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Psychol Aging. 1989 Sep;4(3):346-51.

The generous elderly: naturalistic studies of donations across the life span.

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  • 1Center for the Study of Development and Aging, University of Detroit, Michigan 48221.


The relation between age and altruism was examined in two experiments conducted in naturalistic settings. In both studies, individuals from 5 to over 75 years of age had opportunities to donate money to a charity concerned with the welfare of infants with birth defects. The effect of a variable designed to evoke the needs rule was also observed by using both pregnant and nonpregnant charitable solicitors. Results of both studies yielded a significant main effect of solicitor condition on donations. Study 1 yielded a linear increase with age in numbers of people donating; however, retired persons generally donated less money than did younger adults. In Study 2, which controlled for financial costs, elderly persons proved to be the most generous. These results underscore the importance of personal resources and helping opportunities in influencing altruism among older persons.

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