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UofL School of Nursing researcher plans to build on successful aging theory

LOUISVILLE, Ky. People who feel a purpose in life and who can cope with change are poised to age successfully. That is what Valerie McCarthy, RN, PhD, assistant professor, University of Louisville School of Nursing, found through her theory-based research.

McCarthy wants to build on this research and hopes connections made and lessons learned through the Geriatric Nursing Research Scholars Program at the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing (HIGN) - will help in the process.

McCarthy was one of 12 geriatric nursing researchers selected for the competitive week-long, intensive, summer seminar held at the New York University College of Nursing beginning August 1.

"These seminars are important to help faculty refine their programs of research that will hopefully lead to significant implications for practice," said Marcia Hern, EdD, CNS, RN, dean and professor, UofL School of Nursing. "We are very proud of Valerie for her selection to this prestigious summer scholar program."

Helping faculty develop research skills to assist them in gaining a competitive edge for funding is another goal of the program.

This year, McCarthy hopes to apply for funding to build on her current theory of successful aging which she said is not the absence of disease or physical difficulty, but the ability to choose and accomplish goals that are personally important while maintaining a sense of connectedness and meaning in life.

McCarthy developed this definition by measuring two factors adaptation and transcendence.

"Adaptation is a person's ability to cope and transcendence is a late in life change in how we see things, a change in perspective," McCarthy said.

McCarthy learned from her initial research, that transcendence was two and a half times more responsible in determining successful aging than adaptation.

If she finds, through future research that people continue to feel this way over time, then she hopes to develop interventions or treatments to help older adults move toward a sense of well-being and a positive aging experience. McCarthy said feeling connected to nature, being creative and engaging in contemplative things like journaling or meditation can help grow transcendence.


Contact: Julie Heflin
University of Louisville

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