Awareness of Age-Related Change: A Cross-Cultural Collaboration (AARC-COLL)
Funded by a grant of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation under its Transcoop Funding Scheme awarded to
Manfred Diehl, Colorado State University & Hans-Werner Wahl, Heidelberg University
The awareness of growing older is a fundamental subjective experience during the adult years. This awareness has been documented in similar ways across cultures and subjective age is a robust predictor of a number of important physical, psychological, and social outcomes. AARC-COLL builds on the existing research on subjective age and age identity and extends this work by focusing on Awareness of Age-Related Change (AARC). Diehl and Wahl (2010; Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences) define AARC as a person’s state of awareness that his or her behavior, level of performance, or way of experiencing life has changed as a consequence of having grown older. Several points are important to note here. First, in contrast to the concepts of subjective age or age identity, the emphasis of AARC is on being aware that something in one’s life has changed due to aging. Second, from an assessment perspective this emphasis requires, at a minimum, that a person can verbalize his or her age-related change experiences or can provide a subjective evaluation of his or her perceptions. Third, it is essential for the concept of AARC that individuals attribute the perceived change to having grown older, that is to chronological age and to the passing of time.
AARC-Coll is a new initiative that builds on several years of preparatory work of the two research partners, Prof. Dr. Manfred Diehl from the Colorado State University, USA, and Prof. Dr. Hans-Werner Wahl from the Heidelberg University, Germany. Based on the theoretical framework/model that Diehl and Wahl have already developed (Diehl & Wahl, 2010), the primary aim of this project is to develop a new measurement instrument that consolidates and extends previous measurement approaches, builds on our theoretical model, and focuses specifically on adults’ perceptions of age-related change. A secondary goal of the project is to bring together researchers from Germany, North America, and beyond who have addressed questions of self-perceptions of aging and their longitudinal outcomes. The ultimate goal in this context is to expand the conceptual and empirical potential of the AARC model to the broader research community. Our primary aim focuses on the development of a self-report questionnaire for assessing AARC, and the adoption of the questionnaire for research in Germany and the U.S. Preparatory work has already produced promising findings and this project permits the continuation of this work. Under the unifying umbrella of our AARC approach, this work will be complemented by the examination of existing longitudinal data sets from Germany and the U.S. The secondary aim includes a series of workshops and a conference to establish an international forum for discussion and elaboration of topics related to AARC. Both goals explicitly include the involvement and training of emerging scholars in the areas of developmental science, aging, and social gerontology.
Overall, AARC-Coll is strongly rooted in Prof. Diehl’s and Prof. Wahl’s past research and represents a logical continuation of their endeavors to better understand the interplay of objective and subjective predictors of successful aging.
The project has started in July 2010 and is planned to continue until June 2013.