as a person aged instead of dealing with assumptions and stereotypes. Neugarten’s personality styles are a categorization of how different people’s personalities react to the aging process. This is to say, some people will age very well and take everything in, and some people will act as if they’re allergic to the aging process and attempt to fight it.Neugarten’s findings are broken up into four distinct styles: disintegrated/disorganized, defended, passive-dependent and integrated.
We will examine each one separately.
Let’s start off with the worst one first. The disintegrated/disorganized are the least successful type of aging, in which an individual displays marked physical and psychological defects with aging. Let’s look at an example of what this may look like.Dawn is a 58-year-old woman who is having difficulty with the aging process.
Dawn dresses like she’s in her early 20s, has recently dyed her hair an unnatural shade and spends Fridays and Saturdays at the bar. Dawn’s children worry about their mother, who is acting like one of her grandkids instead of like a grandparent.Disintegrated and disorganized people attempt to fight the aging process by reverting back to a younger age.
It is an unhealthy and destructive form of denial. Everyone is getting older, but those who are disorganized do not incorporate the aging process into who they are. Instead, they will act and think as if they were much younger.
Obviously, their life satisfaction is down the toilet.
There are some people who will fight against the aging process but hold it together. The defended are individuals who see aging as a threatening event and seek to shield themselves from it.
Similar to the disintegrated and disorganized, this individual does not like the idea of aging. Something about cheaper meals at restaurants is just offensive to them. But unlike the disorganized person, these people are holding it together; they are just valiantly fighting against something that is inevitable.Defended individuals come in two flavors. Holders on attempt to retain roles and status and will avoid drops in involvement and status. Here is the person who is trying to keep hold of everything.
This is Chuck, the 70-year-old man who could have retired a while ago but continues to work. Chuck, unlike Dawn, will likely be satisfied with his life choices.The constricted are preoccupied with losses and will avoid events where they will come into contact with these losses. Here we have Calvin, who has worked his entire life and lost his family and friends because he put so much into work.
Calvin does not want to go home; he doesn’t want to go to parties; he wants to work, because at work, he still has something even though he has lost everything else. Obviously, Calvin will likely suffer low life satisfaction due to this.
The passive-dependent are people who need more assistance than would actually be expected.
Here we have the elderly who are physically capable of moving and doing things but lament their aging body. If you’ve ever seen any of the Willy Wonka movies or read the books, this is Uncle Joe lying in bed.Our first type of passive-dependent people are succor seekers. They can be described as an older person who seeks out support from others. This is our Uncle Joe to a T.
The individual will find someone to take care of them. This type of person can have high life satisfaction if they can find someone to take care of them.The other type of person is described as apathetic, which is when an older individual is passive about their life. This is someone who needs help moving but does not actively seek someone to help them.
Here we have Bob who sits at home every day and will go to family events if someone picks him up and helps him get dressed. But other than that, he tends to stay home and do nothing. This type of person will likely have very low life satisfaction.
The integrated type is an older individual who is high functioning, involved and capable. Here we have the most successful and capable person. They take the aging in stride and understand that while they aren’t 20 anymore, they can still do a lot.
Integrated individuals come in three different flavors. Reorganizers are older individuals who change their life course, substituting new roles for old ones. This is where we get Amy, who lived her life as an executive and worked diligently. But now in retirement, she has turned to a life of adventure and travel. She has reorganized her life. These people often have high life satisfaction.
There are those who become focused and are older individuals who reduce the number of activities. A focused individual may be Andrew, who is a schoolteacher, daredevil and artist. By focusing, Andrew doesn’t do much daredevil stuff anymore but occasionally does art stuff. He now focuses mostly on teaching. Andrew is likely to have moderate levels of life satisfaction, but this is dependent on how he chooses what to do.The last type is disengaged, which is when an older individual withdraws from life but on their own terms.
Here we have Aubrey, who has been getting sicker and more tired as she gets older. She realized she can’t do all the stuff she used to. So instead of fighting it, she slowly and graciously bows out of her current demands and focuses on herself. A person with this type of life will likely struggle with life satisfaction because many people who fall into this category deal with things like lower energy levels.
Neugarten’s personality styles are an examination of how personality reacts to the aging process. There are four types.
Disintegrated/disorganized is the least successful type of aging, in which an individual displays marked physical and psychological defects with aging. It is strongly related to denial of the aging process.Defended, which is older individuals who see the aging process as a threatening event and seek to shield against it. The first type is holders on, who attempt to retain roles and status and will avoid drops in involvement and status. The second type is constricted, where they are preoccupied with losses and will avoid events where they will come into contact with these losses.The passive-dependent are people who need more assistance than would actually be expected.
Our first type of passive-dependent people are the succor seekers, or an older person who seeks out support from others. The second type is apathetic, in which an older individual is passive about their life.Integrated is when we see an older individual who is high functioning, involved and capable. There are reorganizers, who are older individuals who change their life course, substituting new roles for old ones. They can be focused, or an older individual who reduces the number of activities.
And they can be disengaged, which is when an older individual withdraws from life but on their own terms.
After completing this lesson, you should be able to:
- Identify Bernice Neugarten’s personality styles
- Describe the least successful types of the disinterested/disorganized style
- Detail the types of defended age fighters
- Recognize those who need help or don’t ask in the passive-dependent
- Understand how the integrated reorganize their lives to make the most of aging