Elderly men commit suicide at a rate seven times that of elderly women, according to two medical sociologists, and the reason may be related to the more aggressive life-style of males early in life. While health problems are often the cause of suicide among the elderly, the two said, adaptability -- or the lack of it -- may be the key to the much higher rate for older men. They said they found that male ambition, aggressiveness and perfectionism eventually led to rigidity and compulsiveness and a lack of adaptability. Ironically, said Carol Huffine of the University of California at Berkeley, one of the researchers, the personality traits so frequently viewed as emotionally and intellectually harmful to women may help them survive. "The passivity, the suggestibility and malleability of women may . . . translate into adaptability," she said. "While the little girl learns not to make waves, she may well be learning to ride out a gale without being capsized." And while women learn to face change as they bear children and the children grow up, the work life of a man usually does not change after the first few years of adulthood and marriage. For him, retirement is "abrupt and dramatic," Huffine said, and while "the individual response to this dramatic shift varies, for many it is a wrenching loss."