Few studies have explored the combination of individual and contextual conditions that influence psychological health among older people. This study aimed to analyse the sense of coherence (SOC) in a sample of Italian senior citizens in relation to gender, educational level, living arrangements and former employment, when controlling for age. The short version of the SOC scale (Antonovsky 1987), which has items for the ‘comprehensibility’, ‘manageability’ and ‘meaningfulness’ components, was administered to a sample of 198 senior citizens of both genders and with an average age of 68.5 years. The findings showed that: (a) senior citizens with a higher level of education and who had retired from jobs with a high level of responsibility perceived reality as more controllable, manageable and meaningful; (b) with greater age, the perception that life's challenges are worth facing decreased; and (c) there was an interaction between living arrangements and education level, viz. those with higher education, and those with lower education living with a spouse or partner, perceived reality as more meaningful and their life challenges as worth facing. It is important to investigate further the activities that help maintain a high sense of coherence throughout the life span, and to design social policies that support senior citizens who live alone, because they appear psychologically weaker than others.