Date of Conferral



Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Debora Rice


Identified by European research as an aging crisis, vulnerabilities in the rural Bulgarian elderly population such as intergenerational caregiver loss, are sociohistorical consequences and barriers to successful aging. This transcultural study investigated the aging crisis in rural Bulgaria to create a contextual definition of successful aging and to address successful aging and the identification of challenges and barriers faced by social workers and elders to support successful aging. Guided by continuity theory in aging and contextualized by overarching ecological systems theory, the research questions examined Bulgarian social workers' perceptions and expectations of successful aging and barriers to it. A collaborative action research design was commissioned with a purposeful sample of an 8-member participant group drawn from multileveled Bulgarian social workers affiliated with the rural elderly population. Data were distilled by a thematic analysis into perceptions, expectations, and barriers of successful aging, which were validated by triangulation through translation and repetitive member checking processes. The findings revealed no universal threshold of successful aging achievement, but because expectations were unmet due to systemic barriers successful aging is not occurring in Bulgaria. The study results might bring about positive change by unifying Bulgarian multilevel social work practice to restore successful aging opportunity for the rural Bulgarian population by actions that systemically respond to the identified barriers.