Older Taiwanese women
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A dramatically aging population is a worldwide challenge in the 21st century. To age successfully is an objective for individuals and societies as a whole. The main studies of successful aging have largely missed the voices of women and ethnic minorities. The purpose of this study was to understand older Taiwanese women’s learning through volunteering and the role of that learning in successful aging. Four research questions guided this study: (1) How do older Taiwanese women define successful aging? (2) How and what do older Taiwanese women learn through volunteering? (3) How does the learning through volunteering influence older Taiwanese women’s successful aging? (4) How does the Taiwanese cultural context shape the definitions/perceptions of successful aging of older women? A qualitative design was employed. Fourteen older Taiwanese women who aged 60 and older and had volunteered regularly for at least two years were selected for this study. This study helped build an understanding of what successful aging means by asking older adults themselves. For these older Taiwanese women, successful aging was defined as (1) being healthy, (2) having no financial worries, (3) maintaining good relationships and connections, (4) continuing contributing to society through volunteering, and (5) having a good death. Volunteering is a learning context as well as a learning resource for these older women to connect old and new experiences. By means of various ways, these older women developed and learned wisdom, knowledge, and skills. Learning through volunteering facilitated the perceived successful aging of the older women by (1) establishing a meaningful life, (2) building and improving relationships, (3) enhancing positive changes and self-evaluation, and (4) promoting physical and psychological health. Four cultural factors were found relevant to the perceived successful aging: (1) a changing intergenerational dynamic, (2) believing in karma, cause-and-effect, and fatalism, (3) being satisfied with what one has, and (4) valuing a good death. Three conclusions were drawn based on the findings of this study. First, elder learning through volunteering facilitates positive development. Second, volunteering is a holistic approach to older adults’ successful aging. Third, perceptions of successful aging are gender-related as well as cultural-specific.