The validation of the French version of the APQ was conducted in a population aged 65 and over, and its psychometric properties were then studied in a younger group of respondents aged 55 to 64. The results of CFA provided additional support for the multidimensional structure of the perception of aging, with 7 factors that were superimposable on those described by the original team from an Irish population. The investigation of the psychometric properties of the French version also showed good internal consistency across these dimensions.
The factorial model estimated using CFA did not perfectly fit the observed data as shown by the highly significant chi² test for exact fit, but this test is known to be overly sensitive to sample size. Approximate fit indices have been proposed to overcome this difficulty. The value of CFI
.93 in people age 65 and over did not pass the standard cut-off of .95 [14
] whereas CFI
.95 in those age 55–64 equated this limit. Item 22 in the control negative
scale did not perform well; that was interpreted as a need for an improved translation of this item.
MCFA allowed testing for invariance between the two age groups. The chi² test comparing nested factorial models rejected measurement invariance in relation with differences in some parameters of the model. However the comparison of model fit with ΔCFI
.00 compared to a cut-off value of .02 was a good evidence in favor of approximate factorial invariance between age groups. This result is important in the view of extending the use of the APQ questionnaire in younger people, but further evidence is needed from new independent data.
The participation rate of 47% could be considered low. Non-responders answers might vary as to the distribution of perceptions of ageing compared to responders. Although not strictly representative, our sample was nevertheless close to being representative of the French general population (http://www.insee.fr
). When we took the 3 major determinants (age, gender, level of education) into account, there was no gender difference between responders and non-responders and the percentage of males in our sample was close to that for the French population in both age groups: 47% of responders (52% in France overall) for subjects
65 and 42% of responders (45% in France overall) for subjects aged ≥65. The proportion of subjects who were single was 21% among participants aged
65 and 40% among responders aged
65, compared to 20% and 49% respectively in the French general population. The proportion of participants with a high level of education (at least the baccalaureat level) was 32% among responders
65 (29% in France) and 19% among participants
65 (the same as in France).
The APQ multidimensional scale provides a new approach for the understanding of the perception of aging. Its relatively stable factorial structure gives a basis to explore the way it is varying or not in the seven dimensions among people of different ages.
The perception of the negative consequences
of aging evolves with the age of respondents. The older the respondent, the greater the awareness of these negative consequences of growing old, and the risk of decline [18
]. There is a progressive realisation of the risk of dependency and loss of the ability for action over time, and more generally if the losses and renunciations are linked to aging. This negative view of aging may be specific to western societies [19
The way the positive consequences
of aging are perceived appears identical whatever the age of the respondents. All respondents subscribed to certain advantages in growing old - time for thought, wisdom, making new acquaintances, leisure [19
]. Despite lesser scope for action, this does not prevent greater wisdom and appreciation of life. Personal identity is emphasised in the positive consequences
, while the negative consequences
tend to emphasise the societal weight of aging. Thus these two dimensions do not mirror one another, but reflect two different perceptions which will lead to corresponding interventional strategies. Thus the respondents getting older have a realistic view of the decrease in their ability for action and of the need to relinquish certain things as one grows old. They believe in the preservation of their intrinsic qualities. There emerges an anthropology of aging in which societal influences confirming the loss of the ability for action are mingled with the personal desire to find intrinsic qualities in growing old.
The timeline and control dimensions were also significantly different between people ≥65 and the younger. In the face of growing old, the individual adapts in order to accept. The awareness of aging is more often constant than cyclical in the oldest (3.02 and 2.88), while this awareness goes more often through phases of feeling old in the youngest (timeline chronic 2.35, timeline cyclical 2.47). The highest dimension score occurs in the control-positive dimension, no matter the age, showing that all respondents believe they have a control over the positive experience of aging. Respondents <65 had also a high score in the control-negative dimension (3.51) showing that they also assume control over negative aspects of aging.
The Control positive
dimension is clearly individualised among the older as in the youngest respondents. However, positive control in the younger respondents shows that they do not subscribe to a degree of autonomy with regard to society, and do not yet envisage the need for others. [18
]. Control negative
appears more important in the older group as they have to cope every day with their functional decline.
Aging is a dynamic process that is grounded in individual and societal references. The fear of dependency and the perception of one's personal identity within society on the part of older individuals make it possible to envisage medico-social interventions. Those who have a favorable perception of growing old are probably able to make the right decisions at the right moment. Thus, to combat the fear of becoming dependent, those with a pessimistic outlook towards aging could be stimulated in their ability for action and encouraged to open up to others.