"Who's Been Putting Socks in My Drawer?" Narrative Case Study of an Elder Role Model

Helen Q. Kivnick, Molly C. Driessen, Chittaphone Santavasy, Clair Wardwell, Linda Duncan Davis, Barbara J. Bowers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background and Objectives: This article presents a narrative-based case study about vital involvement in an elder role model, exploring the dimensions of this man's current vital involvement and identifying its lifelong expressions that appear, in older adulthood, to have enabled him to become such an exemplar. This case was chosen from a larger study of "Elder Roles Models", that explores: (i) What about these particular older adults (identified by colleagues, friends, program directors, and service providers) constitutes their "elder role model-hood"; and (ii) How, developmentally, they got to be this way in older adulthood. This case study addresses the first of these questions by identifying five dimensions of vital involvement. Research Design and Methods: Case study data were collected through five, semi-structured life-history interviews conducted over the 3 months. Interviews (90-120 minutes, each) were transcribed and analyzed using a thematic analysis approach. Findings: Five dimensions emerged as constituting this man's vital involvement in older adulthood: (i) enacting personal values and strengths; (ii) person-environment reciprocity; (iii) using environmental supports; (iv) enriching the environment; and (v) experience-based perspective. Discussion and Implications: Dimensions are contextualized in terms of gerontological and life-cycle research, theory, and practice. A fundamental principle of Erikson's theory of lifelong psychosocial development, the vital involvement dynamic, is suggested as an "umbrella concept"for integrating disparate gerontological practices, theories, and research, and for conceptualizing older adulthood in the context of the life cycle as a whole.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)831-840
Number of pages10
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America. All rights reserved.


  • Erikson
  • Life course/life span
  • Life-cycle theory
  • Psychosocial development
  • Qualitative analysis: Case study
  • Qualitative analysis: Thematic analysis
  • Vital involvement
  • Well-being


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