Self-compassionate responses to aging

Gerontologist. 2014 Apr;54(2):190-200. doi: 10.1093/geront/gns204. Epub 2013 Feb 7.


Purpose: Evidence suggests that self-compassion may be beneficial to older adults who are struggling to cope with the aging process. The purpose of this study was to assess the thoughts of self-compassionate older adults and to determine whether self-compassionate thoughts relate to positive responses to aging.

Design and methods: Participants (n = 121, M = 76.2 years, approximately 65% female) completed measures of self-compassion and self-esteem; were randomly assigned to write about a positive, negative, or neutral age-related event; and completed questions about the event and their reactions. Responses were coded for self-compassionate themes and emotional tone.

Results: Analyses indicated that self-compassion predicted positive responses to aging and that self-compassionate thoughts explained the relationship between trait self-compassion and emotional tone as well as the belief that one's attitude helped them cope with age-related events.

Implications: Although older adults who were low versus high in self-compassion experienced similar age-related events, participants high in self-compassion thought about these events in ways that predicted positive outcomes. Encouraging older adults to be more self-compassionate may improve well-being in old age.

Keywords: Aging; Coping; Self-compassion; Self-esteem.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Attitude*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Concept*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires