Within the field of gerontology, some notable attempts to explain the aging process include activity theory, disengagement theory, Erikson's eight stages model, and socioemotional selectivity theory. The theory of gerotranscendence, recently developed by Lars Tornstam (1989), incorporates some aspects of these theories, and seeks to provide an overarching theme to the process of aging. The theory of gerotranscendence explains a shift in meta-perspective that a person experiences as they live, from a more materialistic and pragmatic view of the world to a more cosmic and transcendent one. Corresponding with this shift, the gerotranscendent individual exhibits certain behaviors, some of which have been considered by nursing staff, in previous research, to be signs of pathology. The purpose of this study is to examine the findings of previous research and study the difference in perception of gerotranscendence between college students and older adults. This was done by quantifying the perception of these behaviors as they are described within a specific context of a narrative about an older adult living in a facility. It was hypothesized that older adults would be less likely to rate these behaviors as "unusual" or "concerning". Results of this study found some evidence in support of previous findings and our hypothesis. Some behaviors of gerotranscendence were found to be unusual or concerning by our college student sample, and college students were also more likely than older adults to rate these behaviors as concerning or unusual.


Jeffrey Buchanan

Committee Member

Eric Sprankle

Committee Member

Donald Ebel

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)




Social and Behavioral Sciences

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License



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