Successful Aging, Positive Aging and Optimal Aging

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The research methodology focuses on the research process and the procedures that will be used to investigate FLOW in retirement. According to Leedy (1997, p. 5), research methodology is “a process through which we attempt to achieve systematically and with the support of data the answer to a question, the resolution of a problem, or a greater understanding of a phenomenon”. The aim of choosing a research methodology is to control and plan for how and where the data should be gathered and organised, and how the raw data should be refined, in order to interpret the data in a meaningful way so that possible conclusions can be drawn from it (Leedy, 1997).
Babbie and Mouton (2006, pp. 75-78) distinguish between research methodology and research design as follows:

  • Research methodology focuses on the research process and the procedures that need to be used, e.g. type of data collection, which in this research will be by means of the case study approach (to be fully discussed on page 135), i.e. using primary data as opposed to analyzing existing text data, such as textual criticism or numeric data (secondary data).
  • Research design focuses on the kind of study and on the type of evidence needed to answer the research questions. According to Babbie and Mouton (2006, p. 72), “research design…addresses the planning of scientific inquiry – designing a strategy for finding out something.” The research design for this explorative study is mainly of a qualitative nature or an “insider perspective on social action” (Babbie & Mouton, 2006, p. 53), i.e. the FLOW experiences of the nine participants as they relate to retirement.
    In this chapter, three main research approaches (the qualitative approach versus the quantitative approach, and the mixed methods approach) and four main research designs (case study, ethnography, grounded theory, and phenomenology) will be discussed. The rationale behind choosing the case study design will be explained. As background to this discussion, the philosophical roots or theoretical underpinning of these designs will also be discussed. Issues pertaining to reliability, validity and triangulation will be examined as part of the case study praxis, before continuing to the quantitative questionnaires and the reasons for including them in this research study. A brief discussion on ethics will conclude this chapter.
    Before proceeding to these discussions, the focus needs to return to the research questions as delineated in Chapter 1. Finding answers to research questions motivate the use of certain specific research approaches and methods, which will be introduced in this chapter. The research questions are thus the rationale behind the methodology, as they are the first step in attempting to find answers, which will culminate in presenting the findings in the next chapter.

Research Questions and Purpose

The research questions used to answer the research objectives were exploratory in nature, and the questions helped to focus and limit the research scope (Yin, 2003):
an finding FLOW promote successful aging? Alternatively, is experiencing FLOW a good indicator of successful adaptation to retirement?
Can knowing one’s FLOW interests inspire one to become involved in some of society’s needs and challenges (transcending the self) in a sustainable way, for example through social entrepreneurship or volunteering?In a qualitative study the research purpose is to describe, explore, explain or build a theory in a process-oriented and inductive way, with small samples of participants (Leedy, 1997). A qualitative study also entails using inductive analyses and reporting in a personalised narrative style. Inductive reasoning is used when specific cases are studied to understand more of a phenomenon, in this case FLOW in Retirement, and its possible application areas, such as social entrepreneurship. Findings can only be generalised to a class of the same type of cases (Leedy, 1997). A quantitative study on the other hand, predicts, explains and tests a theory in an outcome-oriented and deductive fashion to generalise the information to the population using an objective and scientific style (Leedy, 1997). Deductive analysis entails reasoning from a general theory or hypothesis to a specific conclusion, which is then generalised to the population (Leedy, 1997).
According to Babbie and Mouton (2006, pp. 79-81), three of the most used means of doing social research are through exploration, description, and explanation. Description aims to observe and then describe “situations and events.” Explanation addresses the question of WHY things happen or exist, therefore to “indicate causality between variables or events”. Exploration can be done for various reasons, such as to determine priorities for future research or to develop a new hypothesis about the research topic. In this study, however, the main aim is to examine or explore the topic (Babbie & Mouton, 2006), in this instance, FLOW in retirement, to gain a better understanding thereof, and to explore possible fields of application, such as volunteering and social entrepreneurship. The aim is to ascertain how this can benefit successful aging, or adapting successfully to retirement, and living meaningfully in the post-retirement years.

Epistemological Background

Before proceeding to depict the research approaches and designs, it would be appropriate to describe the roots qualitative and quantitative research briefly. According to Leedy (1997), these roots are primarily found in the fields of anthroplogy, sociology, psychology, medicine, law and philosophy, or categorised differently, the fields of arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences (Babbie & Mouton, 2006). According to Babbie and Mouton (2006, p. 8), the word “epistemic” comes from the Greek word “episteme” which means “truthful knowledge,” thus Epistemology can also be described as the scientific search for truthful or valid knowledge. Epistemology “investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge” ( The methodologies involved are inter alia quantitative and qualitative approaches to research (Babbie & Mouton, 2006).
Critical consideration about the character of scientific investigation or the “metatheoretical tradition” of the social sciences can be divided into three main schools of thought, namely positivism, phenomenology or the interpretivist tradition, and critical theory (Babbie & Mouton, p. 28). The term “metatheory” is used as a synonym to “philosophy of sience”, “metascience” and “epistemology of science” (Babbie & Mouton, 2006, p. xxiv).


Positivism follows the quantitative methodology of the natural sciences which focuses on biology, physiology, and the medical perspective (Babbie & Mouton, 2006). Positivism focuses on the similarities between the natural and social sciences (Babbie & Mouton, 2006). Auguste Comte (1798-1857) developed the crux of the positivist theory between 1826 and 1829, and is regarded as the father of positivism (Babbie & Mouton, 2006). Two assumptions underlie this tradition: 1) the natural sciences are more developed than the social sciences due to a superior methodology and 2) there are adequate similarities between the social and natural sciences and therefore the methodology of the natural sciences can be applied to the social sciences. The objectives of the two research areas are comparable, and because natural and social phenomena are very similar, similar methodologies can be used. Other important standpoints are inter alia a focus on doing research in an objective way, and without taking social values into consideration.
Positivist, traditional, experimental or empiricist research is the research of choice for quantitative studies, and are in essence used as synonyms, according to Leedy (1997). This research is rooted in the belief in an objective reality that can be described by using numbers and statistics to answer questions about measured variables and their relationship to other variables (Babbie & Mouton, 2006; Leedy, 1997). The methodologies related to this approach are inter alia descriptive surveys, and non-experimental and experimental research (Leedy, 1997, p. 104). These will not be discussed, as they are not relevant to this study.


The phenomenological or the interpretivist tradition, which provides the context for this research study, focuses on the differences between the natural and social sciences, and therefore the purpose is to understand (“Verstehen”) and describe human behaviour from an “insider perspective” (emic perspective), and not to explain or predict human behaviour (Babbie & Mouton, pp. 28 & 53). Thus, the essence of this type of reseach is to understand and describe human behaviour (Babbie & Mouton, 2006).
People are viewed as constantly trying to understand themselves and humankind: “We continuously interpret, create, and give meaning to, define, justify and rationalize our actions” (Babbie & Mouton, 2006, p. 28). The interpretations people are constantly making about their lives should receive prominence when doing social science research (Babbie & Mouton, 2006).Phenomenology owes many of its premises to the writing of Alfred Schutz in the 1940’s. Schutz tried to analyse and understand everyday realities and also emphasised self-understanding (Babbie & Mouton, 2006). The qualitative research approach is also known as the interpretive, the naturalistic, the constructivist and the post-positivist approach, according to Leedy (1997).


 Critical Theory

Critical theory originated with the work of Karl Marx in the nineteenth century with his critical assessment of the capitalist society. He was in favour of the “scientific study of society” (Babbie & Mouton, 2006, p. 34), as merely understanding human behaviour is not the same as adding value to the lives of ordinary people. The aim of this theory is therefore to bring about social change in society, focusing on empowerment, especially of those who are marginalised, so that people can be liberated, e.g. the feminist drive of the 1970’s (Babbie & Mouton, 2006). Thus, critical theorists make use of positivism as well as phenomenology, but in a pragmatic way (Babbie & Mouton, 2006). The methodology of choice for critical theorists is usually participatory action research (Babbie & Mouton, 2006).
The epistemology underlying this research is of an explorative nature. According to Leedy (1997) and Babbie and Mouton (2006), many people see a positivist approach as opposing the explorative approach, but they can in fact be, and are used in complementary ways, as in this research study. These research approaches will now be briefly discussed.
Leedy (1997) believes that both types of research traditions provide valuable, yet different, answers to research questions, and both approaches can culminate in meaningful research.

 Research Approaches

There are four main research approaches that can be employed to collect and analyse data and answer research questions in the social sciences, namely a quantitative approach, a qualitative approach (Babbie & Mouton, 2006, Creswell, 2003; Leedy, 1997), a mixed method research approach (Creswell, 2003), and a participatory approach (Babbie & Mouton, 2006). The latter refers to the involvement of participants and politics in social research (Babbie & Mouton, 2006). The type of data will determine which research approach to use: “The data dictate the research methodology” (Leedy, 1997, p. 104). Thus, only the three most relevant approaches to the case study design that was used for this research study will now be briefly discussed, namely the quantitative, qualitative and mixed method approaches.

 The Quantitative Approach

A quantitative approach is appropriate to test the implications of a pre-formulated hypothesis “to answer questions about the relationship among measured variables” with the aim of explaining or predicting an outcome by isolating relevant variables, and controlling for unrelated or irrelevant variables (Leedy, 1997, p. 104). Data are collected from a large sample of randomly selected participants, and analysed in order to confirm or not confirm the original hypothesis. The method of reasoning is deductive analysis, which means that reasoning moves from a general theory or hypothesis to a specific logical outcome (Leedy, 1997). The conclusions drawn can then be generalised to similar populations or situations (Leedy, 1997).

The Qualitative Approach

This approach is preferred when the aim of the study is to “describe” and “understand” observable occurrences or phenomena from a more subjective point of view, such as through the eyes of the participants (Leedy, 1997, p.104). Therefore, qualitative research begins with questions that are more general, includes a smaller number of participants, contains a collection of verbal data, and describes the findings to reproduce accurately that which was investigated (Leedy, 1997). The method of reasoning is inductive analysis, which means that reasoning moves from the specific, such as the observation of certain cases, to the more general, that is a class of the same type of cases, in order to gain more comprehensive understanding of the phenomena under investigation (Leedy, 1997), in this instance retirees’ experience of FLOW. Therefore, the knowledge gained is related to the particular situation under investigation, but does not have a high predictive value (Leedy, 1997).

1.1 To Retire or not to Retire – that is the Question!
1.2 Reasons for Exploring FLOW in Retirement
1.3 The Aging Avalanche
1.4 Retirement
1.5 FLOW
1.6 Research Objectives and Questions
1.7 Overview
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Successful Aging, Positive Aging and Optimal Aging
2.3 Factors Influencing Successful Aging
2.4 Theories on Age-related Decline
2.5 Building Blocks for Successful Aging
2.6 Successful Aging and FLOW
2.7 Successful and Positive Aging Theories
2.8 Gender and FLOW
2.9 Conclusion
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Research Questions and Purpose
3.3 Epistemological Background
3.4 Research Approaches
3.5 Research Design
3.6 Case Study Praxis
3.7 Selection Procedure
3.8 Data Collection
3.9 Ethics
3.10 Limitations
3.11 Conclusion
4.1 Introduction
4.2 The Biographical Questionnaire
4.3 The Interview
4.4 The FLOW Questionnaire
4.5 Meaning in Life Questionnaire (MLQ)
4.6 Personal Growth Initiative Scale
4.7 Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS)
4.8 Subjective Happiness Scale
4.9 The Results of the Findings for the Dominee
4.10 Conclusion
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Biographical Questionnaire
5.3 Interview
5.4 FLOW Questionnaire
5.5 Meaning in Life Questionnaire (MLQ)
5.6 Personal Growth Initiative Scale
5.7 Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS)
5.8 Subjective Happiness Scale
5.9 The Results of the Findings for the Doctor
5.10 Conclusion
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Biographical Questionnaire
6.3 Interview
6.4 FLOW Questionnaire
6.5 Meaning in Life Questionnaire (MLQ)
6.6 Personal Growth Initiative Scale
6.7 Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS)
6.8 Subjective Happiness Scale
6.9 The Results of the Findings for the Artist
6.10 Conclusion
7.1 Introduction
7.2 Biographical Questionnaire
7.3 Interview
7.4 FLOW Questionnaire
7.5 Meaning in Life Questionnaire (MLQ)
7.6 Personal Growth Initiative Scale
7.7 Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS)
7.8 Subjective Happiness Scale
7.9 The Results of the Findings for the Chemist
7.10 Conclusion
8.1 Introduction
8.2 Biographical Questionnaire
8.3 Interview
8.4 FLOW Questionnaire
8.5 Meaning in Life Questionnaire (MLQ)
8.6 Personal Growth Initiative Scale (PGIS)
8.7 Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS)
8.8 Subjective Happiness Scale (SHS)
8.9 The Results of the Findings for the Entrepreneur
8.10 Conclusion
9.1 Introduction
9.2 Biographical Questionnaire
9.3 Interview
9.4 FLOW Questionnaire
9.5 Meaning in Life Questionnaire (MLQ
9.6 Personal Growth Initiative Scale (PGIS)
9.7 Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS)
9.8 Subjective Happiness Scale (SHS)
9.9 The Results of the Findings for the Teacher
9.10 Conclusion
10.1 Introduction
10.2 Biographical Questionnaire
10.3 Interview
10.4 FLOW Questionnaire
10.5 Meaning in Life Questionnaire (MLQ)
10.6 Personal Growth Initiative Scale (PGIS)
10.7 Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS)
10.8 Subjective Happiness Scale
10.9 The Results of the Findings for the Psychologist
10.10 Conclusion

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