Creating harmony, creating happiness: Subjective well-being of older Koreans in the United States
The present qualitative study examined life and aging experiences of elderly Korean Americans. More specifically, it explored how diverse experiences of older Koreans were used to create the meaning of "the good life" and to appraise their well-being in old age. In addition to observing elderly individuals in various social settings, a series of in-depth, face-to-face interviews were conducted with 15 theoretically sampled elderly Koreans with intact cognitive ability who resided in the Washington Metropolitan area. Guided by the grounded theory approach of Glaser and Strauss (1967) and Strauss and Corbin (1998), data were collected and analyzed concurrently throughout the course of the study.
"The good life," to older Korean immigrants, implied having continuity of the self while living in harmony. Only when their relationships with others were harmonious, could older Korean immigrants truly continue being the person they had always been. Harmonious social relationships could be maintained when they had comfort in both mind and body and, subsequently, had the freedom to do what they wanted. Employing their own definition of "the good life," each of the elderly evaluated his or her life circumstances. Upon identifying discrepancies between their actual life and their ideal life, they made behavioral and cognitive efforts to reduce and/or accept them. When their attempts were successful, the elderly could preserve harmony in their relationships with others and create happiness for themselves. Such efforts were continuously required since both aging and immigration/acculturation continually brought about changes in their environment. Hardy/resilient individuals thus were more effective in sustaining their efforts in coping with the discrepancies and creating as well as maintaining a positive sense of well-being.
Consistent with Korean culture, "the good life" was not seen as an outcome of an individual's hard work. Instead it was viewed as a collaborative task to which both the elderly individual and the environment contributed. This collaborative orientation towards "the good life," therefore, should be taken into consideration when developing services and policy for well-being of older Korean immigrants. Limitations of the study and the study findings are discussed in relation to existing research.
Minority & ethnic groups;
0631: Minority & ethnic groups