Two problems in cross-cultural research are the increasingly complex definitions of individualism and collectivism and the relation between culture and self. A cultural psychological perspective on the construction of meaning can address both problems. In attributing meaning to self and life, people appropriate cultural values so that even the most authentic level of experience, the self, is culturally constituted. People are expected to use different attributes of individualism and collectivism in qualitatively different ways in relation to age-specific life contexts. The meaning of self and life was studied among American and Congolese elderly by the use of a sentence completion task. Each group showed a qualitatively different constellation of individualism and collectivism beyond cultural differences in the level of individualism and collectivism.