Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award

January 2009

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Brian Carpenter


The well-being of people with dementia is not well understood. Researchers often measure their well-being through observational methods or via proxies, but self-report is rarely used. Recently there is evidence that people with mild to moderate dementia are able to give reliable reports of their well-being, but empirical work in this area is limited. Most dementia-specific measures focus on mood or life satisfaction, and there are few that gauge more existential aspects of well-being: e.g., purpose in life). This study tested the use of a non-dementia-specific well-being measure in people with mild to moderate dementia. The relationship between goal pursuit, a predictor of well-being, and purpose in life, an aspect of psychological well-being, was examined through questionnaire and experimental methods. The moderating effect of dementia severity was also investigated. Results showed that people with mild to moderate dementia were able to provide reliable self-report data on their well-being. A strong association between goal pursuit and purpose in life emerged, but dementia severity did not moderate this relationship. Experimental results were similar in that people who participated in a goal-directed activity reported a greater sense of purpose than those who participated in a goal-undirected activity. Results from this study illuminate the experience of psychological well-being in dementia and may inform activity programming for this population.


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