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Hanna-Li Byrne

Sociology of Aging


Spring 2018

Professor Patrice Jones, PhD

Hanna-Li Byrne

Dr. Patrice Jones

SYP4730.0M1: Sociology Aging

April 27, 2018

Regina Mellini: A Living Example of Successful Aging

Growing older is an inevitable, multifaceted phenomenon that is apart of life. For the

beautiful Regina Mellini, her life events and circumstances exemplify things discussed in the

text, from her early life right up until now I can identify areas in her life where she displays

examples of terms and themes from the text. She is an interesting example of early retirement

made possible by her specific life circumstances. The paths Regina chose to follow in her life

leaves us with a living example of a woman who navigated aging successfully.


The Valentines Day baby, Regina Mellini was born on February 14th, 1948 in Birmingham,

Alabama. Born as the third of eight children, Regina belongs to the baby boomer generation. Her

parents lived well into her adulthood. However, she never had a relationship with her

grandparents. Regina went on to get married to her college-sweetheart, a man whose job caused

them to move from place to place before finally settling in Gainesville, FL with their three


As Regina sits across the table from me, it is impossible to believe that her chronological age is

70 (Quadagno, 2011, p. 6). After reading the text, ​Aging and the Life Course​, all semester, it is

hard to define Regina as being old. The text details that defining old age relies on separate and

individual markers (Quadagno, 2011, p. 6). Her social roles changed as her chronological age

changed: she went from being a wife and mother to being a divorcee and grandmother. However,

her being a loving individual has never changed. Regina prides herself in putting her

grandchildren first. She has embraced the social role as grandparent and plans her calender

around being there for her seven grandchildren. Regina’s functional age classifies her as being

part of the well elderly. She is physically in good health, and her appearance is more that of a

50-year-old woman (Quadagno, 2011, p. 7).


The text emphasizes how people over the age of 65 are just as different from each other as

people in their 20s, and interviewing Regina Mellini allowed me to see that she lives quite the

fulfilling and unique life that fulfills her in her own way. Regina is in good health with the

exception of pain in her feet and chronic post nasal drip. This goes against many people’s belief

of the elderly, society thinks of the elderly as frail and crippled most of the time. Regina’s

marital status is divorced, this was a social role she was not prepared for. Being in the rare 15%

of women over the age of 65 who get a divorce, Regina did not expect to see herself getting one.
Despite her marital status not going according to plan, Regina takes the single life in stride and

takes the time she would otherwise have to spend on a husband and instead spends it on her

family and friends (Quadagno, 2011, p. 17).


Education is one of the best predictors of how someone’s life will turn out (Quadagno, 2011, p.

19). Regina Mellini is a college graduate with a bachelor's degree in Science of Elementary

Education. She is a great example of how people with a college degree tend to have better jobs

and better health than less educated people (Quadagno, 2011, p. 20). Regina was an elementary

teacher, middle school teacher, a stay at home mom, and a language therapist throughout her life.

All of these were jobs were jobs that she wanted to have and she loved what she did. People

without a college degree have less options and are not always presented an opportunity to make

money doing something that they enjoy. Regina also is in very good health at age 70, reinforcing

that getting a college education leads to better health (Quadagno, 2011, p. 20).


Marrying her college boyfriend and becoming a young mother of three, Regina Mellini discussed

with me that she was very aware of her social clock ticking (Quadagno, 2011, p. 33). “I was in a

rush to get married and have children,” Regina told me. “Looking back I think that I would have
been more prepared if I had waited to become a mother. At the time I felt right on schedule and

prepared, but looking back I think I could have been more prepared.”

Regina Mellini is a very clear example of how women seem to be very aware of their social

clock (Quadagno, 2011, p. 33). The text teaches us that age norms regulate the life course, and

that there are ages that seem appropriate for life events and ages that seem inappropriate for life

events (Quadagno, 2011, p. 32). Regina went through life with the mental hourglass of time

running out to marry and bear children. Her children went on to have children and she felt very

prepared to have grandchildren. She was ready to take on the social role of grandmother and felt

that she was an appropriate age. This speaks a lot towards how society plays a role in social

norms. Regina was having grandchildren around the same age others in our society has

grandchildren, so therefore she felt it was natural.


Regina Mellini is a great example of the activity theory as described by the text (Quadagno,

2011, p. 50). 70 year old Regina shows that the needs of the elderly, both socially and

psychologically, are no different than those of the middle-aged. The text explains how activity

theory exercises the idea that it is neither natural nor normal for an elderly person to become

isolated and withdrawn (Quadagno, 2011, p. 50). Regina lives a very active life. She has a social

calendar packed with church events and grandchildren by day and dinner and drinks with friends

by night. She even received a phone call during one of our interviews from her daughter-in-law

who wanted to catch up, Regina said she would call her back, and I was able to witness
first-hand Regina’s bustling social life. Regina seems to be very satisfied with her active life and

says she loves always having something to do. This coincides with the fact from the text that the

elderly who engage in activities are less likely to be depressed and are more likely to age

successfully (Quadagno, 2011, p. 51).


Regina Mellini retired early at the age of 61, after her first grandchild was born. However, she

chose phased retirement, where she would go in to the clinic and work as a language therapist as

she was needed (Quadagno, 2011, p. 229). Regina admitted that between social security and her

own personal savings she never would have been able to retire as early as she did. Fortunately

for Regina, she received a large settlement from her divorce which allowed her to begin her

phased retirement process. Regina’s experience reinforces the text’s idea that finances is the

biggest deciding factor for people who are considering retirement (Guadagno, 2001, p. 233).


The social and active Regina Mellini, at the youthful age of 70, is an excellent example of

successful aging. She stays active by walking when she can and eats the right things in order to

take care of her health. Her chronological age has no effect on her social life, as she is more

often than not socializing with friends, family, and members of her community. Regina sets an

example of how to be an elderly, healthy, divorced, retired woman who gets the most out of her
life and wakes up each day excited. Regina is a living example of activity theory, phased

retirement, and more teachings of the text. It was eye opening to see how a walking, talking

person, who is offering me tea and sitting across from me, lived a life that followed predictable

patterns taught in a textbook.


Quadagno, J. S. (2011). Aging and the life course: An introduction to social gerontology. New

York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Connect Learn Succeed.