Published : 2020-09-01

Confrontation with inevitability of one’s death. The perspective of senior learners

Abstract

The paper is the first of three publications that will address the problem of existential concerns explored from seniors' perspective. The common feature of these papers is the attempt to investigate this phenomenon through qualitative research conducted among seniors. We believe that seniors in their late adulthood or old age are more deeply aware of the approaching death, which motivates them to reflect on the fragile and finite nature of human existence and the meaning of their lives. As they face challenging thoughts and a sense that these thoughts focus on the most fundamental existential problem, they try to respond to it and formulate individual solutions. This is very interesting for researchers because the reality studied is, in this case, recognized as it is being formed in statu nascendi. The dynamics of this process are connected with the way seniors experience themselves as they cope with their existential concerns daily. With every new experience, they may arrive at different conclusions or confirm that their present way of thinking and evaluating life is right. The purpose of presenting diverse research reflections in the papers is not to verify again the results obtained previously in other samples but rather to grasp the complex picture which shows the ways seniors approach life and death, understand their existential concerns and their importance in life as well as the mechanisms they use to buffer existential fear in different circumstances. The publications present different research strategies, including analyses of materials obtained as short written statements, unstructured interviews and survey questionnaires. As part of theoretical introduction to the research problem, this paper presents reflections on the main aspects of human existence's finiteness, set in the interdisciplinary scientific discourse. A special emphasis in the discussion particular put on the self-reflective context of confrontation with the anticipated, inevitable death in the light of the essence of human existence recognized as an autotelic value. The research section explores how seniors approach the phenome of the transience of life and the inevitability of death. Data were obtained in the form of short statements written by seniors as answers to open-ended questions. The analysis resulted in a complex catalog created of seniors' responses to the inevitability of death - from acceptance of one's death to the suppression of death-related thoughts. The analysis also resulted in the typology of five approaches towards death presented by the seniors. The names of these categories are, in our opinion, symbolic and include stoic, worldview-based, existential, anxiety-based, and avoidance approach.

Keywords:

existential concerns, human existence, transience of life, inevitability of death


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Wąsiński, A. ., Muszyński, M., & Fabiś, A. . (2020). Confrontation with inevitability of one’s death. The perspective of senior learners. Exlibris Social Gerontology Journal, 18(1), 25–37. https://doi.org/10.24917/27199045.181.2

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