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J Gerontol Soc Work. 2011 Aug-Sep;54(6):592-614. doi: 10.1080/01634372.2011.585438.

Wisdom from life's challenges: qualitative interviews with low- and moderate-income older adults who were nominated as being wise.

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  • 1School of Social Work, University of Texas, Austin, Texas 78712-0358, USA.


Previous wisdom research tended to focus on cognitive and intellectual aspects, highly educated professionals and/or prominent subjects, and wisdom as the outcome not process. In this study, based on in-depth interviews of 18 low- and moderate income older adults who were nominated as being wise by their aging-service providers, we explored the ways challenging life experiences and coping may have contributed to the development of their wisdom, their ideas/beliefs about the qualities of wisdom, and the ways they may be practicing wisdom in daily life. Their emphasis on interconnectedness and interdependence, forgiveness and patience, and gratitude appears to represent self-transcendental qualities of wisdom. Social work practice and research implications are discussed.

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