Social Sources of Meaning in Later Life
Richard A. Settersten Jr.
EDITORS' INTRODUCTION Settersten approaches the issue of meaning in the Third ge by examining the extensive literature on the determinants of our values and our goals. There are, of course, many influences, but most important may be those we experience as we participate in our social worlds. We make sense to ourselves as we seek to make sense to others. We feel secure in our ability to make a difference as we witness our effectiveness. We also evaluate ourselves partly on the basis of others' evaluations of us. We are likely to lose confidence in ourselves should we see ourselves being treated as marginal and irrelevant.
Settersten considers how our connections to others give point to our daily existence throughout our lives. In the Third Age, as at other times of life, our dominant concerns are apt to be relational: we try to maintain our own emotional well-being through interaction with others, and we worry about the emotional well-being of those close to us. Yet our relationships are likely to undergo change. Siblings whose paths had, through adulthood, diverged from our own, become more a part of ongoing life. Our friendships change: we have fewer work-related friendships, perhaps fewer friendships overall, but a new appreciation of friendships of long standing. Our marital and familial relationships absorb more of our time and energy.